Adam Young has been on the Sydney music scene since the 90s heyday of alternative and indie rock, playing with bands such as The Daisygrinders and Big Heavy Stuff. He’s fronted Grand Banks in recent years and now he’s finally released his debut solo album Elementary Carnival Blues that includes the guest vocal talents of Katie Brianna and Emma Swift plus some of the scene’s finest players. The album is a strong collection of songs ranging from dusty and soulful classic country-rock to stripped back songs in the vein of Red House Painters and the widescreen mid-west sounds of 90s guitar rock bands like Buffalo Tom, Grant Lee Buffalo. Ahead of the album release show at the Marrickville Bowling Club this Saturday (March 19th) Young took the time to answer our Six Strings Q&A.
What was the album that first led you down the dusty path of Americana music?
I’d have to say it was Son Volt’s record, Trace. I was given it by a friend of mine who was a street press editor at the time. He asked me to review it for him. It was one of those records you knew you were going to love the instant you heard the tape hiss. I knew nothing of Uncle Tupelo beyond the name, but it had the perfect mix of melody, atmosphere, punk rock, anger, and Mid-Western beat poetics to hardwire itself into my consciousness.
Describe your latest release in 100 words…
It’s a record that evolved over the twenty years since I last fronted my own band. There are lyrics on the record that were written when I was in my mid-twenties, and ones written two decades after that. It features appearances by some of my best friends and my most admired musical inspirations. It took a long time to get here so I hope it stays around long enough to get to know you.
What’s been the most memorable gig you’ve played and why?
Despite the fact I can barely remember it, opening the second Big Day Out at the old Showground was pretty big. We were pretty loose, but the sea of people in front seemed to care not one bit.
How did you learn to play your instrument?
I’d say bits here and there. I was writing and recording songs before I had any real understanding of the instrument or music itself, but that’s part of the greatness of punk/underground, or whatever you want to call it. There wasn’t a virtuoso arrogance about doing your apprenticeship. But the more I became interested in songwriting as a process, as opposed to a visceral release, the more musicianship entered the picture. My good friend Den Hanrahan’s been about as good a teacher as I’ve had, which he might sue me for saying.
What do you consider the finest song you’ve written and why?
Probably Green Silver, by The Daisygrinders. I’d say of all the ones I’ve written it achieved what it set out to do.
If you could sit-in with one other musician (living or dead) who would it be?
The Boss. Duh.
Do you feel there is a strong folk/country music community in Australia and if so, what does it need to keep growing?
I can only really speak about Sydney’s scene, but it seems pretty strong. It’s not a scene with a big audience, but it’s pretty active. I’d kind of like to see it get a bit more dangerous and edgy. No more walking hand in hand through the meadow. Time to fuck shit up.
What can we expect from your upcoming album release show?
Rum, sodomy and the lash. Plus Den Hanrahan & the Roadsiders and Brielle and Dan from Not Good With Horses.
What’s been your favourite Americana release over the last year?
I’m not sure whether he’d agree with it being called ‘Americana’, because he’s so essentially Australian, but if we’re talking about broad musical forms, it’s Mick Daley’s Tiny Violins. Politics, farce, beauty, rock.
What are your musical plans over the next 12 months?
I recorded the record for the express purpose of getting gigs, so I suppose I’ll be doing that.