Album cover art for Andy Golledge with red vinyl record popping outThe grooves of traditional masculinity are deeply-trodden within the country music genre, but Andy Golledge is proving a handlebar moustache does not a macho man make. We put some questions to the fascinating Sydneysider about his debut album with Melbourne label IOHYOU, Strength of a Queen.

You have an alarmingly beautiful vocal range; you’re not afraid to hurl your voice into its upper registers at times. Has this always been something you’ve played with?

I’ve always been drawn to female vocalists, especially when I was first finding my voice. I was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch and Judee Sill; I really just wanted to sing like that. I grew up going to a Catholic school and all the old ladies use to sing in falsetto. I’m pretty sure at one stage as a child I was like, ‘Oh, that’s how you’re supposed to do it’, so it’s always been a really strong part of my voice.

We can hear your band’s comments in some spots – particularly at the beginning and conclusion of Rescue Me, where we hear someone say “I think we should all come in at the same time” (advice you apparently took), and at the end, “That was so sick!” (similarly at the end of Dreamin’ of a Highway, and Baby Mumma). Why did you decide to leave these slices of life in?

We recorded the album live, so to keep the live feel and also to highlight the bands intuitiveness, we left some of that in there. A large part of what we do on stage is intuitive with a little bit of improvisation. The start of Rescue Me usually kicked off with just acoustic guitar, and the band would shuffle in. Caitlin suggested we all come in at the same time, so we did, and it ended up being the best take, hence leaving in her comments at the start and end.

With Dreamin’ of a Highway I would start the song by myself and the band would come in on the second verse. Just before we hit record I suggested we play together from the start, thinking it would sound better on a record, which it did. We used the first take, hence the “That was sick” – I’d never heard the song like that, so I was excited.

Baby Mumma was a tough one. My producer wanted more emotion, and just kept asking for it until I got pissed and just belted it out. Safe to say we both liked that take.

You’ve said that “the whole idea of constructing a record around a click track was so foreign to me, because there’s no emotion there.” How did you combat or mitigate that feeling once you got into the studio?

We recorded live, so I didn’t have to worry about that process, thank f-ck. I do not have the attention span for click tracks. In saying that, I would like to have a go at building a song that way. There’s definitely great things that come from building a song like that, and it’s obviously much easier to navigate it, from a production side of things. I just can’t wrap my head around it at this stage in my career – it just feels right to do it live.

In Ghost of Love you actually address yourself, by name – you leave no sliver of possibility that you might be inhabiting an alternate, ‘protagonist’ perspective in the song. This is kind of aggressively brave. Did the lyrics always go this way?

Yeah, this song was written pretty quickly. The lyrics came immediately, and stayed. At first I wanted to write a Tom Petty/Traveling Wilburys type tune, with no intention of making it personal. But it seems pretty unavoidable for me.
I love referring to myself in the first person in songs – it’s purely for myself. A sort of reassuring voice that I’m doing okay, amidst the emotion of the song. I’m a big James Taylor fan; I pinched it off him.

Whose voices are we hearing sing “Come on now, help me out” in the outro to Baby Mumma? (We’d like to think it’s a barnyard choir and not studio magic.)

Definitely all singular voices! It was everyone in the band, and our producers and engineer all around a room, and kit mics. That song in our set is an audience participation tune, so [singular voices were] definitely a must for that live feel.

Your roadtrip around the States as a younger man repositioned your understanding of country music; you’ve said that in Australia (and even Tamworth, where you grew up) “it’s a persona or a performance; [in America], it’s a way of life.” Why do you think that is – does it have something to do with Australia’s ‘cultural cringe’, in that we’re unable to fully legitimise (and hence live) it?

Yeah, absolutely. Growing up in Tamworth I never really felt like music or art was something you did as a ‘job’. You either got a trade or some sort of office work. So, for a long time, it was hard to put any self-worth in to anything I created, regardless of how much honesty – not to mention our ever-waning government support of the arts of any kind.

In the States I met a lot of people who definitely lived the life of the songs that I’ve come to love over the years from a lot of classic American artists. Whether it be the way they dressed, to their turn of phrase, or to their way of life. And for a kid who grew up on classic American country, rock and roots music, who didn’t feel any support other than from friends and family, it was encouraging and inspiring. It gave me a sense of self and understanding for what I love doing, and really reinforced the way I write my songs. It opened up a drive to surround myself with artists that are doing that here in Australia, and made me feel a lot safer in my path.

Dreamin’ of a Highway tells such an honest tale, with the kind of truth only an individual can identify in themselves. Do you think there’s a path we can all take to be more honest with ourselves?

For a long time I lacked the ability to exercise vulnerability and express my emotions. The only avenue I had was music, which is a slippery slope. Dreamin’ of a Highway was a song I wrote after traveling the US with my partner at the time. I had written it after we split. She had opened up a part of me that was able to express my vulnerability and be honest with myself and others, without music.

All I can say is, always exercise vulnerability. I’ve learned that our journeys are the same when it comes to emotions – and most things, for that matter. Tell people you love them, tell them how you feel no matter the pain. No one’s problem is unique, so don’t go it alone. There’s no need to be afraid; it makes being honest in any facet of life a whole lot easier. Vulnerability is a strength!

Lastly, for someone who’s never seen you live – what is a person to expect from your shows across March and April, and Splendour in July?

You can expect to laugh, cry, sing, dance and leave with a lasting memory of a great time and great music… until the next.

Strength of a Queen by Andy Golledge is out March 4 via IOHYOU.

Andy Golledge is on tour this month; check out all that info here.

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