"I could've been a doctor/ or I could have made a stand/ I ain't got a penny to bless myself/ cos I just like singing with the band." - Singing With The Band - Mike Brady

When Melbourne song doctor Mike Brady recorded third album Country To Country in Nashville it was a bucolic boomerang of sorts.

The pop icon and jingle wizard's teenage rock band The Hearsemen, who emerged in 1963, featured a pedal steel guitarist.

That was two years before Brady made his name with MPD after landing in Australia in 1959 from Croydon in England.

So it was no surprise Brady hired Mark Moffatt - ex-pedal steel player for Melbourne progressive country pioneers Saltbush - to produce.

Moffatt produced Australian artists diverse as Mondo Rock, Sharon O'Neill, Richard Clapton, Tim Finn, Renee Geyer, Shane Howard and Neil Murray.

Former Saltbush manager Barry Coburn lured Moffatt to Nashville in the eighties as an in-house producer for his publishing company Ten Ten Music.

His early work included demos for latter day Georgian superstar Alan Jackson in the era when Coburn managed Jackson and launched him to international fame.

And, of course, demos of songs penned by fellow expatriate Australasian Keith Urban before and after he sang for his supper with The Ranch.

Moffatt, who had pop hits here with The Monitors, also produced Stacey Earle - sister of seven times wed Texan born troubadour Steve Earle - and Rachel Warwick.

"Mark and I worked together many years ago on an album with Paul Norton and I sang backing vocals on Stuck On You," Brady told Nu Country TV.

"I worked with him on and off and he invited me to Nashville to record. I dreamed of it for years and sent him songs. He's a good producer, great guitarist and plays dobro as well as anyone in that town. He put together an A list of musicians."

They included pedal steel guitarists Scotty Sanders and Bruce C Bouton, fiddler Rob Hajacos and drummer Tommy Hardin.

"What they put into sessions was more than I expected. To work at that level is pretty daunting. I haven't been nervous for a recording session for 20 years. My hands were trembling. Tommy had 23 snare drums delivered in two road cases. Mark and Rob also played on the new album he produced for John Swan of Swanee."


"He's playing down the road a bit/ with Fogerty tonight/ they talked like he was sacred/ and call by he just might." - Willie Came Here Once - Mike Brady

Brady wrote most of the 12 songs near Lorne in Victoria.

"I wrote most in my little Great Ocean Road hideaway near Lorne," Brady said.

"In Melbourne my phone rings all the time. I recorded some vocals in my studio and some of it at my next-door neighbour's place. He has a studio - we call it Harry's Joint. I also did some recording with my brother Doug at his Port Melbourne studio."

His song sources are diverse - a Charleville truckie inspired Sixty-Two Wheels.

"I was out in the bush near Charleville a few years ago," Brady recalled.

"There were about 20 truckies, all friendly guys. I said to one guy 'where do you drive?' He said 'I go six days west and then six days back.' I said 'it must be lonely, do you have a family. He said 'yes, I have a wife.' He then tapped his truck and said 'this old girl don't answer back.'

That song wrote itself."

But it was a flirtation with the devil's drop - booze - that fuelled Two Or Three For Me.

The song is one of two accompanied by a video clip shot in Melbourne and featured on Nu Country TV.

"When I was younger, I did have a battle with the grog," Brady told Sue Jarvis in Capital News.
"In the end, I drank away my family. The pressures of life on the road tend to lead you to drink too much."

But it was a bar in the Nashville hotel where Brady stayed during recording that was the locale for Willie Came Here Once.

"The hotel I was staying at had a writers' bar," Brady recalled.

"The barman said 'Willie might call by tonight.' The other guy said 'well, he came in 1974, he's due to call in again. He's playing down the road with Fogerty.' It wasn't just down the road - it was over 200 miles away in Greensboro in Tennessee. That song wrote itself."


"But you cut me down with your friendly fire/ straight through the heart like a razor wire." - Friendly Fire - Mike Brady

Brady also explored diverse shades of love from the joyous Country Girl to faded, jaded passion of Me And You, optimism of When It's Raining to the ruptured romance of Friendly Fire, Let It Ride and I'm Just A Man.

"I have been in love a few times," Brady confessed of the source of songs such as Friendly Fire that also has a video shown on Nu Country TV.

"Most of the songs are pretty personal. I like telling stories - most I have a strong connection to, broken relationships. I hope I have paid my respects - I have only been officially been married once. I'm still in training. I have four fantastic kids - all have a crack at writing. Eldest son Christian is an Irish traditional singer, Michael and Daisy play piano and Ben is a bassist. In the film clips my brother Rob plays guitar and Ben is on bass. It's a fair family connection - a bagel of Bradys, not the Brady bunch."

Brady also wrote Say It While You Can as a tribute to his father and a message to son Michael, 12.

Mike plans to utilise TV as surrogate radio and perform at country and folk festivals to promote his album.

"I'm looking at festivals," say Brady who has gigs booked in Tamworth and Arnhem Land.

"It's hard because I'm typecast for my footy songs. But in country you have to be able to know your way around an instrument and sing a bit. When I grew up country music was a normal part of pop radio. These days music on radio is fragmented."

Brady, known for classic icons such as Up There Cazaly and One Day In September, also included one song from that idiom.

True Value Of A Friend was originally written as a theme song for Toyota.


"I got me an old time Cadillac/ I managed to pay the rent/ I know my old lady loves me/ but I don't know where she went." - Singing With The Band - Mike Brady.

The finale Singing With The Band - oldest song on the disc - is torn from the back pages of his 40 plus years on the road.

It was originally written for the TV show, Solo 1, starring Paul Cronin and performed by Glenn Shorrock.

"I write for fun but love singing with the band," Brady revealed.
"That's real life, playing down the road for 15 years with the same guys. I'll know it's time to give up when it's not exciting any more. I'm even rehearsing with a younger band now.

There's something about sitting with guys in band, going out and playing to a decent audience. It's a tribute to all bands and the whole music lifestyle. I don't get as excited about my advertising career."

But it's Brady's prowess in advertising that enables him to donate his talent to charity and his labour of love - country music.

Despite country being a staple of mainstream radio from Brady's arrival here in 1959 and through the sixties, seventies and eighties, the corporate commercial chains have long since banned it.

Artists such as Dixie Chicks and Urban leap the commercial radio moat during tours when their promoters flood the chains with big advertising bucks.

But once the tour tide recedes so does the airplay - the farce reached a climax when on-air DJS suggested listeners call Nova programmers when Lee Kernaghan's ninth album Spirit Of The Bush was boycotted despite topping sales charts.

But that won't deter the energies of Brady who is already working on a new disc with songs about the Great Ocean Road.

Shock Records distributes Country To Country.

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