Aly Cook Gets ‘Caught In The Middle’ with Some Of Australia’s Finest Musicians
Aly Cook is a New Zealand based Multi award-winning recording artist with a deep passion for all things musical. She is a consummate songwriter and performer, who has taken her music to the world, delighting audiences wherever she roams and carving a career as a respected live performer. She has used her vast entrepreneurial experience to crowd fund all of her recordings to date and also dedicated much of her life to furthering the careers of other independent artists. She has twice been a finalist for NEXT New Zealand Woman of the Year in 2011 & 2016 for her contribution to the Arts.
Although based in New Zealand Aly has had one foot either side of the Tasman for many years, touring the length and breadth of Australia as she has in her homeland.
While touring the East Kimberley region, her passion for ancient lands led her to write ‘Kimberley’ which was used in a TV promotion for the region and many songs of the country and its people have fallen from her pen. ‘Kimberley’ was a single from her sophomore album ‘Horseshoe Rodeo Hotel’ and was produced in New Zealand by Alan Jansson. The album entered the Top 40 Official New Zealand album charts and also enjoyed 6 number one hits on Australian independent airplay based charts.
The interview about the journey of Aly Cook’s album, ‘Caught In The Middle’.
Tracey: Hey Aly, great to have you back on Music Talks. Wow, the new album is almost here! Can you tell us what the first single off the album is about, ‘Red Dirt Road Trip’
Aly: Over the Years I have travelled up and down and around Australia, across the Nullarbor in the 80’s, up to the Kimberley, out to Alice, and up to the far north of QLD. I love the Red Dirt! We don’t really get it in NZ, those long Aussie road trips singing to songs on the radio. On my way to Mildura Country Music Festival and back I heard the song idea in my head, and then took the idea to Asquith, did that Bidstrup Cook Bidstrup writing thing and we had the song completely written in a couple of hours. We have filmed a cool music video for this song out in Alice Springs.
MT: You do very well in your crowdfunding campaigns to help your funding for your music. Your upcoming album, ‘Caught in The Middle’; when is the due date for its release?
Aly: The Album comes out in 3 stages with the pre-sale starting Friday 6th of September. ‘Steal Your Love’ becomes available on digital stores and then the iTunes pre-sale of the album begins. If you pre order the album you get ‘Steal Your Love’ as your instant gratification track. The Song ‘Steal Your Love’ is one of 3 covers on the album, which also has 9 originals. The song is by Lucinda Williams from her ‘Essence’ album. Friday Sept 20th comes the first single ‘Red Dirt Road Trip’, and it’s video, then a week later ‘Caught in the Middle’s official release date is Friday 27th of September. My Birthday! It’s also the first day of Mildura Country Music Festival where I am performing for 10 days straight.
MT: If you couldn’t raise funds through crowdfunding to record, how else would you do so, and how important is it for an artist to have the support from their current fans?
Aly: Well I don’t know really. I’ve only been able to record because of crowdfunding and pre-sales, and my crowdies, as I like to call them, mean heaps to me. They are more than people who buy my album. To me, they are true friends, as they support my being able to do my art, and we are a team. That is how I look at my crowdies x
MT: Do you feel extra pressure to do something extra special when so many people have contributed to the costs of making an album through crowdfunding?
Aly: It’s a symbiotic relationship. I provide them with music and they enable me to make it… I hope everyone that listens to the tracks on ‘Caught in the Middle’ love them, and especially my crowdies, as they are part of this journey. I now hope that more people come on board, buy the album and love what I do .
MT: I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of attention around this particular album with some very well-known and respected musicians and producers involved. Can you tell us who has been involved in the making of ‘Caught in the Middle’?
Aly: Well it all starts with the song and the Bidstrup Cook Bidstrup writing team started 4 years ago, when I got the opportunity to go out to Mutitjulu near Uluru with Uncle Jimmy Thumbs up team. We were doing music with the Aboriginal Kids out there with Buzz Bidstrup. Most will know Buzz as a founding member of The Angels, he co-wrote one of their greatest hits with Doc Neeson, ‘No Secrets. Out in Uluru we wrote a song called Kulini and this started our writing together. Each trip to Australia I would stop in to Buzz and Kay Bidstrup’s house. (they are both founding members of Australian band GANGgajang ) and so began the journey of writing the album. There is also a co-write with friend Gold Guitar winner Allan Caswell on the album. Buzz produced the album and recorded and mixed it with the very talented David Nicholas. David is amazing and his list of credits on many hit albums is huge including ‘Winner ARIA Producer & Engineer Of The Year’. He’s produced and or mixed some of the greatest Australian albums like INXS & Midnight Oil, also international tracks like Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Sting #1 US Hit ‘All for One’ which he co-produced, engineered and mixed. Both Buzz and Dave have really given the love to my album and it’s been a complete honour to work with them. The musicians are just outstanding people and it has been a real privilege to have them play on this album. These include ..Members of the Tracking Crew, Rick Melick on Keyboards, James Gillard on Bass Guitar, The Late Glen Hannah on Guitar, who tragically passed away during the making of the album, and Buzz Bidstrup who, apart from co-writing, played Drums, Percussion and Guitarlele also Clive Harrison on Bass, John Kaldor on Pedal Steel, George Washing machine on violin and Dean Ray on Acoustic Guitar. Also some vocals from Buzz and Kay, along with Jon Abo and a special guest appearance on two tracks from Sharon O’Neill.
MT: What keeps you going in music and who have been your biggest influences?
Aly: I love music, & musicians. I love people and nothing beats delivering the songs live, knowing you are moving people and have them with you. That comes through honest delivery, something I strive for. I guess one of my biggest early influences was Neil Young. I had every Neil Young album, Fleetwood Mac, then Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams etc.
MT: You travel and perform a lot between New Zealand and Australia, where has your favourite place to perform been to date that you remember well?
Aly: I think my fav gig would have to have been opening for Melissa Etheridge, REO Speedwagon and Huey Lewis & The News in Taupo NZ, performing in front of thousands of people is amazing, and the other would be with Buzz performing to raise funds for Uncle Jimmy thumbs up in 2015 at the Sydney Opera House. My favourite venue is a little place in Golden Bay NZ called ‘The Mussel Inn’ where you can hear a pin drop when you play and its deemed to be cool to do your own material. Musicians get to stay in the owner’s log house at the back and Jane and Andrew’s craft beers and food is amazing.
MT: If there was one place you would love to visit and perform, where would that be?
Aly: That is a hard one … Dream Big …The Royal Albert Hall … with a whopping great Orchestra. Apart from that I am grateful for every show I get to do anywhere. Especially festivals.
MT: Getting back to your upcoming album; Do you have a favourite song, and why is this your favourite?
Aly: They change all the time. But I love ‘Hold Up Half the Sky’ because it’s a woman empowerment song. Another is ‘Cold Wind’ that closes the album, written by Kay, as her inspiration after the death of Glen Hannah. It was very cathartic. Personally, delivering that song gave me closure over Glen’s death and allowed me to look at finishing the album. Celebrating his beautiful magical guitar work, that he left on these recordings, enabled me to focus in a positive way. Music is such a healing thing.
MT: What does this album mean to you?
Aly: A deeply emotional journey. A lot has happened for me, on a personal level, during the writing and recording of this album. It’s all a reminder. While I was in Mildura about to take the stage, I was told that my son had been involved in a serious car accident back home in NZ. He’s left today with a paralysed lower leg from it. When I left Mildura, and drove to Buzz and Kay’s house, my son was in surgery and was for that entire 1000 Km drive. ‘Red Dirt Road Trip’ was partially written on that trip back.
Then Glen Hannah tragically dying, just a couple of weeks after the initial recording sessions for the album, really took the wind out of all of our sails. We were all so devastated it made it painful to listen to the work and complete the project. As a mother and a wife, I felt so much for his family. His death rocked many people in the Australian music industry.
MT: You mentioned the collaborations associated with the making of this album, one being the great Buzz Bidstrup who is one of Australia’s great musicians, songwriters and producers and has been a member of some very big Australian bands, namely, The Angels, The Party Boys and GANGgajang, as well as managing the likes of Jimmy Little and Nathan Cavaleri.
How do you know Buzz and what was it like working with him?
Aly: I kind of answered that one above but I am so honoured to be working with Buzz and this great team and to be on the SBD Label.
MT: How long did it take to record ‘Caught in The Middle’?
Aly: We wrote over a 3 year period and the recording was done in a week of sessions and then I returned for another week of minimal overdubs and recorded ‘Cold Wind.’
MT: How does it make you feel when you are hearing your songs nearing completion in the studio?
Aly: I am very proud of this body of work and feel pretty elated by the calibre of people I have had the privilege to work with and how they have laid their own beautiful magic on the tracks.
MT: How does this album differ to others you’ve recorded and released?
Aly: Well, quite different. I’ve been much more involved in the process on this one and the big difference is the recording with a live band. With my previous albums I laid down the vocal and guitar guide track and the tracks were built up while I was not there. With ‘Caught in the Middle’ I recorded with excellent musicians live in isolated rooms, so we were laying down at the same time, no click track involved just to set the rhythm at the beginning of the song, and this really allows the music to breathe and be dynamic. We then chose which take had the best vibe and built on that track. What I wanted more than anything on this project, was for people to listen to my album, then see me perform live and feel that the recording was every bit the same as seeing me live. So it’s like I’m really in your lounge when you listen. I think we achieved that and there is some lovely instrumental work. With that level of talent in the room you really want those people to shine and share their gift on your music.
MT: The indie music scene is so large, as an independent artist, what kind of team surrounds you and how important is it to have a small team?
Aly: This time, for the very first time, I am no longer on my own or just working with Therese. The album is released on SBD Music which is a partnership between Buzz Bidstrup, Dave Nicholas, and Sebastian Chase, who is the owner of MGM Distribution, plus the team at MGM. I also have Therese McKee at Key 2 Artist promotions and Amy at Light Tree Media. For the first time I have someone really working on the branding, graphics and imagery. and my crowdies of course who help to get the word out about the album. I love my team x
MT: Will you be releasing any video clips from some of the tracks off the album?
Aly: Yes I think there are a good 3 to 4 singles at least off this album. ‘Red Dirt Road Trip’ being the first to launch on the 20th of September.
MT: Aside from the first single off the album, ‘Red Dirt
Road Trip’, I believe you will be having a pre-release of an album track on the 6th September. What is this track and what is it all about?
Aly: Yes that is the 6th this Friday we release the pre-release track. This is an album track called ‘Steal Your Love’ which is one of the 3 covers on the album, this one being written by Lucinda Williams. It’s what you call an instant gratification track.
So this Friday 6th of September is the beginning of the ITunes pre sale for the album ‘Caught in the Middle’ and whoever pre-orders gets ‘Steal Your Love’ as their instant gratification track or the track off the album that they get straight way .
MT: Is there anything else we should know about?
Aly: People can still order from my from my pre-sale crowd funder and get a signed CD from me here http://www.alycook.com.au/the-new-cd and hope you will love what you hear and add to spotify playlist and apple music etc.
‘Steal Your Love’ Available On These Platforms
Links To Aly Cook
Aly Cook Gets ‘Caught In The Middle’ with Some Of Australia’s Finest Musicians