Y’alternative music

Singer/songwriter Lachlan Bryan
Singer/songwriter Lachlan Bryan. Photos: Gary Sissons & supplied.

Golden Guitar winner for his first album, Black Coffee, and alt-country singer/songwriter Lachlan Bryan almost had a career as a cricket player. “When I left school in Mt Eliza, I went to England and played cricket, and that’s actually when my music obsession came back.”

While playing cricket with a team in Yorkshire, he was given accommodation and a job as a worker for a stonemason, Mick Spargo. “He had a little studio under his house. I used to knock off work and play songs. It was great. I’d spend more time playing music there than my cricket, which was not the aim,” he laughs.

“I loved playing cricket over there. The culture was different. I liked the sense of humour and the social aspects. It wasn’t serious – playing there was more fun. My Dad got it into my head to do it, and I’m really glad I did. It was a life-changing experience.”

What sort of music was Lachlan playing in the stonemason’s basement back then?
“Bob Dylan. He was really into Bob Dylan. There was a bit of country music in those songs. But Mick Spargo was obsessed with Dylan. He even looked like him and used to sing the older folky songs like him. He was also into The Kinks, T-Rex and those late-sixties and early-seventies bands. So he was one of my big musical influences. I was eighteen at the time, which makes me a bit of a late starter in terms of playing in bands, but I played in bands with his son over there, and that was probably the start of it.”

Lachlan grew up in Mt Eliza, and his family is still there. “My family moved from Scotland in the nineteen fifties and moved around a bit for the first couple of years and then they built in Mt Eliza when it was fifty pounds for a block of land. That was my Mum’s dad, who I never actually met, but he was a builder, so they built the house, and my Mum still lives in it. It wasn’t a lot of money in those days. It was still bushland, and I think people didn’t have the vision to see what it was going to become. If you go down there now, you can still see a few of the old houses in the area.”

Lachlan was into music as a kid. His family is all musical. But under his father’s influence, he went into playing sports, particularly basketball and cricket. He also found it an easier way to be liked. “I learned piano at school and picked up the guitar when I was injured from sport and started teaching myself. I got into writing songs, and the guitar is like the songwriter’s version of a typewriter. You learn to use it to the degree that you need to write songs. It’s only as I’ve become older that I’ve been more interested in being better at it.”

Like Bob Dylan, Lachlan’s songwriting is very much about storytelling, and Lachlan agrees; “I did a few gigs with the American Steve Earle about ten years ago, and I remember him saying, ‘Bob Dylan invented this job,’ the singer/songwriter. Whether you’re playing in an open mic in a local pub or whether you’re touring, one person with a guitar singing songs that they wrote, so we all owe him a bit of that debt.

“If you asked me what I did with my car keys, I’d say, ‘No idea,’ but I will remember how I began a conversation or something someone said. That’s probably where my stories start”.

Lachlan’s inspiration to write songs like Ballad of a Young Married Man comes from being observant. “If you asked me what I did with my car keys, I’d say, ‘No idea,’ but I will remember how I began a conversation or something someone said. That’s probably where my stories start”.

Many people dream of having a full-time career as an entertainer but never make it. Lachlan had part-time jobs, including as a music teacher. He knew it was going to be a full-time career when he was doing music more than the jobs and still paying the rent.

“I’m lucky that I like travelling, and you have to do that to make this your career,” he says. Lachlan tours extensively in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the US. “When we go to America, it’s a bit like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if we’re going to make any money here,’ but it’s important to do it. It’s almost like a pilgrimage to a religious place.

Going to America frustrates the hell about of me when I go there. I love it and hate it all at once. But going to the UK and Europe is always pleasurable. It’s such a tradition of people who do this job – you travel – you go and spread the word. It goes back to Roman times.”

When Lachlan tells his stories in song at gigs, do people actually listen to the words?
“Yes. That used to surprise me that people would listen to the lyrics or the stories I tell between songs, but I’m really used to it now. It’s not the vision I had of playing in bands when I was a teenager. I didn’t imagine you would have people’s attention in such a direct way.”

What is alt-country? Lachlan describes it as: “Basically, anything that has a country element to it, a storytelling element. It’s a bit about the instruments you use, but it’s not mainstream/commercial. I think the word ‘Country’ has been associated with very conservative, right-wing, white people, and I think alt-country has branched away from that. It has its origin in the blues. I don’t think about genre. I just want to make music that I like.” “The only thing that’s really meaningful is people showing up to watch you play.”

Lachlan plays with The Wildes and Catherine Britt as The Pleasures. The Pleasures play at Beleura House and Gardens in Mornington on Friday, 7 June, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM.
IG: @lachlanbryan

Peninsula Essence – May 2024