BRAND ON THE RUN
Country's "Sexiest" male singer is addicted to speed, writes DEBBIE KRUGER
On stage in Tamworth in January Adam Brand told the story of how, at the age of 10, he was in and out of hospitals undergoing tests for a mystery affliction. Finally, a doctor broke the news to his mother: "Mrs Brand, I'm sorry to tell you this, but your son Adam
.will always be
Now a favourite at speedway gigs, Brand relishes the new all-mod-cons you-beaut ute Ford presented to him in Tamworth at the Australian Country Music Festival, where he picked up three Golden Guitar awards including Male Vocalist and Album of the Year for Good Friends.
He has spent the past two years revving around in a speedy dirt-track haze of awards, adulation ("Australia's sexiest country singer", declared Cleo magazine) and non-stop touring. He arrived in Tamworth four years ago as a busker and breezed back in 1999 to win his first swag of Golden Guitars. He also acquired the image as Australian country music's new golden boy.
Unlike that other golden boy of country music, Keith Urban, Brand's focus is solely on the home turf. At a time when Australians are having an impact on the US country charts, with Urban hitting number one and Kasey Chambers critically acclaimed from LA to New York via Nashville, staying at home is all that Brand wants.
He went to Nashville on the obligatory writing trip two years ago (and heads back again this year), but while graciously absorbing the disciplines learnt from working in the world's songwriting capital, he doesn't aspire to international recognition. "It's not the burning desire for me," he says frankly. "It's not what drives me. For a lot of country artists it's their whole dream, their Holy Grail, to go to Nashville. I didn't feel that. I got much more or a thrill going to Tamworth the first time. I would get more of a thrill standing on the main strait at Daytona.
"I went to the Knoxville National in Iowa, the most prestigious sprint car race in America, and sang 'Dirt Track Cowboys' on the main strait on the night of the main race. I got more of a buzz out of that. To me, that was more the Holy Grail than going to Nashville."
Brand's style of country-rock reflects the influences of his youth: Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers. His voice is deep, warm and wise, belied by his youthful looks. With humour and affection he sings about the characters in his family, or hooning around with a fast engine and the punters in the clubs and woolsheds love it. Songs like 'You're a Revhead' and 'When I get My Wheels' have fans in utes driving doughnuts in the car park after the gigs.
But there is a deeper sensibility at work, highlighted in songs like 'Good Things in Life.' Written with Graeme Connors, the song describes in plaintive yet heartening fashion the demise of Brand's first marriage. Brand says it was a cathartic writing experience.
"The message is a fairly special one that I would like people to hear, knowing what it did for me," he says. "I've seen so many people brought to tears or come up to me and say, that song really hits home."
Some of Brand's fans hang on every word when he sings 'Good Things in Life' or the poignant 'Last Man Standing,' while others "are just there to party and have a good time". He pleases them all.
"I think my role as an artist and a songwriter is to give people something positive to think about in my music," he says. "The revhead, mischievous side is a part of me, and it's always going to be a part of what I do. It appeals to those of us who just want to have a good time.
"But entwined in all of that are the deeper songs. And maybe not everyone will get them on every night. I don't want either side to take over. I want a balance."