In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
The McClymonts story is almost like a fairytale. The country music trio is made up of sisters Brooke, Samantha and Mollie McClymont, who grew up at Grafton in New South Wales. They searched for success in talent quests and chased record deals. Six years ago they signed with Universal Music.
Now, with the release of their third studio album Two Worlds Collide, the McClymonts are ready to hit the big time and theyll do everything they can to succeed. Theyre a little bit Dixie Chicks without the politics, theyre gorgeously groomed much like Taylor Swift (but they havent scored a Vogue US magazine cover yet) and theres a nod to contemporary country singers such as Shania Twain, Alison Krauss and Trisha Yearwood who came before them.
Theres no sibling rivalry just three country girls who all want the same things from life.
Having spent the best part of the past six years travelling between Australia and Nashville, the sisters decided to relocate to the country-music hub in 2011. They rent a home in Nashville for six months of each year to ease the pressure of constant commuting.
They will spend the next few months touring America during the summer and return to Australia for shows from August. Theyre used to performing stadium shows (yes, they can belt the songs out to a crowd of 20,000-plus) but theyre just as cozy in a smaller venue, reminding these sisters of the grassroots from which they came.
Theyre from the same town as Troy Cassar-Daley, spent 12 months on the road with country-music star Lee Kernaghan and know its a combination of hard work and luck to survive in the music industry.
As the title suggests, Two Worlds Collide is just that, a crossroads of sorts that combines the infectiously bright appeal of Nashvilles country-music scene with the home of the Jacaranda Festival in Grafton a city built by the Clarence River, where Mollie McClymont says growing up as a child was as normal as you would expect. Lots of time was spent outdoors and they loved swimming and jumping on trampolines in backyards.
The sisters love the laid-back lifestyle in Grafton, but morph into something else when in the US.
They share the stage with the industrys biggest names including Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean and boyfriend/girlfriend duo Steel Magnolia.
Its an entirely different ball game, says Mollie, 25. Country music is king in America.
They had a modest upbringing by working-class parents. Their father Peter makes a living mowing lawns he used to be a butcher while mother Tori works in a factory (she now lives in Sydney) and was formerly a hairdresser.
There was never any pressure to succeed or to make it as musicians. According to Mollie, it was just about following a gut instinct.
The McClymonts fell in love with country music via the records their parents would spin in the background. Brooke was the first of the sisters to sing in talent quests at 12, competing around the country, shuffling from scout hall to school hall. The other sisters followed in her footsteps.
Brooke, 31, Sam, 26, and Mollie all explored solo music paths before signing to Universal Music as a trio. The label waited until Mollie had finished school and turned 17.
Brooke started singing at 12, which really got the ball rolling and us interested in the same thing, says Mollie. We joined our country-music club in Grafton and travelled through talent quests. Once we went to one, we got the buzz for it and kept doing more.
Speaking from Grafton, where she was visiting her father, Mollie is glad to be back home. Its a beautiful town and we love coming back. Playing to audiences here is always so special for us because we play all over the world but theres something touching about doing it where you were born and where it all started, she says.
A year after signing with UMA, the sisters went to Nashville to record their debut album Chaos and Bright Lights. It was a fun experience, a little intimidating, but all that Mollie and her sisters could have wished for.
They worked with Monty Powell (who wrote with Keith Urban) and Eric Silver, who penned hits for the Dixie Chicks. It doesnt get more exciting than that. We were over the moon. What an experience, says Mollie.
The girls went back to Nashville to record their second and third albums again teaming with high-profile producers who helped push their country harmonies to mainstream audiences.
We set goals for each year and we really stick to what we set out to achieve, says Mollie.
Its easy, when you are striving for something, to stay focused. We get along as sisters and couldnt imagine doing this with anybody else. The key to our success is our ability to set goals and, when you achieve them, make new ones.
The McClymonts have won five Country Music Awards, scored an ARIA for Best Country Album in 2010 and own plenty of Golden Guitar Awards
They worked with Taylor Swifts producer Nathan Chapman (on their sophomore, Wrapped Up Good, and this latest album) and write songs with countrys best behind-the-scenes names. The first single from the new album, How Long Have You Known, has already hit No.1 on the Australian country music charts.
When we started making this album we really wanted to bridge our two worlds together, says Mollie.
It represents what we have been through over the past two years. All the songs are personal and we decided to go in depth with what was happening in our lives. Its very country, a bit of pop, alt country, and the harmonies really represent us as a trio.
According to Mollie, songs such as The Easy Part serve as a reminder that money isnt everything. That song is about slowing down to appreciate the big things in life, like love, she says.
The sisters share songwriting duties, but where Brooke married three years ago in Sydney to Australian Idol runner-up Adam Eckersley, the heartbreak songs were left up to Sam and Mollie to flesh out with the other songwriters who were also experiencing relationship woes.
We sing about how love can bring you up and then down again, how hard it is to find the usual heartbreak song cycle, says Mollie with a resounding been-there experienced-that tone. Then theres homesick tune Feel Like Coming Home which could easily be about NSW.
Mum has been on the road with us a lot but this time she hasnt been able to as much in the past two years, says Mollie. Actually, this is the first time in our lives that mum and dad have not been able to join us. Having their love and support is everything to us and without it we would not be where we are.
Chasing our dream has real purpose with their unconditional love.Two Worlds Collide is out through UMA.
The McClymonts will appear at The Palms at Crown on October 12-13.