It can be a long, dull drive down the dusty roads of rural Australia, grey gumtrees spooling off to either side of the family car, casting bars of sun and shade. As boredom threatens, soaring three-part harmonies start to float from the open windows, accompanying a Dolly Parton tape.
School’s out and the McClymont sisters – Brooke, Samantha and Mollie – are off to yet another weekend talent quest, their mother Toni behind the wheel, musical instruments and a suitcase of glitzy costumes stashed in the boot.
“That was the way we rolled,” grins Brooke, the eldest of the gifted siblings who grew up to become Golden Guitar award-winning country music favourites, The McClymonts. “Mum took us to different festivals or talent quests pretty much every weekend. Sometimes it took the whole weekend to get there and back! It was every weekend, wasn’t it, Sam?” Blissfully feeding her new baby, Elroy, she turns to her sister for confirmation.
While 38-year-old Brooke is the laid-back, creative songwriter of the outfit, part-time Getaway presenter Sam has a sharp commercial brain, and the youngest, Mollie, reckons she falls somewhere in the middle.
Nowadays, as happily married mothers-of-two, they juggle the diverse demands of husbands, small children, business, composing, touring and recording; their new studio album – aptly titled Mayhem to Madness – is coming out in June.
For public consumption, they make it look easy. Yet behind the scenes Sam, 34, ruefully admits: “We are never going to have it all and be balanced, that’s such a stupid word, with career and everything. Some days if I just can’t manage something for work, I have to call Brooke or Mollie and ask one of them to take over. It’s nice because we can share the load and break things up between the three of us, which helps.”
Resolutely upbeat, The McClymonts have had their challenges, rows and disappointments, but you’re hard-pressed to find out. Reluctantly, Sam admits she worries when her husband, RAAF pilot Ben Poxon, gets deployed to war zones and global hotspots. “But I feel I kind of know what it’s all about because we met when he flew us around Iraq and Afghanistan, where we were entertaining the troops.”
Yes, it was tough when Brooke’s first pregnancy forced the band to abandon their greatest ambition – US stardom – something they chased for years with single-minded determination. “We were always so driven,” recalls Sam. “We were travelling around the States by bus, working so hard, making no money, just trying to get seen. We put our whole lives into it, but then we had to make a decision seven years ago. That dream was over.”
However, there is no regret or bitterness today. “The thing is, we’ve always been taught not to complain. That’s our upbringing,” she explains. “We were always taught, ‘No-one wants to hear your sob story, just suck it up, get on and do the job. People deal with harder stuff every day.’
“We don’t like ... I feel uncomfortable if anyone feels sorry for me. We’re not very good even with taking compliments. We just get on and do it.” She laughs uproariously. “We often joke that we wouldn’t do well at all on shows like The Voice or Australian Idol, because we don’t have ‘a story’ to get people interested. That’s just not our personality. It’s about music to us. I know the way you connect to people is by sharing your stories, and that’s something as we get older we’re learning to do, we’re opening up more. But we’ve been very closed books for a long time.”
The way they tell it, their biography is fairly straightforward. A contented, low-key start in their childhood home of Grafton, northern NSW, beside the slow-moving Clarence River, where music and sport kept them out of trouble.
Brooke grimaces wryly: “We were always at talent quests or working. I was that person at school, it became a joke. You know, ‘Brooke won’t be there because she’s singing!’ I missed my Year 10 and Year 12 formals, a lot of those important growing up experiences in high school, and I was really bummed about that at the time. But I’m glad now.
“Mum would say, ‘You can party the rest of your life, or you can have a career.’ And I was like, ‘oh, okaaay.’ The choice was made and we are where we are now. Our parents didn’t have a musical bone in their bodies but they always said, ‘Go for it, you can make it your job.’ And if they hadn’t been like that, I guess things would have been very different.”
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