When internationally touring musicians embark on a string of U.S. shows, New York is usually their starting point. Not so for Australian alt-country artist Lachlan Bryan. His tour begins and ends in Texas — and not just because Dallas is a hub for flights from Down Under. “As musicians, we’ve been influenced by a lot of Texas music — people like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson,” he says.
Bryan (who performs with his band, The Wildes, at Altamont Brewing Co. on Friday, Oct. 24) even played some shows with Texan Steve Earle during Earle’s solo tour in Australia. The two share a common bond: “He talked about how moving to New York was the best move he’d made in his life. I get that — where I’m from in Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city.” Bryan, whose third album, Black Coffee, has just been released in the U.S., says that his inspiration often comes from urban struggles. “In a way, it’s country music, but they’re city songs,” he says.
Still, Bryan finds insight in travel and rural places, jotting down song ideas while he’s on the road. “As a songwriter, no matter what you listen to or who you look up to, once you’ve been doing it for a while, more and more of yourself comes out of the music,” he says. “Of course, a big part of who we are is the place that we come from.”
Bryan is not only rooted in his personal geography, but in a particular musical heritage. Australian country music actually extends well beyond Keith Urban. The tradition runs parallel to that of American country music, dating back to the 1930s with roots in English and Celtic folk — the same settlers who came west to the U.S. also emigrated east to Australia. Smoky Dawson, Tex Morton and Dusty Williams were pioneers in the genre, which also produced stars such as Slim Dusty and Olivia Newton John, and hits like “Waltzing Matilda” and “I Honestly Love You.”
American and Australian country music not only share similarities (“The instrumentation is the same; the accent is obviously different,” Bryan says) but also crossovers, which might be part of the reason for Bryan’s U.S. release and tour. This is his second visit — a 2012 trip brought him to Marshall. It was on that tour that Bryan wrote the songs for Black Coffee, its title track a tribute to his grandfather.
That song was written on a napkin in a Mexican restaurant near Chicago. The song “Devilish Country” was penned en route to Sioux City, Iowa: “It was started and finished in the car,” says Bryan. Lead song “309” took its cues from a cheap motel where the musician stayed in Memphis and discovered a bullet hole in the window. “I was trying to do a crime scene analysis, and I think that I worked out that the bullet had been shot from inside the hotel room, so unless there was someone still in there, [I was] OK.” He adds that when he reached down by the bed for his cellphone, he came up with a piece of fried chicken — and the inspiration for a song was born.
In the U.S., Bryan and The Wildes will rent a van, drum kit and backline. “I think America is set up for touring in a way that sometimes Australia isn’t,” the musician says. “I know America is a big place, too, but often [at home] we’ll drive eight or nine hours between gigs.”
Returning to the U.S., Bryan says he’s looking forward to going back to New York and Chicago, and “Kansas City was a town I was really surprised by.” He may also break out a cover tune — a rare event for the singer-songwriter. “On this tour we might play a couple of Australia songs that I’ve been mucking around lately,” he says. “I sometimes like to play a Hank Williams song. They’re these brilliant three-chord songs that tell a novel’s worth of stories in 50 words. … It just reminds you that this thing you’re doing is not that complicated.”
WHO: Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes
WHERE: Altamont Brewing Co., altamontbrewing.com
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 24, at 9:30 p.m. $5