MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 15: THE MCCLYMONTS

Influential is a funny word you see. Many people disguise it as popular, or they think that influential really means popular, when in fact the definition cannot be farther from what people perceive it is. For I’ve always been reminded that through this blog series, influential and popular aren’t always the same, in fact, most times, popular artists aren’t influential at all. They’re not influencing a generation to think about issues and topics that need to be discussed at length amongst friends and promote dialogue on real issues. Popular artists are indeed giving us popular songs that we can enjoy so that we can have a good time…but at the end of the day, much of the popular music of today can be a little vapid. Nevertheless, we tend to think that popular and influential are hand-in-hand, and thus, we attribute fame and fortune with someone impacting millions around the world. But herein lies the point- much of the people on my own influential top 100 list are relatively unknown. Sure they are known to their special field in which their genre of music is in, but outside of that specialised genre, not many people may have heard them…and that’s ok. I discussed one such artist before- Andrew Peterson, and how his knack for using his lyrical prowess to deliver poignant truths about God and mankind has led him to be placed upon my list, can seem all but absurd to the outside casual listener. But for me, Andrew himself has influenced my life a lot these last few years, as I’m sure many people who has heard his music and have testified to his life-changing lyrics that seep deep into the soul. Enter in another such artist, who I’m sure a lot of people know nothing about, myself included (until a week or so ago)- Australian country trio, The McClymonts.

Yes, I’m delving into the country music genre, once again. But, hang on…haven’t I discussed both Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride just recently? Why am I delving into yet another country-style artist in only just my 15th week out of 100 (or maybe more!), when there’s all these other musical genres to look into and embark a journey upon? Let me just say this- I am actually getting used to the country genre. It’s growing on me- I’m appreciating the effort and the songs that are in that musical style, and since undertaking the analysis of artists like Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood, I’m come to this conclusion- that country music isn’t this big bad evil genre that I grew up thinking it was, thinking that all they sing about is cars, girls, trucks, driving, love, feelings and things that can often be seen as superficial. But delving deeper into not only Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, but The McClymonts and their music this last week, what I’ve heard exceeded my own expectations, and reminded me that the country music genre has its place in music and society as with every other musical genre. Carrie Underwood, I’m sure everyone would know, and to a lesser extent Martina McBride (who has been famous for her radio hit ‘This One’s For the Girls’ way back). But The McClymonts? Why are they on the list? They’re not even popular. And that’s right, on a surface level, the band is not popular at all. But since when did popularity deem an artist influential, and vice versa?

More often than not, it is often the lesser known artists, the ones that fly under the radar, that have a lot to say about topics like hope, love, challenging the status quo, alongside moments of confrontation, and others full of fun and tranquillity. And thus, it is in these moments of musical diversity and lyrical ingeniousness that we can safely say an artist is influential- be it influencing music itself, the people as a collective whole, or even influencing the individual on a personal level. Enter in The McClymonts, a sister band that was not on my initial top 100 influential list, and only was added at last minute a week or so ago. In fact, I stumbled upon this multi-skilled and talented band, when I heard a collaboration between Ronan Keating and The McClymonts on a Ronan Keating radio station on Spotify (in preparation for my blog post on Ronan and his music last week). Since then, I researched and researched and took a punt last week in listening to The McClymonts and their music, based only on that particular song (‘When We Say It’s Forever’- from their 2017 album Endless). The result is an appreciation of this great band that has a lot to say with music that is equally as fun-filled and musically layered as much of Carrie Underwood’s music, along with it being as poignant and emotive, heartfelt and challenging as Martina McBride’s music, also.

The McClymonts aren’t that well known when it comes to the global scale- they are unpopular by every standard that I’m sure has been set as a benchmark. But they are influential within their own genre- Australian country music; and I’m sure influential in the lives of people who hear their music, myself included. Since their rise to band status in 2007, til now; we are blessed with hearing arguably one of the most unassuming bands I’ve come across- a band you’d know nothing about upon hearing them for the first time, but by the time you’ve heard at least 1 hour of their music, you’d understand that their passion and heart to make music that matters is what I reckon has given their music a sense of longevity and emotion that comes with listening to music that has an influential-but-not-popular edge. Sometimes being popular may mean you could sacrifice on some integral values and in the case of The McClymonts, I’m glad they’re as known as they are- any more well known and maybe, they’ll be forced to undertake things and write about other topics they may not have been passionate about. Nevertheless, we have The McClymonts, starting their career in 2007 and now 12 years, 5 albums and an EP later on, Brooke McClymont, Samantha McClymont and Mollie McClymont offer up songs that tackle a wide array of issues, all real and present in today’s society; from self-empowerment and belief in making a new life after an old one in ‘My Life Again’ and longing for their significant other when they’re away from them in any capacity (‘Hearts on Fire’), to Romeo & Juliet-style ‘Two World’s Collide’ that delves into the issue of disapproving parents in a romance that may or may not last because of said parents.

Coming out of Grafton, NSW, this country music trio leans more toward the Carrie Underwood music style compared to that of Martina McBride, and while I myself found the music at times to feel a little too Americanised (maybe this is how Australian country music performers deliver their music, but at times, if I didn’t know that the band was indeed Australian from the outset, I probably would’ve said American, because of their ‘country’ accents!); The McClymonts nevertheless always have a sunny, positive outlook on their music, even if and when they’re discussing about serious topics and themes throughout their music. First single ‘My Life Again’ marries together the ukulele and the fiddle to bring forth a song that shows a persona (female) down on her luck, feeling like she’s made wrong turns and entered in relationships she’s never felt comfortable with- the song gives girls and women in particular, to find their lives again. The song is a bold declaratory song of hope and favour, and is a great song to introduce listeners to if you haven’t heard of the band at all- let me just say that, though I’ve never heard The Dixie Chicks before, this band, according to the many, many comparisons over the internet; is a similar sounding band to the very famous American country music trio…and that’s ok. Complete with great harmonies, and unique songs that make reference to metaphors and symbolism only Australians can understand; The McClymonts offer us anthems and songs people relate to because of their real, raw and topical messages, and ‘My Life Again’ is a turning point for not only the members of the band individually, but as a band collectively as well!

While no one, if any, will know anything about The McClymonts, nor how their music sounds like, because frankly, they aren’t that well known, full stop; I’ve come to realise that for me, it doesn’t really matter if an artist/band isn’t popular, cause often the unpopular artists are the artists that are singing about the things close to people’s hearts. Better be not as popular and heavily influencing to people who hear it, than have hits songs and everyone knows your name, and then in the end, everything that is spoken and said is just vapid and hollow noise. The McClymonts are a band with integrity and a grounded centre, as Brooke, Mollie and Sam deliver songs that mean something to people- it may be different meanings to different people, but nevertheless, songs that resonate in the unlikeliest of circumstances are songs worth listening too- and The McClymonts have a lot of them!

‘Save Yourself’, from their first album Chaos and Bright Lights, is a warning for anyone who is looking to go into a relationship with a persona who has the potential of cheating, who is carefree, who is like a superstar. Basically a song that is a reminder for anyone who wants to date a famous person, better know that there is no guarantee that whatever relationship it is, is a safe and secure one, hence the song title, ‘save yourself’. The song has a colourful music video that goes alongside it, and for me is one of the most buoyant videos they’ve ever done, despite the subject matter being less than joyous. Nevertheless, the hits keep coming- ‘Kick It Up’ and ‘Here’s To You and I’ are both songs that can be played, sung and enjoyed whenever people are in clubs or just hanging out and want to listen to ‘party’ songs- the former was recorded in 2010, and the latter in 2014. Both songs are the band’s attempt to create songs that aren’t reflective, but are to be enjoyed upon surface value- songs that encourage parties and rowdiness- all for the sake of loosening up and not taking life too seriously. ‘Wrapped Up Good’ features all three sisters singing on the set of a Nascar race in the music video, as the theme of love that has the persona (i.e.: the girls in the relationship) wrapped up around him- in a good way; while ‘A Woman is a Flame’ is a reflective song that describes the intricacies and nuances of a woman and how women are a unique breed to get to know and even understand. Brooke McClymont, the lead singer, places on her Carrie Underwood hat for both songs ‘I Could Be A Cowboy’ and ‘Cannonball’, the former being a mellow melody that reminds us that we can be a lot of things in life, but often, it comes with a price and an opportunity cost- in the song, the cost for being a cowboy is to leave family and friends and travel like a nomad. The latter, ‘Cannonball’, speaks of a persona who is tied down by family expectations and bucks the mould and trend, bringing with it the theme of never holding anyone back from their potential, because of what we believe to be what men and women should be doing.

The McClymonts over the years have delivered songs so relatable to people, its because of things they as a band (and individually) have been going through as well- much of their discography are relationship-style melodies that discuss the complexities of relationships between men and women- be it romantic or otherwise. And as we travel through the albums done by the band, we can see some romantic songs that are very much overdue and much needed for music holistically. ‘Two Worlds Collide’ is a Romeo-and-Juliet song about the breaking point people can have when their parents (or friends) don’t understand a relationship, and thus, they can run away with said partner, because of the disapproval from parents. However, not all parents are disapproving, and such a song like this can help people have a dialogue with their parents about topics that would otherwise may not have been discussed. ‘The Easy Part’ brings to the fore a theme of life and being reminded to slow down, and that life itself shouldn’t be as hard as we make it out to be, while songs like ‘Piece of Me’ (lamenting because whenever there is an one-again-off-again relationship, a metaphorical piece of the person is taken), ‘Where You Are’ (wondering where the significant other is, when all the effort to make a night good, is on the woman’s part- thereby challenging stereotypical roles that are assumed to be true), and ‘Those Summer Days’, a reminiscent song of a young summer fling, but now it was and isn’t meant to be; are songs that are standouts on their 2012 album Two Worlds Collide. ‘How Long’, also on Two Worlds Collide; didn’t seem too memorable after all is said and done, but the song itself does have a meaning- wondering how long it has taken someone to fall out-of-love with someone, hoping that what they’re doing is not leading people on. Gutsy and full of electric guitars, the first single from Two World’s Collide showcases the band deliver their southern country/American vibe, more so than any other song throughout their discography thus far!

For me I’ve always felt that their last couple of albums, Here’s to You and I, Endless, are some of the most vulnerable and personal albums The McClymonts have undertaken and released these last few years, and much of the music, as the years progress, have been more personal and personal as we move along the journey of these sisters making music. ‘Going Under’ is a track full of a ‘where do we go from here’ vibe, as the theme of what happens when the unexpected, falling in love, happens in a relationship, and the hope and excitement, the scariness that comes along with it; while wedding song ‘Forever Begins Tonight’ is arguably one of my own favourite songs from the band, ever. It paints a great picture of the union between man and woman; and is a reminder of the love that not only a married couple should have, but also the love that I know my Jesus has for His creation, myself included! A unity song in ‘Blood is Thicker than Water’ is delivered with such passion and I’m reminded of my own close brotherly relationship and friendship, as I give testament full well to knowing that yes, we can have friends and people we get along with, but at the end of the day, family is family, and we love our family no matter what; while a song like ‘Alone’, tackles the stigma that to be alone means that there’s something wrong with how you are at making friends. Brooke, Mollie and Sam relay the notion that sometimes it is ok to be alone- that when we’re alone with ourselves and our thoughts, what we truly think and believe will come out.

For me I’ve always felt that Endless is much more deep and meaningful (not because the others aren’t, it’s just that I’ve felt more connected to the 2017 album than the rest!)- and as I read a few quotes here are there from the sisters about the album as a whole, it’s no wonder why I myself enjoy the 2017 album the most- ‘…family comes first. We’re all married – this is the first album we’ve made when we are all married! … That’s the thing with country music: you have to tell your own stories. People can see through it if it’s not genuine. So, we try to write about what we’re going through. That’s why the lyric content on Endless is so different to when we were 20 when we were starting out! And now, it’s so different to then, with our families and our career and making it all work. We do have a lot more stories to tell on this album: we are all in a good place, and that really comes out in this album… We always love the big, punchy songs, because we want people at the concerts to be able to move and to let their hair down. And we also like to have songs that show off our vocals and our three-part harmonies and the softer side as well. And I think we’ve done that on this album, but I think you’ll hear it in a slightly different way… We kind of realised that, it has been our 10-years since we released the first record, and it’s going really fast! You know, you’re always chasing the next thing, you’re always looking to the future and looking to the next goal, and sometimes that means not being in the moment. When we wrote that song we were really telling ourselves to enjoy it, live in the moment! Family is the most important thing: making memories with your family and being present…’ The album, dare I say, I’ve found to be a little spiritual- though unintentional, but nevertheless, still impacting, as I believe God Himself is using these songs to bring people further away from hopelessness and disdain, to identity, security, passion, hope and love between family and between friends as well. Even though it may not have been the sisters original intention, this is an album, that God can and certainly will use to remind us all of God’s love for mankind, especially in songs like ‘Chain Smoker’ and ‘Endless’.

A song like ‘House’ that speaks of thankfulness, or ‘Like We Used To’ that shows the yearning of someone to get back to how a relationship once was, or even ‘Don’t Wish it All Away’ that reminds us all of how precious each day really is, are all things that God wants us to know, albeit, though a country group from Australia may not be my own initial thought of how God delivered this message to me, but nevertheless, it is a great thing for me not to have any expectations of God, because honestly, God can and does use whomever He wants, inclusive of The McClymonts, to bring people closer to Himself! ‘Unsavable’ is a song about marriage, and the fight that needs to be endured and happen for the sacredness that marriage represents, while the duet with Ronan Keating on ‘When We Say It’s Forever’ also honours the sacrament of committing long-term to a relationship. ‘Nothing Good Comes Easy’ rounds out the standouts for me, as Brooke, Sam and Mollie highlight the theme that in this life, things are going to be hard, but most good things do come from hard roads- because it is when we come through adversity and difficulty for us to gain what we long for, we can appreciate it all the more!

There you have it…The McClymonts. Australian country band. Each of them mothers. Brooke also a duo with her husband. Sam also a TV show presenter for The Farmer Wants a Wife. But all in all, they’ll always be a trio making good country music. A band that has made me enjoy country music all the more, and made me want to continue to explore the genre as the months progress. And for, it is Endless that will always be my favourite album from them, and one that is perhaps one of the most underrated for all of 2017. And so, what are some of your own favourite songs from the band? Do The McClymonts and their music, make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song (other than popular melodies like ‘My Life Again’, ‘Forever Begins Tonight’ and ‘House’, to name a few) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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