Q&A Scene: Brendan McMahon

New album ‘In The Moment’ out November 15.

What’s your favourite work at this point in time?

I have a soft spot for the song Morris from my first solo album… it was the first track I wrote for the album and it was the catalyst for everything I’ve done since and will do in the future. After I’d written Morris, on a Saturday afternoon in December 2013, I made a commitment to myself that I would capture every song that came in to my head… my 4th solo album comes out in November this year and I’ve already started my 5th album and have written enough material for albums 6 & 7. Thank you Morris…! 

Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.

Many years ago I was playing in a band at a venue in Robe, South Australia, I felt someone close to me on stage and when I turned around, there was a big burley bloke in a Santa suit with a beer in each hand… he said to me that I looked a bit hot and sweaty up on stage so he found his way to the back stairs of the stage and then across the stage to me to where I was singing to offer me a beer…! The gig was around Christmas time so maybe it was the real Santa…?

What, or who, inspires you?

People, places and nature would be the things I write about but in no particular order. I’ve travelled to over 50 countries in the last 15 years and there’s always inspiration waiting at the end of a plane trip.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why? 

To coin a phrase from Forest Gump, I’ve often said that my albums are a bit like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get until the track starts to play. I don’t really fit in to a specific genre… the songs fall out and develop on their own and I don’t try to coerce them in any one direction.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

The Wind by Yusef Cat Stevens… it only goes for a bit over 90 seconds but I love it every time I hear it.

What’s next for you?

My 4th solo album is due for release on the 15th of November this year so I hope to be touring to support its release. Other than this, I’m planning 2 more albums in the next 2 years along with a Luthiers course in Canada.

What’s your scene?

Nature… there’s nothing better than being in a park or forest to clear the mind and induce creative thought.

Growing up in the small town of Kapunda near South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Brendan McMahon discovered his love of music at the tender age of 14 after being “awed and floored” seeing Jimi Hendrix play on television; amazed by the sounds that Jimi could pull from a guitar and captivated by the iconic performer’s showmanship.  Borrowing money from his mother (and paying it back at $2 a week) he promptly bought himself a $60 guitar and amp rig from a mate.

Initially wanting to be a glam-rock superstar in the 80s and 90s (think Van Halen, Kiss, Def Leppard), McMahon later transitioned to the more storytelling driven tunes of songwriters such as Paul Kelly, Harry Manx, Richard Thompson and Garth Brooks, artists that continue to inspire him today.

Spending his late teens and early twenties as a lead singer/lead guitarist in rock cover bands playing across Adelaide and country Victoria, McMahon honed his skills the hard way – in front of demanding Australian pub and club crowds.  In 1998, and now bitten by both the songwriting and performance bug, McMahon released a 7-track EP called ‘Picture This’ with his band The Cunning Stunts.  ‘The songs, mostly pop rock, now seem too cluttered and uninteresting compared to the music I write today, but I still love to listen to them once in a while as they bring back great memories.”

In 2015 and 2016, Brendan released the solo albums ‘Falling To Earth’ and ‘Marker 7-58’ under the moniker of Satellite Gods, and in doing so was fortunate enough to collaborate and work with some renowned Australian musicians including Peter Maslen (Boom Crash Opera), Jason Vorherr (Darryl Braithwaite), Bob Spencer (The Angels), Simon Hosford (Vanessa Amorosi) and Wilbur Wilde (Ol’ 55).

Brendan explains “I met these fabulous musicians through the recording studio I use (Soggy Dog Recording Studio in Upwey, Victoria).  Not only did they contribute their instrumental talents to these albums, they also opened up my mind to new concepts and helped me understand the importance of ‘leaving space’ in the music.”

After supporting artists such as Boom Crash Opera, Russell Morris, Wendy Stapleton and The Chantoozies in Australia, Brendan released the LP ‘On This Fine Occasion’ in 2017, which received great reviews both locally and internationally.

“Whatever it is that makes his music just so amazingly addictive, the American audience is not only ready to take Brendan McMahon in as one of their own, but they’re ready to catapult him to a level of fame that he hasn’t already previously known in his already well accomplished and hard-fought career in this business.”

– Cash Box Magazine, Canada

“On This Fine Occasion is a collection of tracks which blends a variety of multi genres seamlessly to create a sublime absorbing listen.” – Indie Buddie

Around the same time, the EP ‘About Joe’ was released and promoted exclusively to the US market, again earning McMahon stellar reviews, and was followed soon after by a couple of live gigs in Nashville.

“This EP gets top marks” – No Depression

“McMahon’s personal style of songwriting discovers a new peak with this release thanks to his continuing refinement of the cinematic imagery powering his songwriting.  ‘About Joe’ is an intensely human collection; Brendan McMahon doesn’t write about life as he would have it, but rather life as he sees it … it’s every bit as immersive as a full length release and one of the more substantive studio recordings I’ve heard yet in 2018.”

– Vents Magazine

2019, and some 20-odd years after the release of his debut McMahon, who now calls Melbourne home, is gearing up for the release of a new LP ‘In The Moment’ – an album he feels is his strongest yet.  Maturity, reflection and drawing on his personal experiences, his inspired yet refined lyrics again take listeners on a captivating journey. 

Recorded with Steve Vertigan at Soggy Dog Recording Studios, and again drawing upon Australian music royalty in its creation – namely Dave Leslie (Baby Animals), Danny Spencer (Jimmy Barnes Band), Brett Kingman (James Reyne Band), and the previously mentioned Peter Maslen and Jason Vorherr, plus a string trio from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Sarah Curro, Gabi Halloran and Paul Zabrowarny), this powerful album embraces the essence of story-telling and leaves you thinking about the songs long after the last track finishes.

Having visited over 50 unique and varied countries over the last decade (McMahon and his wife share an extensive and adventurous bucket list), Brendan’s travel experiences, specifically his observations of history, cultures, people, architecture and nature are at the root of his creativity and songwriting.  These themes again feature prominently throughout ‘In The Moment’.

‘No Rush Today’, track five on the album was written on Mo’orea Island in Tahiti (French Polynesia) and is about the marine wildlife, the island itself and the backdrop of the mountains that appeared to resemble the shape of a dragon, while ‘Tethered’ was inspired from a passage from a book written by T Lobsang Rampa, which motivated McMahon to travel to Tibet to explore the local culture in more depth.

From Bhutan to the Baltics, Tahiti to Tibet or Morocco to the Maldives, being able to share his experiences, thoughts and conversations during these travels is what continues to deepen and drive this talented story teller.  ‘In The Moment’ is yet another fine journey to take with Brendan McMahon.





About Mary Boukouvalas 1534 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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