Close this search box.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our weekly
e-newsletter for news and updates

Advertise with us



Fresh from the release of their well-received first single ‘Paradise’, Tracy McNeil and The GoodLife delivered their 4th studio album Thieves on July 1st. Canadian born McNeil has been releasing albums and touring to great acclaim in Australia since 2007 when she arrived. Ahead of a string of national dates in support of Thieves, Tracy took some time out to do the Q&A thang with us.

What were some albums you grew up listening to which helped to define your musical taste?
I grew up on a healthy dose of Neil Young, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan – everything from country to jazz got a spin around our house. I eventually got stuck into new wave when I hit teenageland – Depeche Mode, The Cure…then indie-rock bands like Pavement and finally working my way back to country and bluegrass when I hit my 20’s. I’ve never really written in one specific genre so I’m guessing all those influences are in there somewhere.

Where and when are you most likely to write a song?
I can only really write a song when I’m completely alone or have space to myself. The most fruitful writing sessions are when I find myself in a different environment – away from home and somewhere that takes me out of my day to day routine.

What’s the most perfectly constructed song you’ve ever heard?
Is there even such a thing as a perfectly constructed song? I’m thinking it’s all pretty subjective but if I had to pick a song that is meticulously crafted and takes the listener on some kind of journey then I’ll go with Hotel California by The Eagles – a yacht rock masterpiece.

Bar1_TracyMcNeil&TheGoodLifeHIresAre you one to complete a song asap if you come up with a great set of lyrics or musical progression or can you sit with the elements for a long time before you’re content with it?
Usually the best ones come all in one go…maybe with a lyric here or there that needs adjusting. But I’ve also had melodic ideas, chord progressions or hooks that sit on the back burner until I’m ready to work them into a song.

You’re out on the road touring these new songs. Do you feel any of them growing as you play them live?
I feel like we are actually learning how to play them properly! We didn’t have much time to learn the songs before going into the studio with Shane O’Mara to record them. Touring always tightens up the band and gets us to the magical point where we no longer need to think on stage…it’s great. We always think to ourselves ‘man, if we could have recorded the record after the tour think how good it would be…?” The songs breathe more and we can read each other better than ever which allows the songs to stretch out in different directions live.

What was it about the track Thieves which earned it album title status?
I always wanted to call the album Thieves and I even considered changing the name of the track Thieves so it wasn’t necessarily the ‘title track’ – but in the end there wasn’t a better title for the song or the album…so it stuck. Thematically Thieves captures the precariousness of live, loss and the longing for what you can’t have. All the tracks on the record speak along these lines…so I feel it works perfectly.

Once you write a song … you bring it to the band, what’s the procedure from there?
I will bring the songs to the band with the melody, lyrics and structure nutted out. In rehearsal everyone comes up with their own parts and sometimes they help with the arrangements or where a stop should go, or turning a bass line into a hook, working out harmonies – it’s a democracy once the song has been brought to the band in terms of getting it to it’s final stage.

Ten songs written over 3 countries. Do you feel that the country you were in had any influence over the type of songs you wrote?
While in each country I was in a different place emotionally which comes through in the writing for sure. Before I left Melbourne I was dealing with what to expect when I arrived in Canada…what would it be like spending the last months with my father? When I arrived in Canada, I was back on familiar ground but dealing with the loss of my cousin and eventually my father – this was a mental and emotional battlefield that I’d never had to navigate before. There were many questions and many feelings I needed to express. Before I could work it all out, within a split second I found myself landed in America – playing in Nashville at the Americana Music Festival for Sounds Australia with The GoodLife. Switching gears so quickly left me feeling as though I was in limbo. Blueprint was written in L.A. during the last three days of my trip – looking out over the Hollywood Hills from our apartment window, feeling as though time stood still and I was in the middle of nowhere… Geography, time and circumstance all play a part in the writing process.

What’s your main guitar? I’m assuming it’s your fathers. Tell me about that guitar’s journey.
My main guitar is dad’s 1968 Gibson Hummingbird. He bought it in 1969 and played it during his days in Fargo, his country-rock band in Canada between the early 1970’s through to the late 1980’s. When I said I was staying in Australia for good, he let me take it back with me to keep as my own. He knew I was serious about music so he wanted me to have a special guitar. I’ve written three albums on it and many songs that have yet to be recorded…it’s quite a beauty.

Do you own many other guitars?
My dad left many guitars to my brother and I and also to my husband Luke Sinclair (The GoodLife / Raised By Eagles). I’ve got another guitar from Fargo, my uncle Wayne’s Gibson J55 (1970?), and a sunburst finished Alvarez that was Dad’s – he loved anything that glittered and this one has gold tuning heads and Abalone inlay around the soundhole and body. The Alvarez has become my touring guitar while the Hummingbird and J55 will remain as tools for writing, recording and playing any show that doesn’t involve an airline.

Why did you decide on Shane O’Mara as producer and what did he bring to the album?
I’ve always loved the sounds on the records that Shane has made and he mixed my last album Nobody Ever Leaves. We had such a great time working together I knew I wanted to do my next project with him. He pulls incredible sounds as an engineer and has innovative production ideas that always seem to take the song to a bigger and wider place sonically. Shane has a gift for applying his knowledge and expertise while remaining in a collaborative state with the band and I. We worked as a team to get the final product in terms of production but it never would have sounded the same without Shane. He is pretty incredible.

Were there any benchmark albums you referenced for sound when you were recording Thieves?
Dawes / All Your Favorite Bands (produced by David Rawlings) Houndmouth / From the Hills Below the City and Little Limelight, Shovels and Rope, Allman Brothers (guitar sounds in general), Fleetwood Mac / Rumours / Ryan Adams…these artists/albums are all so different but we used them to influence our dynamics, guitar sounds or vocal harmonies – all in a very general sense. As a band we into the same music which makes it pretty easy when it comes to chasing a sound in the studio and Shane always knows how to get the sound we are after. I’m sure he would have loved it if we had Blake Mills on our list of influences, with more fuzz and distortion but that’s the beautiful thing about working with O’Mara, he always wants to meet the needs of the song before his own personal taste.

You’ve achieved a wonderfully warm recorded acoustic guitar sound. Did you play around much with miking? How did you get such a great sound?
That’s O’Mara’s expertise with microphone placement and knowing how to pull a great sound and also the guitars we used. I played my Gibson Hummingbird on every track, which always has this rich, golden warmth to it. Dan Parsons played Shane’s 20 year old Gibson J45 on ‘The Valley’ and Shane used his Nashville tuned Maton Massiah on ‘White Rose’. There is never a shortage of amazing guitars at Yikesville Studio.

ThievesALBUMcoverHIresGiven that in the download era people play/download albums in whatever order/manner they like, is the track sequence still important to you?
I always think track sequence is important. I spend a lot of time playing around with track order and trying to achieve a cohesive body of work that runs smoothly and hopefully takes the listener on some sort of journey. Preparing the album for vinyl played a big part in this – getting side A and side B just right is a big deal and super fun to work out. We bounce ideas back and forth and eventually come up with an order that is balanced in terms of tone, mood, theme and dynamics and hoping that the last track makes you want to flip the record and go through it all again.


You’re touring solidly throughout Australian in July. What’s happening for the remainder of the year?
In addition to some other special shows in the works, including a south-side album launch later in the year, we’re also excited to release our first official film clip for Paradise. It’s a busy year for The GoodLife and it’s just the way we like it.

Tour dates and more info here




Share this