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WATCH: MIKE McCLELLAN – ‘Behind Every Mask’ Interview

Preceding the ABC’s influential music TV Show Countdown by at least six years was a ten minute music performance program called GTK (Getting To Know). Transmitted in black and white in the late sixties through to the seventies, it provided a chance for local artists to play their music to a huge television audience. Giving my age away here, I have fond memories as a young child of sitting in front of the TV watching legends such as Billy Thorpe, Renee Geyer, Wendy Saddington, Sherbet, the Dingoes, and The Easybeats to name a few. You can still see a lot of the archived GTK shows on YouTube. However, one of the most vivid memories of GTK that I have is seeing local singer songwriter Mike McClellan perform. I’d been listening to many of the American balladeers on the radio such as Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Jim Croce, James Taylor, Neil Young etc and for the first time, here was an Australian singer songwriter of equal talent. Mike’s voice was so calm and comforting, his finger picking was exceptional and he possessed an air of confidence and authenticity in his story telling that I hadn’t experienced from a local singer songwriter before.

In 1974 Mike released his first chart topping hit Song and Danceman and became a household name. 1979 saw him compering his first television series National Star Quest which lead to his being asked to take over the highly successful ABC program Country Road.  Over a career lasting more than 5 decades Mike has released many acclaimed studio albums, live recordings and compilations. He has also been responsible for many iconic advertising campaigns as part of the Mojo Advertising company in the eighties. Mike was, for 6 years, a senior tutor at the CMAA Country Music Academy in Tamworth and is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Australian International Conservatorium of Music where he taught a course in song writing.  After an extended break from recording and touring, Mike has released 3 albums since 2014 including his brand new 2022 release Behind Every Mask.

With Behind Every Mask, Mike tackles a broad range of social and environmental issues, including the Trump-led social decline of America, a country he toured many times and loved. Producer Matt Fell further enhances Mike’s already poignant tales with some beautiful orchestral arrangements. A collection of some of Australia’s finest session musicians also add their weight to the project, including the late great guitarist Glen Hannah on one track. Even Bob Dylan gave the album his nod of approval when he approved the inclusion of two lines from one of his own songs in Mike’s powerful opus ‘Letter To America’.

Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips sat down with acclaimed Australian singer songwriter Mike McClellan via zoom to chat about the creation of the new album Behind Every Mask, his career, gear and more.

https://www.mikemcclellan.com.au/

The album players:
Mike McClellan – lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitars
Matt Fell – Bass/Acoustic/Electric Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele, Percussion, Backing Vocals, Piano, Organ, Wurlitzer, Synthesizers, Drum Programming
Bill Risby – acoustic piano
James Church – dobro
Ben Butler – electric guitar
Glen Hannah – electric guitar on Simple Man
Josh Schubeth – drums/percussion
Michael Carpenter – drums on The Annie I Know
Melinda Jackson – backing vocals

BEHIND EVERY MASK TRACK LISTING:
1. IF SORROW SHOULD FIND YOU  3:31
2. THE LOOK IN HER EYES 3:44
3. YOU DON’T LOOK AT ME   4:30
4. YOU WILL BE A WITNESS   4:45
5. TAKE ME BACK     2:30
6. THE ANNIE I KNOW  3:52
7. SIMPLE MAN  5:12
8. RUNAWAY ROAD    4:10
9. LETTER TO AMERICA      6:12
10. THE SHIT THAT COMES AROUND  4:25
11. HE’LL BE OKAY 3:49
12. 1 AND 1 IS 2    4:30
13. IF I SHOULD GET LOST     3:40
14. STILL     1:55