Busby Marou

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Busby Marou


Big claims considering the only other band I know from Rockhampton is the renowned Halfway, winners of the prestigious Grant McLennan Fellowship, and experts of weaving story-telling music that belongs to mandolin, banjo and pedal steel. Serendipitously, one of their chief songwriters, John, is cousin of one Tom Busby – half the harmonising, songwriting duo Busby Marou, the Rockhampton act who, after quietly releasing an EP, picking up a few awards, appearing on the Finn Brothers’ tribute album He Will Have His Way (the only unsigned act to do so) and popping up in Triple J’s Hottest 100, have recently released their self-titled debut.

As the youngest of 8 kids, Tom didn’t get to see his elder cousin John – or indeed his older brothers – a great deal growing up. “John left Rocky before I ever really knew him but ever since I got into the music industry, we get to play together a lot. I’ve always looked up to the Halfway boys so it’s gonna be pretty weird having them [support] us.”

Chatting to the affable Tom, it’s clear that the whole success thing is pretty weird. It’s easy to imagine him as a shiny-cheeked kid waiting for his big brothers -“one brother in particular passed music down to me like REM, Bruce Springsteen, The Cars. I’m very thankful for those CDs; they started me songwriting,” – to return from boarding school with their mates. One such mate, footy-player-turned-Australian music success story, Pete Murray, soon took more notice of the young bloke. It was Pete who offered Tom and buddy Jeremy Marou use of his home studio to record an EP. Ol’ Pete, though, he wasn’t the same Pete that Tom remembered.

“I was just a kid then. I mean, Pete was labouring [on building sites] – he was worse off than we are now. Then he goes and gets ridiculously massive…to go from all that to living in a beautiful house, driving a nice car… walking in looking all fit and good looking it’s like, Jeeesus. You didn’t know whether to have a photo taken with him or get his autograph…”

So, Tom and Jeremy made an EP. They took all the advice offered, – “They’d say, ‘Jump,’ and we’d say, ‘How high?'” – learnt all they could about recording, lived out of their cars, and made decisions about what not to do on in future.

“When we recorded the album, we forced our producers to come up home. It was the best process: We got to stay in our family homes, took our mates up there and had our family bringin’ us up lunches. It was just so comfortable hanging out, like a little holiday.”

The result sounds like one. Busby Marou is a beautiful summer holiday record, in turns gentle brush-driven drums undulating under the natural wood strum of acoustic guitars, then driving country music with full band and electricity in the strings; Tom and Jeremy harmonising like brothers on Tom’s main lyric.

“I’m predominantly the songwriter,” says Tom. “I’ll come up with a melody, a basic song, the lyrics. Jeremy chimes in with structure… he’ll turn it into a good song. He surprises us every time by just picking up something and learning it on the spot.” He laughs. “He’s a pain in the arse. I’m like, ‘You are kidding me!’ I spend hours trying to keep up with a click track; he does one take on any instrument. Instruments you didn’t even know that he played. And neither did he.”

As their debut album tour gets closer to Melbourne, Busby Marou are looking forward as their diary fills with upcoming shows, some of which have Tom incredulous simply for the acts he and Jeremy will be sharing stages with. Icehouse and Josh Pyke are notable mentions for him: “people you never dreamed you’d ever meet.”

So, who does he dream he’ll play with?

“Willie Nelson,” Tom sighs, hinting it might not be so unrealistic. Country legends, naturally, reminds him of the upcoming Dolly Parton tour. My gleeful shriek at Dolly’s mention diverts our attention away from debut albums and tours.

“It’s going to be sensational. I remember sitting in the car with my cousin and his mum was making us listen to Dolly Parton and we were just complaining. We still joke about Applejack…

No one knows Applejack, I yell at Tom Busby, glad to find another unit who does. We recall, as youths, it was mandatory to hate country music. “I know,” he laughs. “And now… I was watching a two-hour special on her the other day. Taped it. Re-watched it. I’ve got to get the concert.”

Perhaps it’s something that comes with age: the appreciation of a well-told, heartfelt story.

“It’s the best,” he agrees. “There’s a fine line between good country and terrible country. Willie Nelson, The Highwaymen, that’s country…Ben Kweller, people you wouldn’t consider, that’s good country. That’s the country I love.”