It’s hard to believe it’s barely been four years since Raised By Eagles played their first live show. With two acclaimed albums already under their belt – their eponymous 2013 debut and 2015’s Diamonds in the Bloodstream – the Melbourne band is now poised to release their third album, I Must Be Somewhere.
Still, it’s not so much what this band has achieved in such a short time – a Best Country Album nomination at The Age Music Victoria Awards in 2013 for their first album, winning the same award along with Best Emerging Artist for Diamonds two years later, major festival slots including two Americana Festivals in Nashville – but how they’ve done it.
You’d swear Luke Sinclair, Nick O’Mara, Johnny Gibson and Luke Richardson grew up playing music together. See Raised By Eagles live and it’s as if they draw breath together. Then there’s the music itself; it’s evocative, old-soul Americana coming out of men surely not old enough to play it with such integrity, sincerity and presence – but they do.
It’s not just fans and critics Raised By Eagles have wooed – they’ve also earned the respect of their peers. Just ask fellow Melbourne artist Liz Stringer, who dubbed their music “a great, enduring romance”. And the success of Diamonds also earned the ear of ABC Music; I Must Be Somewhere is the band’s first release on the discerning label.
“It’s a bit of a new process for us, “says Sinclair of being a ‘signed’ band. “You end up with deadlines, which is a new thing for us.”
The band spent three months in early 2017 recording I Must Be Somewhere at Shane O’Mara’s Yikesville studio in Yarraville.
The album’s cracking opening track and first single, Shape & Line, has already been getting plenty of airplay, but just wait ‘til you hear the rest of it. Heartbreaker, and its tale of a man afraid to love, showcases Sinclair’s knack for a turn of phrase that’s been obvious since his previous band the Idle Hoes, influenced as much by hip-hop as that of country giants such as John Prine, Doug Sahm and Jerry Jeff Walker. But listen also to the perfect country-pop of the O’Mara-penned Nowhere, and you’ll know that gun songwriting is something this band has in spades.
Although they happily sit under the Americana umbrella, don’t expect more of the same, track after track; Sinclair believes I Must Be Somewhere is “one of the most versatile records we’ve ever made.”
“There’s tracks that sound like they could have been on the first two [albums], but there’s also much bigger ‘produced’ stuff, and also some songs that don’t sound like us as well,” he says.
One such song is what he calls the “folk disco” of the album closer, By Now. “That song kind of freaked me out a little bit, because it was the last song we decided to put on the record and it’s come up like nothing we’ve done before,” says Sinclair. “It didn’t sound like us to me, so I was pretty reluctant to give into it, but now it’s one of my favourite songs on the record.”
Here is a band with no need for gimmickry or lip service to the latest pop culture trend – indeed, they’d sooner give lip to all that. With I Must Be Somewhere, Raised By Eagles has delivered an impossibly stunning suite of songs that, like all great music, stands tall and timeless, built on a foundation of rock-solid songwriting, musicianship, a good dose of mongrel and something that simply can’t be taught – soul.
There’s the temptation to call I Must Be Somewhere Raised By Eagles’ best album yet. But there’s a sneaking suspicion that, great as this record is, this band can fly even higher.
I Must Be Somewhere is out now through ABC Music.