There isn't as much opportunity to make it as a musician in Australia as in the United States. It's just one of those things that comes when a performer lives on a continent with 1/15th the potential audience " a fact that partially prompted The Greencards singer/bassist Carol Young and mandolin player Kym Warner to relocate to America.
"I had a No. 1 single on the charts in Australia, and I was still working behind a bar pouring beer," Young said. "It wasn't enough for me to support me or have a career out of it, and that's sad. That's just the way it was when the population is only 20 million people compared to what you got here, where music is such a way of life. People incorporate going to shows as part of their lifestyle. That's not the case in Australia."
Young, Warner and songwriter/Jedd Hughes all shared a place in Sydney before moving to West Texas to play bluegrass. It was a short-lived experiment. Hughes soon decamped for Nashville, and Young and Warner moved to Austin, Texas, where they found fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin, a recent arrival from England. Together, they formed The Greencards and released a couple of albums before following Hughes to Nashville. The trio of musicians really loved Austin, but said they needed to move on for the sake of their career.
"They call it the velvet rut. The people are so supportive of music you can play five nights a week, and make a decent living. People buy your records, but no one else in the U.S. knows who the hell you are," Young said.
Although The Greencards received a fair amount of acclaim in roots-music circles for their first two albums, the act's third release, "Viridian," was a breakthrough. The songs were recorded straight-to-tape rather than built up track-by-track, creating greater vibrancy in the recording. It landed at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass charts, and the song "Mucky the Duck" earned the trio a Grammy nomination last year for Best Country Instrumental.
Although the band didn't win, it announced the group's arrival, and perhaps gave the members the confidence to stretch their sound on their latest, "Fascination."
The Greencards made two significant changes for that album. First, they wrote and demoed songs for almost a year before ducking inside the studio. The group also brought in an outside producer, Jay Joyce, for the first time.
"He allowed us to go for it. At the end of the day, if it didn't work, he'd be the first to say we're dropping that," Young said. "He brought in the element of, 'Let's trim the fat.'"
The remarkable result is a release that really opens up The Greencards sound. It's an album of rewarding new directions.
"We felt like this was our fourth record and there are no rewards for playing it safe at this stage," Young said. "From the beginning, we were never 100 percent bluegrass, so the people that were behind us realized they could be thrown a curveball at any time. They were OK with that. I think we've kept our people interested, and grabbed a few new people. That's the challenge."
The Greencards perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley. "Chris Parker