Interview: Eskimo Joe’s Stu MacLeod Talks New Music + Upcoming Tour

Eskimo Joe
Photo: Jarrad Seng

Australian alternative rock legends Eskimo Joe have released their first new music for this year with new single 99 Ways right alongside the announcement of a very special Australian touring event for 2022.

Next year will see the band take off on an Australian tour like no other. The band will be performing in front of a live crowd, not one, but two iconic albums back to back. Their 2004 ground breaking record, ‘A Song Is A City’, plus the iconic 2006 ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’, will be played for audiences, across the country, in seven theatre performances through March and April 2022. Tickets on sale Friday 19th February. (Tour Dates Below).

‘A Song Is A City’ holds a special place in the heart of long-time fans of the the band, with quintessential Eskimo Joe hits, From The Sea, Smoke, Older Than You and Life Is Better With You just some of the classic tracks. ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’ has become the bands biggest selling commercial album spending a mammoth 62 weeks in the ARIA top 50 chart. The title track ,their most popular song to date chalking up over 11 million plays on Spotify alone.

With 35 Aria nomination and 11 Aria awards, plus other prestigious music awards, under their belts there is no doubt fans will be out in hoards to see this adored Aussie rock trio perform some of their most revered tracks.

Our very own  Music Maven Tracey Moyle had the opportunity this week to chat with guitarist, Stu MacLeod about new music, the upcoming mammoth tour, local live music, keeping connected with fans during the Covid pandemic and their individual passionate immersions in the upcoming music scene.

How is the Perth live music scene at the moment?  Brisbane just had its first mini festival last weekend with COG headlining. 

“COG.  I never got much into heavy music but COG are definitely my guilty pleasure in that genre. I love his (Flynn Gower) voice.”

Has there been a lot of local live music happening in WA?

“A lot of small gigs. The local live scene is still pretty great. It’s a very supportive scene. Community radio helps with that sort of thing, RTRFM is a huge support of those kind of things. They help to get the word out. But for all the bands it’s a really nurturing music scene. That’s continued pretty well. We’re really lucky here in W.A. in that we haven’t had a lot of restrictions in a few months. Barring the lock down we had recently.  In terms of festivals it’s been really light on the ground for sure. We had Good Day Sunshine which was very unique. We had four different sectors which were each their own enclosed festival space and one stage in the middle that rotated. Which was kind of cool . We had Wave Rock which went really well. Nannup (Music Festival) is this weekend, fingers crossed that all goes well. So there are a few things on the move, Fringe Festival had to get pushed back a few weeks when shows got cancelled. Same with Perth Festival. They are probably the two major events the W.A. calendar. So that’s a pretty massive effect for sure.”

It’s a great opportunity for young bands to get out and be seen because people are so keen to see live music.

“Definitely. It’s just gives that ability for smaller and medium sized venues to keep operating, because without those gigs they’re just going to dive and you know what happens when venues die, the whole scene dies basically.”

Congrats on the new single “99 Ways” it’s a beautiful song.   I’m sure it resonates with so many people at the moment being isolated away from someone they love.  

“Definitely. A lot of people write from personal experience and there is going to be a lot of that shared personal experience with the lockdown effects.”

Has song writing been a cathartic exercise for the band to get you through the weirdness of losing our freedom in a lot of ways?

“I wouldn’t say it’s cathartic for me personally, I would say it’s more of an escape from the reality of life. I think that’s one thing music does give me these days, is an ability to take me out of the everyday. Because you know there’s a lot of stresses in life and music is a good way to throw that weight of responsibility off your shoulders and think about something else.  When you’re writing a song it’s a real laser focus, the rest of the world doesn’t even exist. So that’s a really positive aspect of it for me.”

It’s interesting you give that angle on it because as a listener, it also has the same effect. Music can take you away to a place where the outside world can’t touch you.  I think that’s why music is so healing and so amazing.

“Definitely. Anyone who has ever had the regular commute to work can attest to that, it’s ability to transport you out of standing in a crowded train full of people wearing masks and all of a sudden you’re on some amazing mountain in Finland or something.”

The new track follows last year’s single Say Something. That is such a great track and really showed how much the fans were keen to hear new music from the band. Were you guys planning to release new music prior to the lockdown or have the events of the last 12 months given you the desire to get back to writing and touring again?

“I think a little bit of column B but mostly column A, we always had a plan to write and record some new material to release on our greatest hits record and go on our tour around that. As a result of that approach we’d written Say Something before the lockdowns all happened.  That song originally started as a bit of a commentary on the social conversations around climate change but then very quickly morphed into a more general global conversation around everything really.  Everything from vaccinations to Black Lives Matter to everything in between. That was a real moment in time we just happened to stumble upon, which was a great moment in time for us. And then based on the reaction to that song it just felt really natural to get back in the studio and keep going. We had an opportunity again when Joel (Quartermain) flew over for a few months, from Victoria, we were very lucky he was able to get a few months of him in WA. That just seemed like a really keen opportunity not to miss. To be able to write and record something else .”

You performed Say Something on the ABC’s new music show ‘The Sound’.  It’s so good to have something showcasing music in this country again.  We have so many amazing artists, it’s a great thing to have a new age ‘Countdown’.  How was that whole experience?

“That was awesome. I think that’s a really bold brave thing to do for those guys. I know it was a really huge passion project for (Michael) Gudinski and it’s projects like that, that keep people positive and hopeful throughout tough times like Covid.  People weren’t able to go out and see live bands, so seeing them on their screens every week really helped. Not only that, the production value, it seemed they raised the barre every episode with production. So there were some pretty magical moments captured on camera. It’s a pretty awesome project.”

And, of course there were the ‘Say Something Sessions’ on YouTube. What a great way to keep in touch. Producer Pete Holz, Bob Evans, and my favourite human being Chris Cheney were just some of the artists you had a chat to. Chris played a Parlour gig at my house in 2019 and it was such an amazing night. Such a great guy.

“It’s pretty special seeing Chris up close and personal playing the guitar. It’s one thing on stage, he looks like an absolute rock god but when you see it up close and personal and you can hear the strings under his fingers it’s just mind boggling the skill.” 

Who’s idea was is to get those chats together and will you be doing more in the future?

We have been doing a lot of zoom chats with the fans of late and we really enjoy it and I think the fans really enjoy it as well. It’s just a different way to keep in touch when live music isn’t an option. I think we’ll continue to check in with everyone on a regular basis regardless of Covid. I think the reality of the music industry these days is that people really crave and thirst for a personal connection with artist. So that’s a really good way to get that connection on a one-to-many basis. So we were checking in with them every couple of weeks and you get to know the personalities and they get to ask questions. We got heaps out of it personally so I don’t see why we wouldn’t continue those for sure.”

That’s one thing I did notice last year happening quite quickly, that on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, a lot of music’s bigger artists, were reaching out to fans in ways they never had before and connecting by responding to comments and being available to people. I think that was really important to, not only connect, but to show they appreciate the fans as much as the fans appreciate them.  Covid has been horrid but it’s also helped us as humans reconnect, I suppose.

“Definitly, I think it’s forced us to figure out ways of making decisions together and communicating together and being a bit more tolarnat with each other as well. A lot of the time something that would really piss you off before covid days, these days it’s like, ‘’it’s all good man we’re all in this together’. Theres a lot more tolerance out there.”

You’ve announced a mammoth tour next year, playing ‘A Song Is A City’ and ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’ albums back to back, this is going to be something so special, for fans and for you as a band.

“We absolutely can’t wait for this one we’ve had this in the pipeline for a couple of years now. We were suppose to do it in 2020 and obviously that didn’t happen so to bring this back for 2022 is huge for us. We’ve been wanting to do this for years now. We did perform a one off special show of ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’ from start to finish at the start of 2020 at Freo Social which was a huge gig and everyone had such a great time. So be able to do that again with ‘A Songs Is A City’, and then play them back to back, it’s going to be awesome fun in the rehearsal room let alone on stage. There’re so many moments on those records that you forget about and then when you resurrect those songs it’s like ‘ah I remember this bit, this is great’.”

I can only image how exciting it will be for you guys. I suppose there are songs you haven’t played in years, and songs you haven’t ever played live at all?

“Yeah, definitely. There is one song in particular on ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’ which is a real incidental moment, it’s called Reprise and that’s a song we’d never considered playing live because it’s just an incidental moment. Then in the rehearsal room we were like, well now we need to learn how to play this and then play it. That was a really unique experience for us to play a purely instrumental track that would have otherwise never seen the light of day on a stage.”

Black Fingernails Red Wine is a song, and an album, that so many define as signature Eskimo Joe but for me it’s songs like From The Sea and Older than you, so ‘A Song Is A City’ is probably my go to album.  It brings back so many awesome memories.  Do you have your own favourite? Even one you love playing live?  Or is that like choosing a favourite child?

“There’re some moments on every record I really love and in terms of playing live, From The Sea is obviously one of the key moments of every set. I think it’s one song that really defines us. And it has a bit more of a timeless sound, an Australian kind of sound. So that’s always a huge moment for us in the set but in terms of listening to the records, personally it’s a difficult one. I really love ‘Wastelands’, just because of the experimentation and the fun, it bring back those memories in the studio. But then again recording ‘Black Fingernails Red Wine’ was incredibly exciting and everything with the writing process just seemed to click and flow. It was a really effortless record and we just felt like we were taking on the world you know.  And then same for’ Girl’. We were writing songs as we were in the studio, so that was a really exiting time. I think every record for me has it’s own place. It’s hard to pick a favourite. They are like your kids.”

You have a great ability to not produce the same album over and over again but still hold onto your signature Eskimo Joe sound. Band like AC/DC for example, and no offence to them, have found a formula that works and they have stuck to it. It is all quite similar. It is good to hear new music that sounds new, not like every other song.

“Yeah for sure we try and do that with each record. We try and make it like a story with a beginning, a middle and an end for each album . And I don’t think you would offend AC/DC themselves or their fans by saying they make the same sounding records every time because that’s the ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke’ vibe and that’s what you want from AC/DC.  For us we like to explore and try different things and just open the floodgates and push that boat out a bit. Some of the demos we’ve recorded are completely wacky and would never see the light of day on an Eskimo Joe record but you gotta go there to come back I think.”

Apart from recording and touring with the band what keeps you busy these days?  I interviewed Ant Beard from Caravana Sun last year, he’d been working with Joel on a solo project, collaborating on a song, is this something that you find yourselves drawn into, collaborating with other musicians in different ways or maybe delving into other music industry avenues?

Joel, that’s his bread and butter these days. He’s a co-writer, producer and engineer, that’s how he spends most of his days. Kav (Temperley) is also doing a lot of co-writing with people, doing mentoring with a lot of young and emerging songwriters and obviously working on his solo stuff as well. My career has taken a switch to the other side of the music industry. I manage RTRFM which is a community radio station in Perth and I’ve managed that for three years . For the last two and a half years I’ve been managing a not for profit called FolkWorld, who runs a three day folk festival call Fairbridge Festival. That definitely keeps me busy especially when you have to cancel due to covid, trying to keep the wolves from the financial door for sure.

When is Fairbridge Fesival on?

“That will be happening April 9th – 11th.”

You can download/listen to 99 Ways HERE

Don’t miss out on Eskimo Joe perform two iconic albums back-to-back on their 2022 tour.
Tickets on sale Friday 19 February (1pm local time).


Presented by Frontier Touring & Triple M

via Eskimo Joe mailing list signup
Runs 24 hours from: Tuesday 16 February (1pm AEDT)
or until pre-sale allocation exhausted

Runs 24 hours from: Tuesday 16 February (1pm AEDT)
or until pre-sale allocation exhausted

Begins: Friday 19 February (1pm local time)

Saturday 5 March 2022 Fremantle Arts Centre, South Lawn | Perth, WA
Saturday 12 March 2022 Thebarton Theatre | Adelaide, SA
Saturday 19 March 2022 Odeon Theatre | Hobart, TAS
Friday 25 March 2022 Forum Melbourne | Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 31 March 2022 Anita’s Theatre | Thirroul, NSW
Friday 1 April 2022 Enmore Theatre | Sydney, NSW
Friday 8 April 2022 The Tivoli | Brisbane, QLD

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