The latest EP from Ricky Albeck, son of country music royalty Beccy Cole and acclaimed fiddler Mick Albeck, proves the musician is more than just his parent's son.
Ricky Albeck is forging his own path
Like any good country song, Ricky Albeck’s story is dotted with leaps and bounds.
“My parents definitely didn’t pressure me to pursue music, but I think biologically I didn’t have a choice,” Ricky tells CityMag over the phone from his Parkside sharehouse.
We’ve managed to snag the musician a few days before he travels across regional and metropolitan Australia to celebrate the release of Ricky Albeck and the Belair Line Band’s latest five-track EP, Great.
But before the six-piece troupe hits the road, Ricky’s taking a “tiny little rest”. He’s just helped bump out another tour – his mum’s.
“My mum is a country singer, and she does these Aussie Road Crew tours. I help out on those tours with sound, and I play a bit of guitar and play a few songs as well,” Ricky says, his rough-around-the-edges voice sounding like silk draped over sandpaper.
CityMag has become familiar with this voice since the young musician broke onto the live music scene in 2017, with explosive pub rock songs like ‘Lovely Bones’ rattling with gritty Australiana.
This sound is still evident on Great, but the EP is bigger in scope than we’ve heard from the collective previously.
The tracks swing with infectious riffs, crashing drums and twinkling keys. Lyrically, Ricky has created carefully crafted vignettes that belie the songwriter’s young age, spinning tales of indolent blokes who won’t get off the couch (‘Goddamn Lazy’) to that ‘son of a bitch’ constantly chewing on cigarettes (‘Hands’).
The award-winning musician says he was a teenager when he decided to make a career out of his music, which he defines as “alt-country with elements of indie rock”.
“When I was about 15 I realised I probably wanted to do music instead of a normal job; I started to respect what my parents did a lot more,” Ricky says.
“[I] was coming out of that angsty teen phase where you think whatever your parents were doing is lame, and really respected what they do as full-time work. I decided that I wanted to try and do that as well.”
He was raised on a diet of country music, which has left an indelible mark on his music making and aesthetic patina. You’ll often see Ricky cruising around the city in RM Williams boots, a tired leather jacket and sturdy denim jeans.
“I grew up with country music, and that’s probably definitely had a big influence on me, even subconsciously, from a young age,” he says.
For the past two months, Ricky has been obsessed with ‘bad boy’ of country music Waylon Jennings and is currently enamoured with the culture surrounding the genre – except for the “big Nashville stuff”.
His love of country music is mainly due to its narrative storytelling.
“I love country music because each song is a story,” Ricky says.
“I was listening to, the other day, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn doing ‘Hillbilly Heaven’. And it’s just this story of a dream, and it made me cry.
“It’s so cheesy but you really get lost in the story.”
Like the big-beehived-greats – and boasting an impressive head of hair himself – Ricky is trying to incorporate more literal storytelling in his songs.
This isn’t reflected on Great necessarily, as the songs on the EP were written three years ago, but the release still brims with Ricky’s lived experience. Characters that pop up in his songs have come from real life.
“There are lines from ‘That’s How I Wanna Be’ that have elements of truth,” Ricky says. “I might be talking about a friend of mine in a single line. I think that was my writing style [back then].”
‘That’s How I Wanna Be’, the third track of the EP, is the balladeer’s favourite. It has his dad, Mick, playing the fiddle towards the end.
To make this happen, Ricky travelled to Queensland to direct his dad in person and record in his home studio. The special moment is now sealed in vinyl.
“I didn’t direct him much at all,” Ricky says. “I was like, ‘Just something really lush and like a fake string quartet’ basically, and then we layered the three violins, and I’m really happy with how it came out.
“I’ll always have that song, and I’m really happy about that.”
Ricky refers to his dad as one of the “most kind-hearted men” he’s ever met, who had “no problem” taking direction from his son.
Ricky says Mick tells him often how much he loves featuring on his releases, and is honoured Ricky doesn’t think of him as “’an old bag’, as he calls it,” Ricky laughs.
Ricky Albeck diehards will recognise Great‘s opening track, ‘Against the Wall’. An earlier version was released in 2018, and is a much slower, sparser affair.
The latest iteration is much faster and includes a myriad of tones and timbres – the fiddle, a second guitar, backup vocals. This levelled-up dynamic came partly because Ricky wanted to record the whole EP in a different way.
On Great, Ricky’s band, The Belair Line Band, is made up of Colby Robertson on drums, George Thalassoudis on bass, Jess Johns on keys and Caelyn Judson on guitar. The band recorded live to tape at a studio owned by musician Tom Spall.
“The first EP, I recorded all the instruments myself, which was really fun but I felt like I wanted to get that live sound,” Ricky says.
“I’m happy with how that turned out.”
When asked whether he would ever get his mum on a release, Ricky says she’s a “fantastic guitarist” and he would be stoked getting a guitar riff on a single.
“People wouldn’t even know that it’s Beccy Cole playing the incredible guitar solo or whatever,” he says.
Although a fervent fan of country and always on the lookout for a good “pedal steel solo” on Spotify, Ricky isn’t narrow-minded in his influences. He’s had hip-hop artist Tyler the Creator’s latest album on repeat, as well as the entire back catalogue of German experimental rock band CAN.
Ricky’s writing and note-taking methods are also more contemporary than country, often recording the earliest versions of his songs on his iPhone.
“I totally do the thing where I whip out my phone and hum a guitar riff, and it’s really embarrassing,” he says. “I’ll totally leave a group of people and do that in the bathroom.
“But if I’m at home and I’ve got an idea and I’ve got time, then I’ll try my best to record a proper demo of it. Get Ableton out on my laptop and layer a few guitars, because then it makes me really excited about the song.”
Rather than epics about trucks and tumbleweed, these raw voice memos go on to become the ballads of Adelaide’s own cowboy, chronicling the critters and characters of postcode 5000.