“When people listen to your songs, they feel it or they don’t. The more honest you are, the more someone says that’s me. It is about the lyrics and you’ve got to tell a story.” The McClymonts are back. Brooke, Sam and Mollie return with their fourth album Here’s To You & I and once again, it’s filled with heartfelt stories, irresistible tunes and that unmistakable honesty. The multi-talented musicians from Grafton have come a long way since their 2007 debut album Chaos and Bright Lights. They picked up the ARIA for Best Country Album in 2010 for second album Wrapped Up Goodwith hit singles ‘Kick It Up’, ‘Wrapped Up Good’, ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ‘A Women is a Flame’. Then they topped it in 2012 with third album Two Worlds Collide featuring ‘How Long Have You Known’, ‘Piece Of Me’ and ‘Two Worlds Collide’, which again won the Best Country Album at the ARIAs. They also picked up eight Golden Guitar Awards and an APRA Award along the way, and won countless fans and critics as they toured extensively around Australia and the USA. Then it all stopped. When eldest sister Brooke announced her pregnancy in 2012, the girls weren’t sure what it would mean for the group. It turned out to be a blessing. “We were just fried,” says Sam, looking back. After so many years on the road, there had been no time for life beyond the band. So while Brooke had daughter Tiggy, everyone took a well-earned break. Sam says: “Now our priorities are different. It’s worked out for the best because music is still the number one priority but we are so much more happier because we have more balance.” They are refreshed and ready to go again. They have been working on Here’s To You & I for over a year and they wanted it to be perfect. “We wanted every song to be reflective of us so we would sit down and talk about what we were going through”, says Sam. And there’s been plenty to talk about. Aside from the birth of Brooke’s daughter, Sam is planning a wedding to her long time partner Ben while Mollie has bought a home and been through a relationship break up. “In the last seven years, we’ve gone through a lot and we’ve got a lot more experiences to sing about,” says Brooke. “We wouldn’t touch on a subject if someone wasn’t comfortable”, says Sam, yet the trio remains disarmingly honest and unafraid to explore personal topics including life, love, heartbreak and family. In fact these big life changes inspired the album’s title: Here’s To You & I refers to their ever evolving relationships with each other and with those they are closest to. Now a mother, now a wife, now a fiancé. Their music is richer for it, says Mollie. “Before it was all about getting the band up and running and it was constantly busy. We’ve been able to have life experiences so that has allowed us to grow in our music.” It’s the first album they have recorded in Australia, and they worked with Australian producer Lindsay Rimes, who has produced albums for Tina Arena, Lee Kernaghan and Stan Walker. The trio worked with him on ‘amazing’ demos so it made sense to collaborate on an album. It took them five weeks to record, in Sydney and in Brooke’s ‘shed’ studio at her Central Coast home. Having a child has made Brooke more organized – “I take it day by day, because I get very overwhelmed.” – but there is still plenty of room for creativity for the songwriter. “I’ve got a great imagination [and] I don’t stress about the song writing part. My favourite part is getting the songs ready for the album, that’s how I contribute to the band.” She finds it easy to switch on and off, even with little Tiggy around. “As long as she’s not eating anything that can choke her, I’m fine,” she says with a laugh. She describes the writing process as a maze: “It can go anywhere. You can start with a subject and by the end you think wow, we didn’t talk about the idea at all.” Having time off has meant they have reconnected as sisters. “It’s so much more enjoyable,” Brooke says. “When you are touring and recording, you spend way too much time together, so the process can get very overwhelming,” adds Sam. She admits they battled to get the balance between being sisters and colleagues right. “It’s not normal to spend every day with your family and we really struggled. We didn’t want to hang out with each other, it was too much and we lost being just close sisters.” Now they have rediscovered that connection: “Since Tiggy has come along, we realize how much of a priority family is. We’ve bonded again over that, being aunties, being a mum and we relished that.” Both Brooke and Sam were very supportive of Mollie throughout her relationship break up. It happened while they were writing the album so they decided to write a song about it. Once it was finished, it was too sad for Brooke to sing, so Mollie sings the lead vocals. It’s a first for her and her sisters couldn’t be prouder. Says Brooke: “You can hear the sincerity in this song, it’s such a lovely song.” They’re all looking forward to Sam’s wedding. Brooke and Mollie will be bridesmaids while Tiggy will be a flowergirl. (“I hope she behaves”, says Brooke). Although Sam is very organized, Mollie is her sounding board. “I’m like, I need to talk about my wedding because I’ve got no one else to talk to and she says okay, whatever.” They are also rediscovering the joys of working together, which means ever-present support, friendship, honesty – and no grudges. “And we can’t get divorced,” says Brooke. Being together means they can always rely on each other. “We talk to each other and if one is really offended or upset, we make each other feel better.” Well-known for their onstage style, the three say their individual personal styles have consciously become more relaxed. “We used to care so much about what people thought about us. Now, because we are so comfortable with what is happening in our own lives, we don’t worry as much,” says Mollie. Their fans have never hesitated telling them what they think. Mollie, who recently grew out her trademark blonde bob, has been offered plenty of opinions. “Fans come up to me and say oh Mollie, your hair looks so much better short,” she says. “But it’s not a negative thing, they just feel they are attached. I don’t mind, it’s just people’s opinions – and at least they care enough”, she laughs. Having already accomplished so much, they would like to reach even more people with this album. The success of artists like Keith Urban and Taylor Swift has meant audiences are more open to country music. They are also looking forward to touring and playing the festivals. Perhaps they will show up at Bluesfest or the Port Fairy Folk Festival? “I don’t know how we’d go on Big Day Out but I’d have a go,” says Brooke only half-joking.