Sam Teskey successfully confronts self doubts on debut album Cycles

FREE: Sam Teskey says his debut solo album Cycles has allowed him to express new musical ideas that didn't necessarily fit into The Teskey Brothers' defined R&B sound. Picture: Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
FREE: Sam Teskey says his debut solo album Cycles has allowed him to express new musical ideas that didn't necessarily fit into The Teskey Brothers' defined R&B sound. Picture: Kristian Laemmle-Ruff

WHEN you've grown up performing alongside arguably Australia's greatest soul-rock voice, who also happens to be your brother, you can't begrudge Sam Teskey for feeling nervous about stepping to the front.

But as first steps go, it's a confident one.

Last Friday Sam, 32, released his debut solo album Cycles. It's fair to say there's major surprises for fans of The Teskey Brothers - the Melbourne four-piece which features Sam (lead guitar), older brother Josh Teskey (vocals, guitar), Brendon Love (bass) and Liam Gough (drums).

Ever since the release of The Teskey Brothers' debut album Half Mile Harvest in 2017 and ARIA Award-winning follow-up Run Home Slow in 2019, they've become synonymous with a '60s R&B sound.

On Cycles, Sam breaks away from the defined Teskey Brothers playbook. Yes, it's still rooted in nostalgic sounds, but Sam has explored everything from folk, psychedelia, alt-country to prog rock on his 11-track opus.

It's more Pink Floyd and Crosby, Stills & Nash than Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.

"My intention was to do what I love," Sam Teskey says.

"I've always been inspired by this music, and being how big The Teskey Brothers are now, there's this expectation of what things are gonna sound like.

"I love all these ideas for songs that differ a little bit from the direction that the other bandmates, and plus maybe fans of The Teskey Brothers, would go.

"It felt very natural to do my own thing and hopefully pick up another fan base that digs this kind of music too."

Sam's musical journey, which begun by learning guitar aged 13 at Steiner school, has revolved around playing gigs with Josh, the naturally more charismatic brother.

Exploring his own vision and meditative voice has been a major step in his musical and personal growth.

"On this album I've broken a lot of personal boundaries," Sam says. "I've never been a singer. Josh has always had this amazing voice.

"Ever since we were growing up he's been the singer and I've just played guitar around it.

"So for me it's been very confronting finding my own voice and where it sits naturally and having Josh's voice as a precursor to what the norm is, is a hard thing to have."

Sam's role in The Teskey Brothers' is pivotal. Not only as a lead guitar, songwriter and backing vocalist, but as the band's engineer.

In 2019 he won an ARIA Award for Best Engineer for his work on Run Home Show and also received a Grammy nomination.

COVER: Cycles was influenced by Pink Floyd's Meddle.

COVER: Cycles was influenced by Pink Floyd's Meddle.

Those technical skills came to the fore on Cycles. Most of the songs have existed for years, waiting for the right project to spring to life.

The second half of the album features a trilogy If The Dove Is Sold and Our World Goes Cold which were born out of an hour-long jam session.

Not surprisingly, Sam credits Pink Floyd's experimental 1971 album Meddle as a major influence. Meddle's trademark dream-like space is all over Cycles.

Sam says recording long jams is like capturing pure "magic".

"You listen back sometimes, after it felt really good and amazing in the room and you kind of regret listening back to it because it's tainted my experience of playing with the guys in the room," he says.

"It was only really meant for that moment. You listen back and it's not as you remember it.

"But sometimes you listen back to a jam, and you think that's got some really great parts in it and great ideas and we really locked in together on these particular moments.

RELAXED: Sam Teskey is looking forward to a busy 2022 after COVID provided an excuse to ground himself at home.

RELAXED: Sam Teskey is looking forward to a busy 2022 after COVID provided an excuse to ground himself at home.

"There is a lot of beauty in the first time you play something. So to be able to capture that on a recording, and capture it well, is a really cool thing sometimes."

The pandemic has been disastrous for the music industry, but for The Teskey Brothers it provided an unintended benefit.

Sam admits the four-piece were exhausted after a hectic touring schedule from 2017 to 2019 as their career exploded in Australia and the US. The past 18 months has allowed Sam to retreat to his home in Warrandyte, on Melbourne's north-eastern outskirts.

However, the downtime is about to end. Sam's solo tour begins in December, followed by Teskey Brothers festival dates in early 2022 and then work begins on their third studio album.

Sam Teskey plays Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (December 5); The Northern, Byron Bay (December 11); Corner Hotel, Melbourne and Theatre Royal, Castlemaine (December 16).

The Teskey Brothers play SummerSalt at Roche Estate, Hunter Valley (January 29); Stuart Park, Wollongong (January 30) and Bluesfest, Byron Bay (April 15-18).

This story Sam Teskey cycles out of big brother's shadow first appeared on Newcastle Herald.