Karma County was a band ahead of their time. In the mid-'90s, Australia was still in thrall to American alternative rock and the bands who aped them, like Silverchair and the Superjesus. About ten years later, when the John Butler Trio became capable of topping the charts, acoustic roots music was all the rage, but Karma County added exotic touches like Eastern instruments to their country twang and Americana influences. Karma County formed in 1995 as a stripped-down acoustic trio playing in Sydney's inner-city pubs. Brendan Gallagher played guitar and vocals (and also produced their recordings), Michael Galeazzi played double bass, and Stuart Eadie played snare drum (he was also responsible for all of the band's visuals). Extra members were added as their touring spread beyond smoky pubs to the rest of the country, including Bruce Reid on lap steel and guitar, Lachlan Doley on keyboards, and Cameron Bruce on keyboards and backing vocals. They recorded two albums for short-lived independent label TWA Records -- Last Stop Heavenly Heights in 1997 and Olana in 1998 -- before landing a deal with Melody Management and Universal for their third album, 1999's Into the Land of Promise. They'd been nominated for an ARIA Award for Olana in the Best Independent Album category, and Into the Land of Promise was nominated for, and won, an ARIA for Best Adult Contemporary Album.
For their next album, Happy Birthday Dear Customer, in 2001 they added a horn section and strings provided by Fourplay String Quartet. The album was named after an incident at a Japanese restaurant they visited while touring in Toronto; for drummer Stuart Eadie's birthday, the staff brought out a cake and hesitatingly sang "Happy Birthday" without knowing his name. They planned to follow that album with an EP, but came up with enough songs for another album and released Pacifico in 2004. Actor Bryan Brown contributed a spoken word piece to the song, "Dexter & Sinistra." In 2008 they released a double album called Headland, which collected all of their greatest hits and rarities along with several brand new songs. ~ Jody Macgregor