TRACY McNeil & The Good Life's fourth album Thieves released in 2016 was deservedly hailed as one of the best records to emerge from Melbourne's fertile alt-country scene.
The emotional core of the album - written before the death of McNeil's father and Canadian country musician Wayne McNeil - coupled with the breezy '70s West Coast arrangements made it an instant classic.
But following Thieves has been anything but easy. McNeil's personal life has changed irreparably.
Central to that change was the collapse of her marriage to Raised By Eagles frontman, Luke Sinclair, who was also a guitarist in The Good Life.
"I've come out of a relationship breakdown, I had a marriage dissolve at the beginning of this process," McNeil tells Weekender one morning from the bushfire-ravaged NSW south coast of Tathra, where she and bandmate Dan Parsons had played a benefit gig the night before.
"So whenever that happens, you're whole life changes.
"I started out on my own and then Dan and I were off touring in Canada, so there was a lot of personal stuff going on that held up the record."
On February 14 album No.5 You Be The Lightning will finally arrive. And it's worth the wait.
The album's four released singles Stars, Catch You, Not Like A Brother and Rain Fall Down have introduced a sonic shift.
Stars and Catch You, in particular, sparkle with pop sheen.
McNeil and the Good Life, who features Parsons (guitar), Brendan McMahon (keyboards), Bree Hartley (drums) and Trent McKenzie (bass), take it even further on the finished product.
The country twang has been scaled back for a more '80s pop-rock sound and spacey synth elements.
The opener and album highlight Highway Girl, even features shades of Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond.
Fundamentally it's more immediate than Thieves. It "means business" and "doesn't f--k around" as McNeil likes to describe it.
I'm more independent than I've ever been and that independence has forced me to not settle for anything that doesn't feel right or authentic.Tracy McNeil
"Whatever the song needs I go there with the production without worrying about how it's all going to come together," she says.
"At first we take that approach. I didn't want to make a country record because they weren't country songs, so I had to listen to what the songs needed.
"I wanted more synthesizers, which is the biggest difference, as we had Brendan McMahon on keys. Having a keyboardist in the band changes your sound drastically."
Despite the upheaval in McNeil's private life, You Be The Lightning is electrified by positive energy.
It's about bottling the lightning in your life and harnessing it.
"It's up for grabs, whether you need to make that life yourself or find that vitality for life in someone else, a friend or someone you love," McNeil says. "It's someone starving to feel alive again."
Does the affirmation "you be the lightning" serve as a reminder to herself?
"I reckon [it does]," she says. "When you come out of a marriage dissolving and you come out the other side and make huge changes, it's a really hard thing to go through.
"I'm more independent than I've ever been and that independence has forced me to not settle for anything that doesn't feel right or authentic."
You Be The Lightning was originally scheduled for release a year ago, but the re-recording of the track Midnight Hurricane held up the process and then Melbourne-based label Cooking Vinyl Australia (Luca Brasi, Mia Dyson, Ivan Ooze) offered to release the album.
McNeil's previous four albums were all independently released.
"I'd gone as far as I could without that extra help," she says.
"So we pitched thinking nothing would happen and then I was over in Canada when I got the phone call from my publicist that Cooking Vinyl Australia wanted to put the record out.
"That took a little while as well to get that deal happening and get a strategy in place to put it out. For the first time I'm signed to a label and I have a team behind me."
Tracy McNeil & The Good Life play the Grand Junction Hotel (February 7) and the Stag and Hunter Hotel (February 8).