Irrepressible Australian music icon, Lee Kernaghan, has had on-going success with his recent album Spirit of the Anzacs, taking the words of the diggers themselves, and setting them to his own brand of country music.
He is about to take the album, and many of his other, popular hits, on the road. We spoke to him as he was in pre-production for the tour.
How did “Spirit of the Anzacs” come about?
At the heart of the process were the letters and diaries of the diggers. That correspondence forms the heart of all the songs on the album. In addition to that, there were lengthy discussions with the Historical Department of the Australian War Memorial, which oversaw everything that we did, and ensure the authenticity of everything that was written.
The upcoming tour features two halves: the first being a collection of Kernaghan’s work, and the second being a live rendition of the album itself.
After twenty years of touring Australia-and it has been an incredible ride-I wanted to bring audiences something new. So the idea came about to bring out some of the classic hits, some songs that were little gems on albums and perform them in an unplugged, acoustic format, with my full band. When you break them down to a raw, acoustic mode, you get back to the very essence of the songs. We are also working with a big screen, so we’ve been going around the country, shooting the footage that will be featured on the screen. All I’m thinking about at the moment is the tour! This album has been a labour of love: it has been all-consuming over the last two years, and I’m so excited to be bringing these stories and this show to Australia.
Also appearing on this tour are The Wolfe Brothers, who he discovered on Australia’s Got Talent. After the series was over he called them up and invited them to join him on a tour. This is now the second tour on which they have joined him. Kernaghan rates them as some of the best musicians Australia has ever produced.
How does Kernaghan deal with the popular perception that country music is all twanging mountain dirges?
Oh a great song is a great song. And I just try to bring out good music. And it has been such a privilege to have written and recorded these songs on Spirit of the Anzacs. I think they’re some of the most powerful songs that I’ve released in my entire career. Great songs come from a really good place: they resonate at a really high frequency, and I think that’s one of the keys to a song’s longevity. The main rule from my song-writing book of rules is “Will it work on the back of a truck?”
And what does our country-music elder think of the state-of-nation?
One of the best things Australia has going for it, in terms of country music, is the Academy of Country Music, which is held each year in Tamworth. It has two divisions: junior and senior. It’s a two-week long intensive workshop, where up-coming artists can learn about all facets of the industry. I think that’s something that bodes really well for the future. The other thing that really stands out is the Star Maker Award, which has been running now for thirty years. Some of the winners of that include Keith Urban, James Blundell and myself. It has been a great launching pad for some big acts. I’m now a mentor on these awards.
The tour kicks off on the 3rd of September in Townsville, with performances at Her Majesty’s on October 23rd, and Barossa Arts and Convention Centre on the 24th.
Interviewed by Tracey Korsten