DIARY - 30 MARCH 2004 - LEE KERNAGHAN
KERNAGHAN INTERVIEW 2002
LEE KERNAGHAN BAPTISES BUCOLIC BABES
"Lyndal is a waitress and she looks a lot like Faith Hill/ turning
heads down at the roadhouse working the grill/ you'd expect she'd be the
only one/ but there's plenty more where she's from." - Something
In The Water - Lee Kernaghan-Garth Porter-Col Buchanan.
Kernaghan wanders into the foyer of the Como in South Yarra with rain
dripping from his hair and clutching a plastic bag containing his
"l've gone country and eastern," the multi-award winning
Corowa born country star quips as he proudly displays a Ravi Shankar
Kernaghan's seven albums have amassed 700,000 plus sales despite a
boycott by big city corporate commercial radio chains.
why the singer made a TV and print media invasion that sent eighth ABC
disc Electric Rodeo gold within three weeks of its release.
Kernaghan mined the motherlode with a timely Current Affair feature on
punny Texas Queensland 4385 tune and obligatory performing seal cameos
on the comedy corrals of me-too hits and memories mausoleums which don't
play his music.
But what else can a boy from the bush do to expose his music in a jungle
where crime and ethnic gangs kill and catch their own to a refried rap
and disco soundtrack?
So how does Kernaghan, 39 and holding, react to radio rejection?
He candidly reveals all in the shadows of a trendy suburb whose reality
check a few days later was a triple murder and soaring street violence?
"How can I put a positive slant on this," Kernaghan asks Nu
Country, "the only light I see is the music is getting so damn good
it can't be ignored, public demand for great country music is still very
high. Concert ticket sales are higher than ever. We need some more radio
programmers around Australia who know good songs and play them rather
than rely on statistics and surveys. What is happening there is the classic
case of the dog chasing its own tail."
LAUDERDALE AND DAVID LEE MURPHY
teamed with Music City writers Jim Lauderdale and David Lee Murphy as
well as co-writers - Col Buchanan, Rod McCormack, James Blundell and his
producer Garth Porter.
He re-ignited his passion for his outlaw country roots with the duet on
Wild Side Of Life with soul-mate Murphy and reached out for the mainstream
with his bush battler ballad A Handful Of Dust featuring a guest vocal
by Olivia Newton-John.
met David at Tamworth and started talking about our major influences,"
Lee says, "we were both heavily influenced by the outlaw movement
of the late seventies. We loved Hank Jr, David Allan Coe, Waylon &
Willie and still worshipped Merle, Lefty Frizzzell and Hank Sr. I
said 'let's write a song, not part of what is accepted as current
country in America. Let's just do it because it sounds right.' It
didn't take long, two or three hours. He is one of the most skillful
writers I have written with. His singing is just awesome, it was challenging
duet to do with him. He's a real instinctive writer, just grabs an
idea and runs with it."
That song broke the mould of Kernaghan's bush, babes and utes anthems
that won huge rural followings but is unlikely to break him in cities
where style rules over substance.
Which is why Kernaghan is keen to make the most of live shows and
don't feel as comfortable on TV as I do live but you do pretty well do
what you do because it's the only way you can get your music out in front
of a national audience. I feel sorry for people in the cities as they
only get a narrow view of what's going on in music at the moment."
Kernaghan's cause is helped by 24 hour a day country music channel CMC
on Austar in the bush and CMT replacing its refried rock and blues ballast
believes Electric Rodeo is a departure because of marathon sessions and
re-mixes of songs featuring Nashville session serfs.
But the hard core of rural rooted songs - The Way It Is, Something
In The Water, An Ordinary Bloke, The Odyssey, Sing You Back Home, A Handful
Of Dust, the title track and Long Night - will sate loyal fans.
Long Night - an adaptation of a poem by contract musterer John
Hawkes - is a good example.
"We had a camp out the back of Yaraka in western Queensland (population
29) when John turned up with a slab or beer and a bottle of Bundaberg
rum," Kernaghan says, "he recited the words of a song he hadn't
finished about life as a drover and missing home. It was perfect for this
album. We did three different versions."
Lee is proud of hook heavy Texas QLD 4385 and You Rock My World, penned
with Blundell, who was raised up the road from Johland town Texas at Stanthorpe.
"Country music is evolving all the time," says Kernaghan, "Texas
QLD 4385 rocks. It's as good as anything you hear on the MMM Network.
Its thematically very rural and I'm proud of that."
But what about Baptise The Ute - is it a shameless shit kicker aimed at
the ute set akin to alternacountry L-Platers dusting off the corpse of
I love utes and I love driving them," Lee laughs, "yes I did
target the ute market. Most of them are my mates. I love my 78 series
ute. I had a great time baptising it, about a year ago. It's only natural
that I should like to sing about them. So many of my mates drive them."
Kernaghan doesn't re-invent himself like city chappies but swaps four
wheels for four legs in The Man From Snowy River.
AND TEXAS GOVERNOR - NOT KINKY
Lee Kernaghan was having a yarn with a bloke from Texas after performing
at Russell Crowe's lavish Oscars party when he decided to ask a few questions
of his own.
"I said 'what do you do for a crust down in Texas, Rick?" Kernaghan
told Nu Country.
"He replied 'I'm the Governor.' We had been chatting for about 20
minutes - he was asking me about Australian country music and talking
about the similarities of Texas and Australia."
Governor Rick Perry, whose predecessors include U.S. President George
W Bush, now has a chance to closely examine the wide-open spaces.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has invited Governor Perry to visit the
tiny town of Texas, Queensland, on his planned visit.
Accompanying Premier Beattie's invitation was a copy of Electric Rodeo
- featuring the song Texas, Queensland, 4385 - which reached Top 5 on
its first week of release here.
Beattie originally issued the invite to Perry in March when he visited
Texas capital Austin.
"I'm a Kernaghan fan and hope that Governor Perry will become one
too," Beattie says.
"I look forward to Governor Perry's visit and hope that he enjoys
Lee's latest CD."
RONNIE, BEN AND NICOLE
Kernaghan recognised actors Ronnie Howard, Ben Kingsley and Nicole Kidman
after doing a 12-song performance for Crowe's cronies.
"The governor just sidled up to me after I came offstage and was
asking me all about Australian country music," Kernaghan revealed.
"I didn't realise Premier Beattie invited him to Australia long before
my CD was released."
Kernaghan's songs might be receiving airplay at the Governor's stately
mansion and on radio stations in Austin but not in capital cities in his
The new album sold more than 40,000 albums in its first month of release
and pushed the singer's career tally to almost 700,000 despite his reliance
on TV for exposure.
Kernaghan embarked on a high profile TV and print media campaign to promote
his new album and the stage show The Man From Snowy River.
He appeared on most current affairs show and also had cameo roles in Big
Brother and the premiere of Russell Coight's All Aussie Adventures .
LEE KERNAGHAN - DAVID LEE MURPHY
The support act sold a million plus copies of his debut disc and mine
host is nudging 800,000 career sales on this east coast tour.
David Lee Murphy and Lee Kernaghan consummated musical nuptials before
a near capacity crowd at this majestic old bayside theatre.
They have leaped a myopic moat - a wall of fear that once banished the
genre from the city limits.
hit writer Murphy, 43, recruited three of Kernaghan's seven-piece band
for a small slab of the tunes that bought his 60 acre farm.
After 25 years in honky tonks, clubs and arenas, this long tall latter
day Tennessean effortlessly troubadour punches out his hits.
The title track of Out With A Bang segued into Mama's Last - a descendant
of the late Johnny Paycheck's epic I'm The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised.
Murphy paid homage to new Aussie Maton guitar in The Road You Leave
Behind and Scatter The Ashes - cut by former rodeo rider-liver
transplantee Chris LeDoux.
It's high octane, rocking country with debut single Just Once from rodeo
movie 8 Seconds.
Interaction with bassist James Gillard, guitarist Brendon Radford and
drummer Mitch Farmer on a three-week tour is fluid and fierce.
Murphy competes with balladic ballast on the charts but his triumphs are
raunchy hits Party Crowd and Dust On The Bottle - the fiery
finale to his all too short set.
This is the audience that city radio forgot - genre starved heartland
hombres who drive from the bush to hear what they see on rural TV.
And tonight they loaded utes and buses for aural relief from foreign wars
and fashions - a vermin on family farms and rural business.
So when the
band hits stage without leader there is a hush as the voice of Kernaghan
booms into Texan Tracy Byrd's I'm From The Country.
Spotlights illuminate the singer as he strides from the back of the audience,
guitar in hand, and ignites bush hit Something In The Water.
Kernaghan is a hi-tech redneck with a turbo charged band performing under
a huge video backdrop embroidered with vivid rural images.
These snapshots, grabs of his rural rooted songs, slip under the city
radar like stealth bombers.
The singer has long exploited the ute market with Baptise The Ute,
High Country and Boys From The Bush but he has also lured some
of the micro boppers who flock to Kasey Chambers and Catherine Britt shows.
With a gigantic balloon bouncing through a heavily draped venue in Great
Balls Of Fire there's a surge of primary school boys and girls frocked
up in bush clobber - cowboy hats and Wrangler shirts - to the stage.
And they know the songs - 3 Chain Road, The Way It Is and Country
Someone has defied the country blackout and plays these songs on the wireless.
There is a sense of theatre as Murphy joins Kernaghan for their collaboration
- Wild Side Of Life and the late Waylon Jennings hit Good Hearted
And the girls from the bush invade stage for a climax with Hat Town,
Texas, Qld, The Outback Club, Copperhead Road and finale - Electric
This dynamic concert proves Lee deserves to conquer cities - even without
airplay of pop peers.
/ back to diary