"You're just dusty, there's flies on you/your guns are rusty and your soul is too/the Texas is wearin' off your leather boots/ you're just dusty, there's flies on you." - Dusty - Fred Eaglesmith,


Fred Eaglesmith
When expatriate Australian band Greencards was struggling to finish the title track of its debut disc in Texas it called on the song doctor Fred Eaglesmith.

For the Canadian singer-songwriter, making one of his many Austin visits, it was a nice little earner.

"I was in Austin and Kym Warner came to me and said I need helping finishing this song," Eaglesmith 47 and father of three, told Nu Country TV on the eve of his fourth Australian tour.

"He said he needed a punch line. Some times you need a second opinion."

Eaglesmith and his band The Flying Squirrels perform at The Esplanade, St Kilda, on Saturday April 2 to promote his 14th album Dusty (Vital.)

Eaglesmith also performs Byron Bay Blues Festival on Friday March 25 and 26, Pub With No Beer Festival at Taylors Arm on Sunday March 27 in Northern NSW, Vic On The Park in Sydney- March 31 - and Bridge Hotel, Rozelle on April 1.

Eaglesmith, one of nine children raised on Southern Ontario farm, has become one of the most popular live acts on Nu Country TV.

And his songs are equally well known here when covered by local artists.

Prominent Australian artists Kasey and Bill Chambers and expatriates Catherine Britt and Audrey Auld Mezera have earned Fred lucrative mail box money.

Movie director Martin Scorsese used Eaglesmith songs in his movies and James Caan chose two for Viva Los Nowhere.

Peers diverse as Canadian rock band Cowboy Junkies, Todd Snider, Chris Knight, Dar Williams, Wendy Newcomer and bluegrass artist James King have also cut his songs.

Eaglesmith writes about a world populated by drifters, grifters, vagabonds, farmers, truckies and heart and horse breakers.


Louisiana born Mary Gauthier also cut Eaglesmith song Your Sister Cried on fourth disc Mercy Now that was released here this month on Lost Highway.

"I've been lucky enough to have a lot of covers this year," says Eaglesmith who has just headlined his own festivals in the Texas Hill Country.

"Mary's first gig was opening for me in Vermont about four years ago," says Fred, "she's a big fan of mine. I guess she heard it on one of my records. Bluegrass artist James King recorded a couple of my songs recently. Todd Snider recorded Alcohol & Pills (also cut by Audrey) and Wendy Newcomer recorded 105. I've had about one a month for the last couple of years."

Virginia born King chose Fred's tune 30 Years Of Farming as the title track of his fourth disc in 2002.

King, 46 and a former Marine, also cut Fred's Flowers In The Dell on fifth album The Bluegrass Storyteller that also includes Buddy Miller's historic The Garage Sale.

So what does Eaglesmith spend his money on when he has rare breaks from the rigors of the Lost Highway?

"I still have my fishing house boat in Port Dover," Fred revealed.

"I have a shack where I do my painting and have a recording studio there. I still have the farm and a few boats, a plethora of boats, all in states of disrepair in the state of - southern Ontario. I hate to see these old wooden boats get tossed so I buy them. I own too many wooden boats."

Eaglesmith added strings to his new disc - one of five produced by fellow Canadian Scott Merritt.

"I had been listening a lot to Dusty Springfield and decided to do a concept album and get back to what music sounded like before the Beatles," Fred explained.

"It was that era of Glen Campbell - that was a cool time."

The title track is a composite of characters from mean streets of Canada and America.
"It's about a lot of old guys on the street I know and Willie (P Bennett) who has been in my band for 20 years. My father had a lot to do with it too."


"Saddle broncs & rodeos, the horse was a runaway/ from Liberal with an altered brand/ and we kept the white from showing/ with shoe polish and number #2 stove oil/ the wind stood still when he ran." - Wichita - Fred Eaglesmith.

Eaglesmith also credits his father - farmer, horse breaker and evangelist - for sourcing part of new tune Wichita.

"It's the story of a 65 year old man who is a horse trainer and scam artist and a horse was stolen," says Fred.

"It's a runaway from Liberal - a town in Kansas. My father told me how they covered up the markings with motor oil and they would race it because it was stolen and give it a couple of bottles of aspirin.

They would disguise them and away they would go. It's about a kid and an old man. My dad was a horse trader in his day. He took me to places where we met shyster horse traders - they were criminals. We got sold a horse one day. It looked great in the ring but when we got it home it was limping and had legs full of stones. I was raised with horses. I broke my first horse at 10. My father made me get back on it until it stopped bucking me off."

Another new song Codeine was inspired by another old equestrian.

"This old farmer was in pain all the time so he took codeine and didn't feel like riding his horse and getting his cows in," Fred added.

"He was too old, too tired and hurting too much to bring the cows in."


"Horse trailers and truckers/ and old station wagons/ driven by women with too many kids/ and they've been trying to leave their situation/ for years and years but they never did." - 1 75.

But it was the desperados stranded on crowded interstate highways who adorn his narrative 1 95.

"1 75 runs from Detroit, Michigan, down to Florida," Eaglesmith recalled.

"I spent a lot of time on that highway on the way to Nashville. I meet all these people at these truck stops who are destitute. They have run out of gas and have to sell a tyre or try to sell you their battery to get food. They can't move, they have mattresses on their cars full of kids. I write about I feel has happened to them, they're begging for something. There's no safety net in America - when you are down and out you are down and out with no welfare."


Eaglesmith is bemused about the punk refugees who populate a crowded alt country ghetto.

"A lot of kids who were laughing at me 10 years ago in a punk band are now playing alternative country," Fred observed.

"All of a sudden they love Johnny Cash, now that he's dead. I remember not so many years ago he wasn't filling halls here. Now everyone loves him. I'm burned out every time I see a little band or artist who couldn't make it in other genres decide they love country music. They bring in their influences, which is fine. But what they're saying is 'I'm not really loving this.' They become snotty kids on stage - once they get any recognition they get big heads. I say go play punk music. I don't like to be cool and part of things that are cool. Cool is such a fleeting mistress Cool. I've been doing this a long time doing something I loved. I was ahead of the game."

Eaglesmith still sleeps with his guitar on his bed.

"I write songs in the middle of the night," he added.

"I've written a fair number of songs on Australia tours. I really like the night. I have been outside of pubs in Australia and thought this must have been how it felt in the fifties. It's a really wonderful vibe in Australia - it makes me write songs."


Fred Eaglesmith & Audrey Mezera
The singer says Water In The Fuel - cut by Kasey Chambers - is his favourite song. Freight Train - also cut by Kasey - and 30 Years Of Farming (one of several covered by bluegrass artist James King) - have been more lucrative.

Eaglesmith can be excused for being a trusting soul.

So trusting on a European tour earlier this year he confessed in an interview that he was running late for the Trans Atlantic flight so he left $30,000 in his car at Toronto airport.

Although Eaglesmith's confession was published in print and on the Internet he beat treasure hunters back to his car.

"My car looks like it wouldn't have any money in it," Eaglesmith confessed.

"It's a dusty old 1979 Mercedes Benz. No-one would be looking for money in my old car. It was the well lived in look. I've slept in it and never been bothered"

Eaglesmith says he's oblivious to war and violence.

"I forgot about those sort of things, the world is very afraid now but I'm not," says the singer who can hot wire a tractor to make it go faster on the open road or paddocks.

"I've never locked a door in any house that I've lived in."

top / back to diary