Lee Kernaghan
Lee Kernaghan Michael Daniel

The boy from the bush musters up goosebumps

CROWDS at the Gympie Muster this August will get the first taste of new music from Lee Kernaghan, with his latest album to be released in October.

Speaking to Seniors Newspapers , Lee spoke of the "magic when a new song is born” but said it was no easy process, with this album involving hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of songwriting.

"Maybe 90per cent of them aren't that good, but every now and then you get a gem that puts goosebumps on your arm - I'm a big believer in the goosebumps factor; they never lie,” he laughed.

One song that continued to give goosebumps, he said, was 2013's Flying with the King, about his journey to Perth as a young man sitting beside the iconic Slim Dusty, a tribute which still brings tears to the audience's eyes every time he plays it.

Lee said he had been honoured when Slim had agreed to record Leave Him in the Long Yard with him on his second album, Three Chain Road.

"He was always incredibly supportive of new talent and we won the Golden Guitar for Best Duet Performance of the Year,” he said.

But it was Boys from the Bush, from his 1992 debut album The Outback Club, which put Lee on the map, although it caused a bit of consternation among the pundits, who argued it was "too rock” to be country.

He said that was his dad Ray's influence, playing the records of 1950s rockers like Chuck Berry and Elvis, but he'd always been "country to the core”.

"Country music tells the story of our country, our people and our way of life - that's what keeps me so passionate about it,” Lee said.

While he now lives south of Brisbane, and has as many fans in the city as the country, Lee said he had spent his formative years growing up "a regular country kid” riding horses and motorbikes around Albury-Wodonga.

His mum's parents were dairy farmers and his father's father, Pat, was a drover for 50 years.

Lee said he loved doing concerts in the small, more isolated country towns, like Longreach where he had just played.

"They may be little towns but they've got huge hearts and great community spirit,” he said.

"A lot of those places have provided the inspiration for so many of my songs over the years ... and the people there don't just know the songs, they've lived them as well.”

The Gympie Muster has a big place in his heart, being his first outdoor show back in August 1992.

In the 25 years since, Lee has released songs, albums and videos at the Muster, but particularly recalls releasing Three Chain Road there in 1993 in "a relentless downpour of rain”.

"Everyone stayed out in it, and after the show I signed autographs and there was such a huge line-up of people waiting there in the rain ... I wasn't going to let one person go without an autograph or saying g'day.

"It was about five in the morning by the time I finished and people were all recovering in their swags and a new day was dawning - it was incredible.”

He loves the theme of this year's Muster, 'Mates, music and making a difference', which are the cornerstones of his life.

Lee was named Australian of the Year in 2008 for his support of regional and rural Australia, and his Pass the Hat around Australia, Spirit of The Bush and Farmhand concerts have raised millions of dollars for drought, flood and bushfire relief and beyond.

"Music really does make a difference,” he said.

"Nothing brings people together more than a great song. That's why I keep doing what I love to do.”

His new album, he said, was full of authentic true-life stories which he believed would "resonate deeply” with a lot of people, just as his 2015 album Spirit of the Anzacs did.

"That's the album I place above all others,” Lee said, still moved by his experience of reading the words written by our Diggers, and adapting them into music.

"It was the privilege of a lifetime,”

A lifetime which will continue to be filled with telling stories of Australia and its people.

"Not broad brushstrokes - it's the deeply personal stories that make the best songs.”

Muster-ing Facts

The Gympie Muster is from August 23-26,

Other artists on this year's line-up include Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley, John Williamson, Ian Moss, Beccy Cole, Sara Storer and the Wolfe Brothers.

Book now at www.muster.com.au.

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