Country music icon Lee Kernaghan is one of those rare Australians who has used his art form to not only entertain but to educate his own countrymen and women on this nation’s history – stirring up emotions ranging from joyous national pride to solemn grief and regret.
He’s been doing this for over twenty years, selling out venues from stadiums to country pubs in the process and continuing to sell hundreds of thousands of albums in spite of the decline of the record industry. His latest work, Spirit of the Anzacs, is perhaps his most poignant – with songs that tell the stories of real Australian soldiers, their families and loved ones. It is also one of Kernaghan’s most collaborative records to date.
“I’ve got huge respect for Guy Sebastian”, says Lee, from his Queensland home, where he prepares for another epic Australian tour which will take him most of the way around the country. “He was one of the first to get on board with all his enthusiasm, and he’s just an incredible singer and a real professional. He got on board and then right after him was Shannon Noll, Sheppard, Jon Stevens, Jessica Mauboy and Megan Washington”.
Such an eclectic group of collaborators is not just testament to the respect that Lee has earned in the business, but also to the gravity of the stories told on this record.
“I think our kids should definitely be taught more of this stuff,” he answers when asked if Australian military history is under-represented in education – particularly in comparison to other countries. “In fact, I remember learning about American civil war history through song, and even the Jesse James story. Those kind of storytelling records were some of my favourite growing up, and I learned a lot through them.”
Undoubtedly Spirit of the Anzacs will be seen as a real timepiece for Australian audiences in years to come, and Kernaghan is quick to give credit to producer Garth Porter and frequent co-writer Colin Buchanan for their dedication to the project. Without their immense efforts, he says, the album (which took two years to come together) would not have been made.
With the album now in the marketplace for nearly a year, Kernaghan’s new tour will combine highlights from the record, hits from throughout his career and even elements lifted from his 2015 autobiography. Fittingly titled “The Songs and the Stories in Concert,” this tour will take in some of Lee’s favourite venues, including The Hallam Hotel (which he describes as “just about the music capital of Australia”).
You can catch Lee at The Hallam on Thursday, 19th May, or ten days later at The Frankston Arts Centre on Sunday, 29th May.