Lee Kernaghan: From boy from the bush to king of Groundwater

They don’t come more Australian, and more genuine than country star Lee Kernaghan. Fair dinkum is the best way to describe this down-to-earth Aussie legend.  A holder of an OAM and Australian Of The Year in 2008, the king of Australian country is as well known for helping out the people of the land when times are tough as he is for having more Golden Guitar awards and number one hits you can poke a stick at. We had a chat about his headlining spot at July’s Groundwater Country Music Festival in Broadbeach.

Are you looking forward to playing Groundwater again this year?

Mate, I am incredibly excited to be bringing my National Tour to Broadbeach, and the Groundwater Festival, the atmosphere there last year was incredible. Just to see all the streets packed out with music lovers, the way that the sound, the lighting, and the production is exceptional, and I would say it is the hottest gig to play in the country right now is Groundwater, just because of all of that.

And it is pretty cool that it is free, the kids can come along, and the fact that it is not restricted to anyone.

That’s right it makes it really good event to get along to with your mates, your family, and all of those restaurants and bars everywhere, it is an absolutely unique atmosphere, and I think it is going to go on to be one of the biggest music events in the country.

You have an amazing catalogue of work. How do you decide, with that many songs to choose from,  just what to put in your set list?

Oh mate, it is a little bit difficult, I’ll often go out to social media and ask people just what they want to hear, I’ll check what’s going on with iTunes and Spotify, what people are listening to, what they are downloading, and try to give them as many of the big hits that I can, but this Groundwater Festival is going to be extra exciting because it will be the first time I will be bringing my National Tour, it’s a brand new show, brand new album and a whole bunch of brand new songs, as well as the ones that people know and love.

Sounds awesome, of course it is going to be packed when you play, but there are plenty of other bands and performers. Are there any that you would like to tell people you should really check these guys out?

Well the Wolfe Brothers are the hottest band in the country, they are just amazing songwriters and musicians, entertainers and so it will be absolutely amazing to see them up here. Also people like Adam Eckersley, the Adam Ekersley Band, Beccy Cole, Fanny Lumsden, Tori Forsythe, and Felicity Urquhart are stellar acts in their own right as well so it will be pretty incredible to be there.

Well Lee I’m about the same vintage as you, and growing up, my Mum and Dad had a great love of Country music, but it was dominated by American acts, in fact I still know every word off by heart of Charlie Prides ‘Crystal Chandeliers’ (Lee laughs). But as a young bloke, writer and performer, who influenced you, and were there any Australian performers amongst them?

I think the two biggest influences for me as a kid – there are a few actually – but I would definitely put Hank Williams Junior as number one, because he is a country boy that rocked like no one else had done before, and that really ignited my passion for country, along with people like Waylon Jennings and David Alan Coe. They were outlaws, real rebels, not only in the way they toured and behaved, but in their approach to music. They were anti-establishment, and they were breaking new ground, so from the American point of view that was part of my big early influences. Here in Australia one of the things that make me proud to do what I do, is that I get to write songs about us, our country, our people, our way of life. I guess it all began with the great poets like Patterson and Lawson, and that tradition was continued on by the great Slim Dusty, you know, to have recorded with Slim, and to have won a Golden Guitar with him for the duet we recorded, these are things that get more precious as the year go by, those memories.

Now Lee you have worked to help people out on the land, and your efforts in fundraising are well known, it’s pretty tough out there at the moment, especially up north after the floods. Have you got any projects that you have got underway at the moment that people can help out with? 

Well I’ve just been working on a song actually, for out there, sometimes it can be pretty amazing what a song can do for people, be a healing balm, taking them away from the harsh reality of what people in drought-stricken parts of the country are facing. It’s called ‘When the Trucks Came Through’. It’s about people helping people, and it’s about resilience, and it’s about remembering.

I am not sure there is another performer who has covered as much of the country as you have on tour. What gives you the most pleasure when you are performing?

The joy of music I think, and that connection you make with the music and the people who have been living with that music in their cars and their homes and at parties and different things, and it all comes together in that live environment. It kind of like I never really feel like I’m playing in front of a bunch of strangers – it feels like I’m out there singing my songs to my extended family.

We are all really looking forward to seeing you at the Groundwater Festival, is there anything you would like to say to the punters that are thinking of coming along?

Just get a big mob together and get ready to party, because this is going to be one of the big ones of 2019.

Catch Lee Kernaghan when headlines Groundwater Country Music Festival in Broadbeach from 26 to 28 July 2019, alongside Adam Eckersley Band, Beccy Cole, Fanny Lumsden, The Wolfe Brothers and many, many more. Visit groundwatercmf.com for updates.


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