Boy from the bush is back
JOHN Williamson was born in Victoria, forged his career in New South Wales and will retire in Queensland but don’t expect the country music legend to hang up his guitar soon.
While his new single Hang My Hat In Queensland is an autobiographical account, describing Williamson’s journey from his birth town of Mallee ‘‘ to Sydney on the back of an emu’’ and north to his current home in Springbrook, he has no plans to slow down.
‘‘ I enjoy writing songs and once you write a song you want everyone to hear it,’’ Williamson ( pictured) says.
‘‘ Every time I write a new song I go ‘ oh here we go again’ but that’s what keeps the shows fresh.’’
Of all the Australian music greats still plugging away, the ARIA Hall Of Fameinducted singer has covered more miles than anyone.
His 48 albums are packed with a lifetime’s worth of stories and reflections inspired by the great outdoors.
Williamson’s latest album The Big Red, a first offering of original songs in four years, reveals a hunger to discover more.
The lead track talks of escaping Sydney across the Anzac Bridge, over the Great Divide and into the open plains country for the red centre.
‘‘ I was brought up in the bush so I relate to it but it’s the freedom of it, and all Aussies think that way,’’ Williamson says.
‘‘ We have a big horizon in our psyche and I think we take it for granted but eventually we all want to jump in the caravan and have a look.’’
Nicknamed The Mallee Boy due to his Victorian country roots, Williamson has built a career on channelling the essence of Australia into iconic songs like True Blue and Cootamundra Wattle.
With a songbook brimming with odes to various areas and towns, inspired by characters from Broken Hill to Darwin, the 66- year- old nails his colours to no single state and proudly calls all of Australia home.
‘‘ I’m not really into‘ state- riotic’ attitudes,’’ Williamson says.
‘‘ It separates us and I think the strength of us is being Aussies that love the whole country. That’s why you’ve got to get out and have a good look because then you realise it’s not all about Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane.’’
Williamson explains his four- year creative drought on a willingness to road- test new songs on live audiences. He also focused on last January’s concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House to celebrate 40 years in the business.
Looking forward, a new record deal with Warner Music has offered a watershed moment and the chance for new music to replace songs that have been circulating for decades. But Williamson will never let go of the music that made him The Mallee Boy, especially original favourites like Old Man Emu.
‘‘ That’s the joy of creating your own future,’’ he says. ‘‘ Emu was my foundation song . . . for a while I used to drop it out and people used to complain.
‘‘ But it is still my biggest single hit and it really got me off the farm.
‘‘ I’ll never back away from it being an important song for me.’’