Lee Kernaghan has racked up 36 Golden Guitar awards and 34 number one hits on the country music charts in the 25 years since the release of his ARIA award winning debut album Outback Club.
So I asked him what he would say to his 28-year-old self if he could step back in time. “Buy Sydney real estate and lots of it,” he says with his laconic sense of humour in full flight.
Then he adds, “extend yourself, keep pushing”. He says, looking back now, he doesn’t know if he knew where he was going at the time. But that’s a good thing because if he’d had it all figured out, “it wouldn’t have had the same magic”. “I have no regrets, it’s been magic. I’m filled with blessings.”
It was certainly no overnight success story for him. “I put in 10 solid years of full time touring before I had success. I did pubs and club in the Riverina, getting around with a horse float, a sound man, and a roadie. But I appreciate that and the people around me that helped me.”
As for the swag of awards that followed, he says it was only a pipe dream. “After winning the first one it launched my career. Instead of playing to 10 people I was singing to packed houses.”
He says the 25th Anniversary Album released early this year celebrates his career. “Outback Club Reunion [from the album] is like an anthem for the tour.”
Kernaghan has remained “country to the core” and says his passion has always been to write songs about Australia and the people. His 2015 release Spirit of the Anzacs was a pivotal point in his career.
“How can I put it, it was real life experience and country music resonates that. The Diggers storming the trenches, to have access to that depth and breadth of material was unparalleled for me. It only happens once. It was an enormous privilege, to document their stories.”
It featured many guest artists who, Kernaghan says, showed enormous generosity of spirit towards the project. “It’s wonderful how it resonated so far and wide.”
The anniversary tour kicked off in Tamworth in January and hits 42 venues by the end of this month. But in answer to my question if he will take a break next year, his answer was: “The 25th anniversary tour might run for another 25 years. We’ve had an incredible reaction. People who grew up with the songs are bringing a whole new generation along. The Outback Club has a lot of new members”.
His sister Tania and Gordon Bamford are along for the ride and The Wolfe Brothers join him for his Glasshouse performance. And he is giving a leg up to young talent wherever he can on the tour. Wauchope’s Angus Gill will open the show for him on Saturday.