Australian country music legend Lee Kernaghan embarks on his biggest ever tour from May 11, with 45 venues slated up until November 30, in support of new album Background Nation.
The album was two years in the writing, with a lot of it put to paper in the last 12 months, says Kernaghan, winner of 37 Golden Guitars and four ARIAs.
When I spoke with him last month he admitted he was still just putting final finishing touches to the collection of 12 songs which are largely a result of his 25th anniversary tour in 2017.
"Part of me doesn't want to let go of them," he says. "I love 'em all, but Watching Lightning is a favourite.
"It's a poignant story from the Pilbara. I was playing at Marble Bar, and people from surrounding stations came to see the show. They live a very isolated life. I was talking to a guy after the show and asked him what he did for entertainment. He said; 'mate we're a long way out, we basically muster cattle 24/7 most of our lives. But when the rain comes down, and the river goes up, me and my misses turn off the generators and sit on the front verandah and watch the lightning'.
"[Australia] It's a big country and I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had to follow my dreams and do what I love. This is not so much a tour but a celebration. I don't know why, but I'm known to often be the last to leave a party, and there will be a few parties going on."
First single released from the album is Wheels, the video for which was filmed on location in outback Northern Territory. Kernaghan says it was 46 degrees, and "too hot even for the flies".
"After the crew had been filming a while I thought it was a bit bland. I told them we needed a good looking woman in there, but the nearest modelling agency was 1000 miles away. So I asked [wife] Robby if she brought her bikinis with her.
"She said yes, so I asked what's the chance of you putting on your bikinis and frolicking around out there? She said no, but I promised her a few lagers at the casino and she did it."
"Filming out there the conditions are so extreme, it's an intense dry heat. I felt dehydrated for a week after the shoot. We could have done the film clip a lot closer to one of the cities, but I wanted every part of the album to be authentic. Heading to the outback, well, we couldn't get more authentic backroad than that."
He says the further west he head away from the hustle and bustle, he can feel the weight lift off his shoulders. His next foray was southwest of Bourke at Trilby Station in Louth, the day after we spoke, to film another video.
In October, he gets a brief respite, albeit performing short sets, aboard Radiance of the Sea with Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Gina Jeffreys, Amber Lawrence, Travis Collins, Adam Eckersley & Brooke McClymont, Colin Buchanan, Felicity Urquhart, and loads more of the country music community for seven nights of Cruisin Country.
"It's always something to look forward to, there's so many great artists, we have lots of impromptu jam sessions around the ship. We're one big family."
Apart from his new songs, Kernaghan will perform a selection of his 38 number one songs. "I'd be run out of town if i didn't sing the hits. But we have new sound and lighting, big screens it's a great new show."
His support on this tour are the multi-award winning Wolfe Brothers, and the 2018 CMC female artist of the year Christie Lamb.
"The Wolfe Brothers are the hottest band in the land, it was raining golden guitars for them in January. They're like my brothers, and they take no prisoners."
The Backroad Nation tour, featuring Lee Kernaghan with support from The Wolfe Brothers and Christie, comes to Club Forster on June 1.
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