By Gareth Hipwell.
Musing On Milestones & A Massive 2015
In addition to the publication of his first memoir Boy from the Bush: These are My Stories, These are My Songs earlier this year, Lee Kernaghan took the charts by storm in recent weeks with the release of his latest studio album, Spirit of the ANZACs.
Commemorating the centenary of the ill-fated Gallipoli landings of 1915, ANZACs is a towering dedication to the experiences and sacrifices of Australian defence personnel who have served from Gallipoli to Afghanistan. The album soared to both the ARIA Country Album Chart No. 1 spot and the ARIA Albums Chart No. 1 position, holding the latter spot for a staggering four consecutive weeks and going platinum within just four weeks of its release – the best result for an album by a local artist in any genre this year.
In penning the album, Lee and longtime songwriting partner Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, drew on letters and diaries held in the Australian War Memorial archives in Canberra – most of them written by defence personnel while on active service.
“It’s been a huge year,” Lee tells me. “One of the most poignant, moving, and emotional days of my life was being at the Dawn Service at Currumbin this year. I think it was something to do with the crashing of the waves as dawn broke that morning, it took me back in my mind to that moment 100 years before when those men were landing at Gallipoli.”
I ask Lee for his thoughts on the phenomenal success of Spirit of the ANZACs.
“I think it’s the fact that every song on the album is a true story. The emphasis the whole way along was to use the very words of the men and women who were there at the time, as recorded in their letters and diaries. I’ve always had a deep and keen interest in Australian history and the history of the ANZACs, but that day visiting the War Memorial in Canberra, in the archives, reading the letters that had come from Gallipoli and WW2 and Korea and Afghanistan – even though I had an understanding of what was going on from a historical perspective, it became pretty emotional and stirring to read the personal accounts. That put goosebumps up my arms and a chill up the back of my neck, reading those letters. I think it’s those first hand accounts that lifted it out of the pages of history, and made it an account that everyday Australians could relate to themselves.”
Born in 1964 in Corryong, Victoria – a pastoral hamlet nestled in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains – Lee, now 51, has long been Australia’s foremost champion of the bush, its people, and their stories, building a uniquely Australian brand on the back of formative experiences helping his Pop, a drover, walk sheep and cattle along the winding roads of his native Victoria, and accompanying father Ray Kernaghan – himself a much-decorated recording artist with multiple gold and platinum-selling albums under his belt – on tour. One of an undeniably stellar musical dynasty, Lee’s mum Pamela and brother Greg are each accomplished songwriters in their own right, while sisters Tania and Fiona have enjoy considerable success as recording artists. For Lee, though, country superstardom wasn’t always on the cards – as he explains.
… read the rest of the article in the magazine…