In a country as big as Australia there's bound to be a backroad or two, and Lee Kernaghan has travelled just about all of them.
The current king of Australian country music and winner of 36 Golden Guitars is on tour with his recently released 'Backroad Nation' album.
On the road since May and running until November, the 'Backroad Nation' tour not only takes Lee and his band right around the country but also deep into its rural heart.
A champion of rural Australia and its resilient people, Lee's reputation as a country storyteller is second only to Slim Dusty, though he's loathe to admit it.
Here, Lee kicks up his heels to chat about the album, touring and what to do with all those Golden Guitars.
How has your 'Backroad Nation' tour been going so far?
The reaction to the new show has been amazing. The entire production has been redefined and it is super exciting to be stepping out on stage with the new tour and the new songs from 'Backroad Nation'.
What have been some of the highlights of your recent time on the road?
Every show feels like a highlight to me. We have had a lot of sell-out shows already, but the best part is catching up with everybody who comes out to the shows. They come from far and wide and I want to give them a show they'll remember for a long time to come.
Have you been happy with the response to the 'Backroad Nation' album?
Every time you make an album, you never really know how it is going to be received. So to see it sitting at the top of the ARIA Country chart for four weeks in a row so far is just amazing.
You have said that at the heart of your songs are stories about people, particularly those in regional Australia; what are some of these people's stories you're telling on 'Backroad Nation’?
One of the songs on the album is called 'Watching Lightning' and that was written following a chance meeting with a manager of a cattle station in the Pilbara region of WA. He and his wife were living a very isolated existence, with the homestead being located 100 miles east of Marble Bar – which is a long way out.
I asked Sam what he and his wife did for entertainment out there and he said: “Mate, we’re mustering cattle for most of the year but when the wet season comes the rain comes down, the river goes up and me and my missus turn off the generators at the homestead and we sit out on the front verandah watching lightning.” So I knew when he told me that story that it had to be turned into a song.
Have you been making room at the bar for Golden Guitar number 37?
I do not know if I’ll ever win another one, but winning that first Golden Guitar for 'Boys From The Bush' changed my life and gave me a career in country music. I have to say it was awesome to see my touring partners, The Wolfe Brothers, win an historic four Golden Guitars in one night at the Australian Country Music Awards in January this year.
After 25-plus years, what keeps you motivated to make music?
My music is about Australia. It is about our country and our way of life, and that is why I am so passionate about doing what I do and singing these songs about us.
Similarly, how do you stay connected with the people of country Australia you often sing about?
Well, I never miss the opportunity for a cold beer and catching up with people out on the road, saying g’day and going places that I have never been to before – and that is where these songs come from.
At this point, is there anywhere in Australia you haven't played yet?
There are plenty of places that I have yet to play. I think Slim Dusty would hold the record on the most places played, and I reckon it would be a record that is impossible to beat.
The most remote region in Australia you've travelled to perform?
A place that stands out in my mind is Yaraka In western Queensland; population of around 30 people but over 3,000 people turned up for the show to help us raise funds for the local school and the local bush medical clinic.
The best thing about being Lee Kernaghan…
I’ve got a real good-looking wife and I am clearly batting way above my average. I am blessed to have a beautiful family and I am thankful for my extended family, all these legendary people who come out to the shows. I reckon I am a pretty lucky bloke.
How many of those sweet cowboy hats do you own?
I only own two at the moment. They are called the Akubra Outback Club hat, but over the years I've worn many and had a whole lot of fun wearing them in and wearing them out.