Michael Waugh is an Australian country, folk singer-songwriter.
Compared to the likes of Australian narrative powerhouse troubadours such as Paul Kelly and Mick Thomas, alt. country, folk-rootsy singer-songwriter Michael Waugh has released three albums of story-songs that are an emotional roller-coaster ride through rural Australia.
Dubbed the 'M. Night Shyamalan of country music' by Wil Anderson (due to the signature unexpected twist in Waugh's lyrical narratives), Michael's new single, 'Flying', is an alt. country, '80s-inspired tribute to brotherly love, the films of Spielberg, and The A-Team's B.A. Baracus.
Rich with images of kids from the sticks visiting a big city, 'sick jumps' built in the backyard out of plywood and house bricks, and trips to the milk bar with a little brother balancing precariously on the handlebars, Waugh's evocative narrative style captures the culture of little country towns, and the nostalgic warmth of family, with extraordinary humour, pathos and a fair degree of '80s pop culture.
We asked Michael to strap a ghetto blaster on the handlebars of his BMX, and go fangin' down a gravel road back to the '80s, revealing the top 5 retro-inspired influences to 'Flying'.
A trip to Melbourne as a child was the genesis for 'Flying', which is a homage to my little brothers. The visit to Melbourne's Forum Theatre to see 'ET' was hilarious because mum was a particularly timid audience member and she thought that the film was terrifying.
Looking back now, Spielberg uses lots of tropes of horror and suspense in those opening sequences. We all recognise that 'ET' is full of glowing fingers, cute broken English, and slightly cynical merchandising opportunities, but if you haven't seen the movie before – it is coded as a horror flick early on.
That movie inspired a summer of us boys acting out scenes from the film. I'd often tell my little brother that I'd be Elliot because he was the short, weird looking one, which means that he'd have to play the role of ET. Any child who has seen 'ET' has dreamed of your BMX taking off and flying away from the bad guys.
2020 was hard on my family – we lost mum and dad at the start of the year, and my middle brother has been pretty crook. There's something about those lines from 'ET' that kept playing on my mind: 'phone home' and 'I'll be right here'; I couldn't have got through that year without those two men.
'Flying' is a memory of a better time, and a reminder that there's always room up here on the handlebars of my bike when they need a dink.
My little brothers were also obsessed by Mr T – they'd hoon around the backyard of the farm up in Newry, singing the theme from 'The A-Team' and arguing at every opportunity – as only brothers can do.
B. A. Barracus was a pretty radical superhero. He famously dressed laden in jewellery, sported a mohawk, and had some pretty cool one liners: "I pity the fool" is still a pretty good burn for any 'fool' that you 'pity' for getting in your way.
For little country kids, in a time before Netflix, this action series was pretty amazing for its mix of stunts, kooky characters, and bad jokes.
The theme song was all military drums and rousing horn section – with that daggy '80s disco’ meets 'the kids from Fame' rock feel in the middle of it. Perfect for humming as you fly over sick jumps in the backyard.
A soundtrack by Cyndi Lauper, a group of stereotyped characters masquerading as kids who live next door, outrageously sinister and creepy antagonists, an adventure to find hidden treasure, and more quotable quotes than you can throw a VHS tape at: Goonies are definitely good enough for me (NB: quoting the Cyndi Lauper theme song in case you missed it).
My dad was always into new gadgets and was badly hustled by a shonky electronic good salesperson. When Dad asked: "Should I buy this video player that is called 'VHS' or this one called 'Beta'?". . . well, let's say that 'Beta' was not the 'better' choice.
For those of you who have never heard of Betamax, there's a reason. Apparently, it was better video quality than VHS, but the quality doesn't matter all that much when the local video store only had 10 Beta tapes in a store that was otherwise full of VHS tapes.
Every Friday we'd get to go the Maffra video store. Like some bizarre form of torture, we'd be paraded past the VHS choices, looking longingly at the overabundance of filmic opportunities, so multifarious that they had to be categorised into different film genres; and then we'd arrive at the Beta section, only to be disappointed by the same ten Beta tapes.
There's only so many times that you can watch 'Friday the 13th Part 2' without wanting to pick up a machete and do some damage to that guy who told dad that Beta was better than VHS.
It was like a revelation when 'The Goonies' came out on Beta! It might have just been video night, but for us, it was like Christmas. For those who haven't seen 'The Goonies', it's the grandfather of 'Stranger Things' – just with funnier one liners. . . and a better soundtrack.
Sitting with my roast lamb resting on my lap, waiting for Molly to brighten my Sunday evening, and holding my breath while Gavin Woods announced the top 10 at the end of the episode, 'Countdown' was a staple of Sunday nights in the '80s.
On roast potato rich days, Molly would tell me to do myself a favour and introduce me to young Australians – not much older than me – playing their truths, surrounded by screaming adoration. Their sound was uniquely of us – the sound of our pubs and our RSLs and our garages. It was loud and cheeky and angry and funny, and part of who we are.
'Countdown' told me that I could have a voice, and be seen and loved. And those songs reminded me of those needs. From his Melbourne studios, Molly sent me humour and hope.
Repeats of 'Countdown' on iView are a treasure trove of songs that are like time machine, transporting me to times and places and relationships that were.
BMXs and Nicole Kidman with a super tight and carrot-coloured perm: Australian film (daggy) gold! Nuff said.
Michael Waugh 2021 Tour Dates
Fri 18 Jun - Lighthouse Theatre (Warrnambool)* with Eric Bogle Sat 19 Jun - Capital Theatre (Bendigo)* with Eric Bogle Fri 25 June - Her Majesty's Theatre (Ballarat)* with Eric Bogle Sat 26 Jun - Tomerong Hall (Tomerong, NSW) Sat 26 Jun - Joyce Wheatley Hall (Kiama, NSW) Sun 27 Jun - School of Arts Hall (Sydney) Fri 6 Aug - Theatre Royal (Hobart)* with Eric Bogle Sat 7 Aug - Theatre Royal (Hobart)* with Eric Bogle Sun 8 Aug - Princess Theatre (Launceston)* with Eric Bogle Fri 13 Aug - Sydney Folk Festival Sat 14 Aug - Sydney Folk Festival Sat 28 Aug - Gympie Music Muster (Sunshine Coast) Sun 29 Aug - Gympie Music Muster (Sunshine Coast) Thu 2 Sep - Memo Music Hall (Melbourne)* album launch Fri 3 Sep - Music on The Hill (Red Hill, VIC) Sat 11 Sep - Live At The Bundy (Bundalaguah)* with Shane Nicholson (sold out) Sat 18 Sep - South Sydney Juniors Club (Sydney)* with Glenn Shorrock Thu 23 Sep - Oodies Cafe (Bundaberg) Fri 24 Sep - The Junk Bar (Brisbane) Sat 25 Sep - Wauchope Arts Factory (Wauchope, NSW) Thu 30 Sep - Django Bar (Sydney) Fri 1 Oct - Heritage Hotel (Wollongong) Sat 2 Oct - The Brass Monkey (Sydney) Sat 9 Oct - The Barn at Wombat Flat (Neales Flat, SA) Sun 10 Oct - Trinity Sessions (Adelaide)