“RAISED LIKE THAT is all about the way I was born and raised—the country life,” singer-songwriter James Johnston tells Apple Music. “It’s the place, the people, the morals, the values, all that stuff I grew up on. That is the through line in all these songs.” Born in the rural New South Wales town of Wingham, Johnston was raised on a diet of country artists such as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It wasn’t only their music that made an impression, with the singer also adopting their eye for lyrical detail—witness his observations around the potholes that still need fixing in “SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE” or the “scratched-up burnt CDs” he listened to in “WE GREW UP ON”. Adding a Keith Urban-esque dash of pop rock to his country DNA, Johnston whittled the 20 songs that comprise his debut album down from around 300, each a story drawn from the pages of his life. “I think you’ll get to know me a little better after listening to this record,” he offers. Here, Johnston walks Apple Music through some key moments from RAISED LIKE THAT. “RAISED LIKE THAT” “I wanted to write a song that introduces me to the world. Every time I start a festival set, I start with ‘RAISED LIKE THAT’, because it tells the story of who I am. And I wanted to open the record with that. That’s the start of a chapter and then it goes into all the other stories.” “SMALL TOWN GIRL” “It’s the narrative of playing in a bar and that’s where I met my wife, playing a gig. She was singing along to all the country songs I was playing. That was back in the days when I was just playing cover gigs, playing Garth Brooks and Keith Urban, and she was singing along to all the words. It sparked my interest, like, ‘Who’s this girl?’ The rest is history.” “THIS LAND IS KILLING ME” “I wrote this one after a phone call from a friend who lives on the land. He just needed to get some stuff off his chest. I want RAISED LIKE THAT to be a celebration of the land and life in the country, but there are also some harsh realities that come with living life on the land. Mental health within farmers is drastically worse than it is for the average [person] and suicide rates are really bad in the bush. This won’t be everyone’s song, but I hope there are just a few people who listen to it that really need to hear it.” “WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD” “The area that I grew up in [had a] massive dairy-farming industry. My folks owned the local tractor dealership in town and, when they started the business back in the ’90s, 90 per cent of their business came from small family-run operations. And then deregulation happened and that crushed that industry. So many of these little family-run businesses were destroyed. People would come and just buy that land and their hand was forced. They didn’t want to sell, carrying on the family legacy was massive, but they had no choice. It’s just that story. People will come in and buy up the property and they don’t really know the value of what they’re buying.” “GOOD TO BE BACK” “I moved away from my family farm when I was 17. Mum and Dad are still on the farm and, when I go home, everything’s exactly the same. Dad is a classic farmer guy. He loves what I do, but whenever I come home he’s always like, ‘Come on down the paddock, we’ve gotta move the cows.’ There’s a line in there, ‘He’s got me fixing fences/Just making sure I ain’t lost that country heart and my hand’s still got a callus.’ That is absolutely my old man, just making sure that I haven’t lost the country boy side of me.” “OLD COUNTRY BARN” “I wanted something that, when you listen to it live, you want to have a dance. It was written on the way to Tamworth. I was driving and my family were asleep. Quite often I write songs in my head and, as I was driving, I was literally stomping on the ground and tapping my hand on the steering wheel. I wrote that entire song in my head and, when I got to Tamworth, I was like, ‘I’ve got to grab my guitar, I’ve got to capture this, just let me record this. I don’t want to lose it.’” “ANYTHING LIKE ME” “I wrote that a couple of weeks before my son was born. That song is a snapshot of where I was at that time. You ask those questions when you’re about to jump in the deep end: Am I good enough? Can I do this? What’s he going to be like? What am I going to be like? There was definitely some uncertainty when I was writing that, but at the same time I tried to capture a feeling that I think every new dad goes through.” “SEEING YOU SOON” “I travel a lot. I’m often in the middle of nowhere playing a show and I just sometimes want to hop in the car, I want to see my family. It’s just about that experience of going, ‘Stuff it, I’m going to drive all through the night just so I can see the ones I love.’ I never expected that my son [Koda] would sing on it, to be honest, he’s never sung before. To have him on this track is really special.” “WORLD UNDER MY TYRES” “This is the story of growing up in the country. One of the biggest things, and the day you look forward to most, is the day you get your licence. I grew up 20 minutes out of my little town and that day you get your licence is the first day you have freedom. There wasn’t public transport or taxis where I lived. When you finally have your licence, it’s the first time you can just go out and explore. I wanted that song to capture that feeling of joy.” “I STILL CALL IT HOME” “I haven’t lived in my little hometown of Wingham for nearly 12, 13 years now. But I still call it home. Mum and Dad still have the farm there. One day, I’m hoping that I’ll settle down and we’ll take the kids back there. This whole record really is a celebration of that place. So many of these stories on the record are all tied to it. I just wanted to wrap the album up and make one final anthem. One final song to celebrate that idea.”

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