Lee Kernaghan is one of Australia’s most celebrated country artists, and on his 15th album, he hits the road and heads for the outback. Backroad Nation is a vibrant celebration of regional life, people, and landscapes—and the amazing drives you need to take to get there. “This is music made for road trips,” he tells Apple Music. “It's about backroads, the unsung towns and the people who live in them. It's about dirt roads and river banks and the places that I love to be.” Kernaghan reveals the stories and inspiration behind some of the tracks on Backroad Nation.
“Watching Lightning” “‘Watching Lightning’ was inspired by the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I did a show in the carpark at the Iron Clad Hotel in Marble Bar, and people came from cattle stations and farms all over the region. I was talking to one young station manager from Hillside Station; it’s pretty well smack dab in the middle of nowhere. I said to him, ‘What do you do for entertainment out there, being so far away from town and services?’ And he said, ‘Well, mate, we just muster cattle 24/7. But when the wet season comes, the rain comes down, and the river goes up, me and my missus turn the generators off at the homestead and we sit out on the front veranda watching lightning.’ That's their entertainment. So we took his story and turned it into a song. It's epic, epic landscape out there, and we wanted to capture that.”
“Backroad Nation” “Musically, it's definitely an evolution for me, and a lot of that is due to Lindsay Rimes, who co-wrote 'Backroad Nation’ and produced the album. We go back a long way, but he's now based in Nashville, so I went there to work with Lindsay and Phil Barton. And then, of course, Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan—a couple of the finest songwriters on the planet. Twenty-seven years ago, I made The Outback Club. The opening track on that album is ‘Boys from the Bush,’ and strangely enough, it begins with—I think—a DX7 synthesizer. It's so un-country, yet it turned out to be a country anthem. So in a way I've gone full 360 in 27 years.”
“Round Here” “We shot the video clip at Trilby Station, by Louth, literally out the back of Bourke in outback New South Wales. It’s like a lunar landscape out there, it’s just so dry. They hadn't had any decent rain since late 2016, so it was desperate times. In the middle of that desperation, I saw the Murray family, who own the station. Day in, day out, they're hand-feeding their stock to keep the sheep alive and get them ready to market. I really admired how, as a whole family unit, they just stuck together and they dug in—and that's what ‘Round Here’ is all about. One of the great things about it was that two days after we filmed the shoot, it bucketed down out there. The dams filled up and the Darling River began to flow. There’s new grass coming through. It's like new life has come back to the outback.”
“Live to Ride” “I was at Remembrance Day last year, and a whole bunch of veterans had come from all over Australia. They’d ridden their bikes—they're part of the veterans' motorcycle clubs— and it was just that mateship, that sense of brotherhood, after having served. They get together and ride because when they ride, when they're out on that road, they're in the present moment, just for a little while. And not thinking about past or future or anything else. I'm really proud to be able to pay tribute to those who've served on this album.”
“Till It Ends” “We party pretty hard out there on the road, and 'Till It Ends' is a personal anthem for me and [Australian country band] The Wolfe Brothers. It’s got that rock vibe going on, a bit like The Angels, and it's got a Celtic flavor to it as well. The idea came from an article I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about the Deni Ute Muster. They sent this journalist out and he'd never seen anything like it in his life, just how hardcore it was out there. He was interviewing some punters who'd been participating in mud wrestling and stuff, and he asked them, ‘Why do you come? Why do you do it? How do you put up with these conditions?’ And they said, ‘Look, all we know is we love it and we'll be here till it ends.’”