When I look back on 2018, I am pretty amazed at all that it contained. I’m very grateful for all the adventures and the huge number of people who have been involved in making it such an epic year!
Earlier in the year, I realised the dream of recording a second album back in Nashville. I had such a great time back in 2015 recording my Fire This Love album that I relished the idea to return to Nashville to record again with my good friend and producer, Rick Price.
With frequent flyer miles donated by my family, I flew over to Nashville in March. I’d carefully researched the best car rental deal I could get. I started looking for a two-door hatchback, but instead found an even cheaper deal on a little ute. I was amazed by a kindhearted staff member at Alamo car rentals who upgraded me at no extra charge into a full Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck! Before he passed it over, he searched through the truck. When I asked him why he was searching through such a clean truck, he told me that sometimes hunters left their guns in the truck by accident and so he was making sure that none had been left in the truck! I drove down the freeway in that massive Silverado with a HUGE grin on my face - it was just SO COOL!
Soon enough, I turned up at Rick’s studio. He had the tradition of each artist writing their songs up on a huge chalkboard wall. Dami Im had just been recording prior to my project, and so I had the surreal experience of erasing the songs from her album to then write up my songs with Rick.
Over the recording time, I was just stunned by the calibre of musicians and engineers I had the honour to work alongside on my own songs. They’d all worked with some of the greatest artists of our time and I was full of joy with how they all so graciously approached my project.
One particular musician on the recording works on two to five different albums each week of the year. I was very encouraged when he told me that he’d only go on to listen to about five percent of the albums he plays on for his own listening pleasure. He told me that my album was one of the albums he enjoyed listening to when he was relaxing and off the clock.
After recording, and because I’d had to move my flights a couple of times, I ended up with an extra week in the US. I ended up doing a road trip from Dallas up through Texas and into Colorado, then across the Rockies and down to the Grand Canyon before finishing the road trip in Phoenix. I convinced a friend of mine to convince his wife to let him join me on the road trip and I had the pleasure of seeing some incredible natural wonders.
My time in the US reconnected me with many life-long friends whose friendships I deeply treasure. (Not all of them, mind you, as was recently pointed out to me by a dear friend who had read this article!).
After arriving home, I set out to book up a huge national tour of Australia, as well as planning the album’s release. Fortunately the team at DWHQ was added to with publicist and PR legend, Rebecca Belt.
Luke Evans and Sinead Lau-Evans, a movie-making couple from Wellington, NZ flew across to the Sunshine Coast and filmed a special clip with me for my song, “Outside Yourself” - the first single we launched from the new album.
I was simply amazed at the response to Outside Yourself. People have stopped me in the street to complement the song and the film clip. I’ve had messages from all over the world from people who have been impacted by the song and it’s message of kindness. Someone even sent me a film clip of the song being used in the Middle East as an exercise video!
The single went to #14 on the singer/songwriter iTunes charts as well as getting airplay across Australia.
I then had the sheer joy of holding an album launch on the Sunshine Coast where I was joined by a nine-piece band made up of some great friends. It was one of my favourite musical moments as everything just came together with the band and sound just being exceptional.
I then prepared for my national “Outside Yourself Soul and Blues Tour” of Australia.
There was a challenge leading up to the tour in that my usual tour co-driver, Mark, was unavailable (I put it down to trauma from previous tours). I searched everywhere for a co-driver replacement and it became apparent that I’d be doing this tour alone.
At the last possible moment (and with just ten minutes notice) my Dad joined me for what was supposed to be just the first week of the tour. Although I forbade Dad from lifting or selling merch, it was just a precious, precious time for us both. In fact, that one week became four weeks and he only returned at that stage because of a head cold.
One very funny thing that happened on tour was when Dad and I arrived quite late in the evening to a caravan park at Forster, NSW. We had to find our way through the caravan park at night to the site after I’d just performed a full concert and did my trademark packdown of all gear and merch. I was a little vague, to say the least, and so the printed caravan park map made little sense to me, especially in the dark.
I took a confident turn down a laneway which seemed unusually dark. Before I knew it, I felt my brain scream “Stop!” I applied the brakes only to realise that we were actually driving down a boat ramp! We sheepishly reversed back, fortunate enough to have avoided catastrophe, but not spared the amused glances of some of our fellow caravan park users.
When I was on my own, I must admit that it was hard going for me, as I was suddenly doing all the roles across the tour - sound guy, artist, merch guy, driver, tour psychologist and more. Each night I’d collapse into bed in the tour motorhome just emptied of all energy.
The additional challenge was the motorhome - or should I say motorhomes. The hire company had to replace the motorhome twice over the tour as each one had catastrophic failures. It made a difficult tour much more challenging.
However, what carried me through were so many incredible concerts with amazing audiences and organisers. I found myself sharing such joy with people and the concert moments were powerful and exhilarating to say the least. When I’m singing, everything else seems to find perspective.
I also had a lot of fun sharing a songwriting workshop with talented friend Paul Iannuzzelli and country superstar Jayne Denham.
I’m always chasing the best coffees I can find out on tour, and inevitably took loads of coffee photos. What did surprise me was the interest people on social media found in the various porridges I ate across the tour. Soon I found myself having to order porridge for breakfast most days and posting photos of whatever oats I was eating across the tour days.
My Dad ended up joining me for the last few days of the tour, which just made it perfect.
I’m currently at home regathering some energy and booking up next year for some exciting projects and travels.
I’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of making this year so special. As I’ve worked my butt off to become a better performer, songwriter and artist, and to do as much good throughout the world with the little I have, I have been astounded by the gracious generosity of so many of you who have hosted, or who have attended and supported the journey. Thanks!