Legendary country singer Lee Kernaghan really, really, loves his ute.
In his hit song about a choice between his girlfriend and a battered old ute, Kernaghan chooses the vehicle.
That would be a ’79 series Toyota Landcruiser, of course.
“I hope I don’t upset my wife Robby, but if it was a woman, I’d marry it,” Kernaghan, who has represented Toyota for 25 years, told AAP.
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This year marks three decades since the release of his debut album, The Outback Club, with its award-winning single, Boys from the Bush.
The singer with as many Golden Guitars as Slim Dusty is marking the occasion with the release of a documentary named for the early hit that became his nickname.
There’s also a three-CD best-of album, The Very Best of Lee Kernaghan – Three Decades of Hits, and a live album, Lee Kernaghan Live At The Deni Ute Muster.
Boy from the Bush sees the singer, 58, take his latest Landcruiser on its inaugural trip to film around Winton in outback Queensland and along the Diamantina track.
It’s part concert film, part road trip epic and billed as a love letter to rural Australia.
Directed by Kriv Stenders, who worked on Red Dog and more recently Slim and I, the film features sweeping shots of the outback, burnouts in the dust and sunsets viewed from the bonnet of a certain brand of ute.
If you counted all the miles in the film, Kernaghan said, it would add up to many laps around the country.
“I just feel when I’m in the ute and I’m heading west, the further out I go, the more the weight comes off my shoulders, just a really great sense of peace in country Australia,” he said.
Which perhaps is to say that Kernaghan is so country, he actually wears his Akubra indoors.
His songs, such as The Outback Club, Hat Town, and She’s My Ute, have become anthems for a certain idea of life in the outback.
Kernaghan says that will always be a big part of Australia, despite the country’s overwhelmingly urban population.
“The authenticity of it all, the genuineness of people and the willingness to help each other out when things are tough … It’s the Australian way really.”
During the millennium drought, the 2008 Australian of the Year spent two years touring to raise money for stricken country towns.
“A lot of people have no idea just how hard it is for anybody living in those remote parts of the country, just getting by on the basics,” he said.
The country star had to cancel three national tours due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Boy from the Bush was shot during the months he was unable to perform live.
It became a chance to go through the archives and uncover footage from old shows.
Things have certainly changed since he was on the road with fellow country legend James Blundell in the 1990s.
“It was pandemonium on the road, stage invasions, dressing room invasions, motel room invasions … no holds barred, we had a lot of fun.”
Back then, there was nothing stopping him from firing flames out of the end of his guitar during a show.
After the documentary is released on July 28, Kernaghan will play at more big events such as the Gympie muster in August.
He finds his property in southeast Queensland an antidote to the adrenaline of live shows.
“It’s great to be a part of all of that, but it’s also really good to just knock back a coldie somewhere out in the bush,” he laughs.
No prizes for guessing how he’ll get there.