Acclaimed as one of Australian country music’s most highly anticipated events, the music festival on the high seas Cruisin’ Country returns in 2018, celebrating a massive eight consecutive years. Departing from Sydney in October, Cruisin’ Country 8 brings together more than 40 of Australia’s most respected country musicians for a seven-night cruise aboard the luxury liner Radiance Of The Seas to idyllic holiday ports Noumea and the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia. Embracing the theme of Looking Forward, Looking Back, Cruisin’ Country 8 presents a journey through song of Australian country music’s past, present and future.
The 2018 line-up includes John Williamson, Troy Cassar-Daley, Graeme Connors, Gina Jeffreys, Sara Storer, Tania Kernaghan, Anne Kirkpatrick, James Blundell and Amber Lawrence – and it was my privilege to talk to country music legend John Williamson about the cruise, and his illustrious career.
This will be your fourth time on Cruisin’ Country – do you remember your first time?
The first time I didn’t do the whole cruise – I flew to Vanuatu and jumped on board there. I was a bit worried about being on a cruise full of punters, but after that I realised that everyone’s pretty cool and you make a lot of friends. From then on I’ve done the whole thing. What I like about it now – the last cruise I think we had the best of country musicians that exist, all on a boat, and all the jam sessions that went on after all the shows were probably as much fun as doing the shows themselves.
Performance takes a lot of energy, and you have to gear up for a performance and wind down afterwards. So you do need to preserve yourself.
Oh yes. Any day I have a show I have a sleep in the afternoon. You do need a lot of energy. It’s not just about physical energy – it’s about having your head very clear. My show normally I do thirty songs.
And just back to your point about the jam sessions – that’s a feature of Tamworth as well. There are so many great musicians in one place, and these wonderful spontaneous collaborations happen, so I can imagine in a closed environment like a ship that’s heightened to the nth degree.
It’s quite a big family. Obviously there’s disappointments at awards because people think they should have got something they didn’t, but in the long run the country music fraternity is quite a big family, and t’s a lot of fun really, working together. I think generally the whole standard of musicians in the last twenty, thirty years has grown. It’s incredible. We have world-class players now.
I completely agree. Tamworth has a bit to do with it – everyone in the same place.
Tamworth’s done a lot to promote it, because that’s where a lot of young ones have been encouraged to start. I had nothing like that when I started. I went down to Melbourne and New Faces. If I hadn’t done well there I probably would have given the whole game away [laughs]. But at Tamworth you can go every year as a youngster and you can get [exposure] and eventually there will be room for you if you’re good enough. And you’ve got to have that dexterity and believe in yourself.
And the level of competition is so high.
And that’s good.