READY TO ROLL: Country music star Lee Kernaghan kicks off his Backroad Nation tour at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on May 30.
READY TO ROLL: Country music star Lee Kernaghan kicks off his Backroad Nation tour at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on May 30.

Country star names Valley theatre 'best of the best'

LEE Kernaghan is a new man.

At least that's the sentiment behind his latest musical project which sees the, dare we say, veteran country music artist's latest work.

Encompassing a new hit single, epic new album and a new tour, the latter, the biggest he has ever undertaken.

The hard-working performer, whose history dates back to the 1980s when he used to play with his legendary father Ray, Kernaghan said the 45 shows he has recently announced were only just the beginning of his massive Backroad Nation tour.

"You could say we are launching it in Grafton. The first show is really a festival slot at Berry but the Saraton show will be the debut of the national concert tour.”

Kernaghan said it had been a couple of years since he played Grafton (his 25th anniversary tour) and was looking forward to coming back to the Jacaranda City and, more particularly, playing the same venue.

"The Saraton is one of the most magnificent theatres in Australia. The acoustics are spectacular so for a live performance it's one of the best of the best,” he said singing its praises.

Coming along for the ride this time will be legendary band The Wolfe Brothers who absolutely cleaned up at this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival.

"It was certainly raining Golden Guitars at the awards for the boys, making history by picking up four of them. It was unprecedented for a vocal group.”

Of course, breaking Golden Guitar records is something Kernaghan is in the thick of himself, he and our own country music songster Troy Cassar Daley, neck and neck at 37, both one away from equalling Slim Dusty's all-time record.

And while Troy was quick to hand that responsibility over to Kernaghan, he too was quick to distance himself from the record.

"I'm thinking very much the same (as Troy). If someone's going to rain on Slim's parade I'd rather it be Troy than me. He's had a magnificent career and plenty more to come. He's really made an outstanding contribution to country music and to Australia as a nation.”

Kernaghan is well aware of Grafton's pedigree when it comes to country music artists and the long history the town has had with the genre.

"I think the first time we played Grafton was in 1982 when Dad was touring around Australia and we were just kids (with sister Tanya) playing in the band. It's great to be able to come back all these years later with my own show to carry on the tradition. I'm glad Grafton can be one of the first places in Australia to see the new show. This one is going to be the biggest show I've ever taken to town.”

The road ahead doesn't faze the performer but he isn't resting on his laurels as he prepares to undertaking the giant national task ahead and while he is not getting any younger, a query about hitting the gym to prepare physically for such a mammoth undertaking was not lost.

"It's interesting you ask that because that's exactly how I started the day. Pumping iron and getting conditioned for the big tour.”

Kernaghan fans will be pleased to hear that along with his exciting new material from Backroad Nation he will be doing plenty of delving from the vault.

"I can't do all of them. There were 38 number ones over the years, but I'll get through the ones people have grown up with, or fallen in love with or done road trips listening to. I think I'd get run out of town if I didn't sing She's My Ute or Boys in the Bush.”

Amongst the music there will also be storytelling, something Kernaghan feels is paramount when performing live.

"There's a yarn behind every song. They aren't made up. They're real. They're fair dinkum. So there's always a good story to tell about them.”

Kernaghan said the visual aspect of the concert would also be an appealing facet to this tour.

"It's a whole new show. The way it's been designed and put together with the sound and lights and big screen. We just want to create an incredible experience for people that will remain long after the show is over.”

Joining Kernaghan and the Wolfe boys on tour will be CMC Female Artist of the Year Christie Lamb.

"She's an accomplished banjo player, plays mandolin, keyboard and performs harmonies. It will be wonderful to have her open the show and join The Wolfe Brothers and I in the band.”

Kernaghan said the crew were like "one big happy family on the road together” so the audience can expect that to translate to the stage including a brand new duet.

"I think I'm an honorary Wolfie by now. They're like brothers to me those boys.”

Kernaghan's new album Backroad Nation is out tomorrow through ABC Music, the official tour kicking off on May 30 at the Saraton Theatre in Grafton. Tickets on sale from the theatre or their website.