John Williamson holds true to honest songs

John Williamson played to a full house at the Civic Centre on Wednesday.
John Williamson played to a full house at the Civic Centre on Wednesday. Contributed

THERE aren't too many songwriters who can capture the spirit of Australia in a song like John Williamson.

It's a talent he has perfected in a stunning 45-year career from his first hit Old Man Emu to his latest single Honest People.

His songs describe the characters, but more importantly the character of the country, often with a healthy dose of humour.

"I always like to feel the area itself, not just talk about the people," Williamson said. "Why are people like that, the industry they're in or the type of climate that they're in and the scenery. There's plenty of material then for a song if you actually see what's all around, not just the people."

Another quality that makes Williamson the artist he is is that he is genuine.

Apart from the humorous songs, the personal ones are either something he believes in or someone's personal story he has come across.

"I don't let anyone use my songs because they belong to all Australians," he said.

"I've been offered a huge amount of money from big companies and multinational companies (to use True Blue)."

He did dedicate the song to Phillip Hughes at his Ipswich concert on Wednesday, the day of the cricketer's funeral.

The irony with True Blue is that it was used for an advertising campaign that made the song a hit.

Williamson gave permission for it to be used for the Buy Australia campaign without payment.

"That's the only time I've allowed it to be used," he said. "It was around for about three years as a really ordinary version of it. But because it didn't get any exposure not many people knew about it. It was an ad for the country itself."

It has become an anthem similar to Bruce Woodley's We Are Australian, which was controversially used by Pauline Hanson.

"We don't want our anthems to be sided with any one particular thing," Williamson said.

"I've been asked to be involved from the Nationals to the Greens to be a member. As soon as you join any kind of party you gain enemies. And I always think that the power of one is much more sincere."

Asked for his opinion on Pauline Hanson's return to politics, he was guarded.

"That depends if she's got over her paranoia," he laughed. "I'm not going to lambast her. I would have originally but she may have learnt something by now.

"She's a fan of my music actually. She's come to a couple of my shows.

"She might take True Blue as being a White Australia thing, I don't know.

"I've been challenged about that too. I said 'Are we a dying race'. In some ways I wish I hadn't said that. I should have said, 'are we a dying style of people'.

"For me anyone can become True Blue if they love this country like I do. It's not nationalistic, it's just being proud of what we've got and respecting it."

After 50 albums and impressive material in his latest release Honest People, Williamson is not slowing down, but he does admit he is no longer trying to keep up the momentum.

"I'm not trying to any more I've got to say. I did up to this album but I haven't promised any more albums.

"I'll keep writing. If there's a really good inspirational idea comes up I'll write it because it's still my main hobby but I don't feel under pressure to come up with one in the next two years. So it might be five years before another album comes out. But I'm not promising either way."

Topics:  entertainment

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