JOHN Williamson is in the midst of a national tour that will see him hit WA next month, and it’s clear he is as passionate about Australia as ever.
It’s been 46 years since Williamson (70) recorded his first hit single, Old Man Emu.
Over that time he’s forged a place in the national consciousness as a chronicler of Australia while never glossing over its shortcomings.
His song Rip Rip Woodchip took aim at the forestry industry, and Flower on the Water was written to commemorate victims of the Bali bombings.
His 1981 song True Blue has become iconic – played at sporting events, ceremonies and funerals across the country.
And with 50 albums in his back catalogue, writing a set list can be a nightmare.
“It’s so damn hard not to disappoint anyone,” Williamson said.
“It’s a good problem to have.”
Williamson divides his time between a central Sydney apartment and a sizeable parcel of land in rainforest country north of the Gold Coast.
He has never been afraid to speak his mind politically.
An avowed republican, Williamson feels let down by 21st century politics.
“I think politicians these days have been too careful to stay where they are; there’s just no guts there,” he said.
“Malcolm’s (Turnbull, Prime Minister) let us down – he was going to do this and that – he’s still being held back.
“Aussies respect someone who sticks to their guns.”
While acknowledged as a country music icon, Williamson – whose father taught him how to play the ukulele as a boy – began to take music seriously when exposed to the folk scene at boarding school in Melbourne in the 1960s.
“I found rock and roll pretty scary,” he said.
“It was all about bodgies and widgies and bike chain gangs and all that sort of stuff. To me it was kind of harsh.
“It didn’t really relate to my life at all.
“But when I heard Joan Baez and Pete Seeger and all these American folk singers, that’s really what turned my head.
“They were my biggest influence.”
What: John Williamson
Where and when: Friday, October 14 – Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
Saturday, October 15 – Astor Theatre, Perth
Tickets: Mandurah www.manpac.com.au