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Graeme Connors is one of Australia’s most celebrated singer-songwriters who has notched up over 40 years in the industry. In this time he has been awarded fourteen Golden Guitars, an ARIA award, two APRA songwriting awards, two PPCA Awards, two MO Awards, twelve Tamworth Songwriters Association Awards, and a prestigious Songmaker accolade (for contributions to Australian songwriting). He has released 19 albums to date which have collectively sold over 400,000 units and have spent more than 750 weeks (over 14 years) positioned in the ARIA Country Album Chart.
Most recently Graeme was announced as the 2016 inductee into the Roll of Renown (Australia’s Country Music Hall of Fame) seeing his name alongside the likes of Slim Dusty and Jimmy Little.
His latest release, the career spanning double album set “60 Summers: The Ultimate Collection” has given Graeme the highest chart position of his career, debuting at #11 on the ARIA All-Genre Album chart and giving him another #1 on the Country Album chart. Comprising of 37 songs spanning from the very beginning of his career through such landmark albums as ‘North’, ‘The Return’, ‘The Road Less Travelled’, ‘This Is Life’, ‘The Moment’ and ‘Still Walking’, it is a fitting tribute to an exceptional career and with four new songs (including the #1 Country Airplay single “60 Summers”) it shows that Graeme is not slowing down.
There’s a song by Graeme Connors called “What If”. It’s a typically well crafted, insightful song - a love song - but towards the end there’s a simple observation that on one hand is not about Connors - and yet is totally about the Australian lyricist and singer.
“What if Randy Newman finally got some airplay. What if John Prine was still delivering mail.”
Graeme Connors began making country/songwriter records when the world’s musical landscape was being forever changed by bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and The Ramones. A fine musical traditionalist, Connors was already under the spell of Newman and Prine, along with other inspired lyrical craftsmen such as Kris Kristofferson who heard Connors when the young singer opened for one of his Australian tours and was so impressed he produced Connors’ debut album, And When Morning Comes, way back in 1976.
Over the next decade Connors did what his heroes did - quietly created sublime songs with heart and soul. Slim Dusty recorded no less than 12 of those songs. That’s what song writers do. They write songs. Lots of them. Often people other than their creator record them. Some of the best known songs by Prine and Newman are via other artists recordings of those songs. In 1988 Connors released an album called North. It was his songs and his voice. People liked it. A lot of people.
These people who became Graeme Connors fans weren’t hipster tastemakers. They’re not the cool kids. They’re people who appreciate and luxuriate in finely crafted songs delivered with heart. They’re a loyal bunch. They’re a little like a Paul Kelly audience. They’re growing old with his songs in the same way that Connors audience have grown with him. His lyrical concerns are mirrored in their own life journey. It’s a journey that Connors has documented in a regular stream of albums, eighteen in all.
A large part of that creative output was released by ABC Music, but for the last decade Connors has existed happily in the zone of the totally independent artist. That’s what he wanted. The way he liked things. One songwriter. One singer. Everything under his own roof. But great artists rarely stand still. They frequently change course in mid stream and such is the case with Connors. During 2014, with Connors edging towards his 60th birthday, he began to wonder about his future in the music and songwriting caper. He ruminated on the questions many artists ask. Was the audience still there? What did they want from him? Did he have things to say to them? Hell, did they even listen to and buy music?
Connors decided to find out. He did something he’d never done and booked a show at the prestigious Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane and caste fate to the wind. Would people turn up or could this be his swan song? The worry was unnecessary. The show sold out and Connors embarked on another extensive national tour with his regular touring band in tow. With that came a revelation. Many of the fans coming to the shows on this tour weren’t aware of a whole host of songs and records that Connors had written, recorded and released in the past decade. These were people who hadn’t embraced iTunes, streaming, digital music and the internet. They wanted CDs. Objects with lyrics, music credits, photos. And as an independent artist Connors had struggled with getting his music to many of the traditional bricks and mortar shops around the country, both the major chains and the small outlets in regional areas.
Light bulb moment. These songs had been written and recorded as an independent artist - but maybe they needed a bigger structure to get them to a mainstream audience. By his own admission Connors wasn’t exactly a marketing giant when it came to mailing copies of his albums to radio, newspapers and magazines. He had songs to write.
The result is ’60 Summers: The Ultimate Collection’, a mixture of 37 songs from the very beginning through such landmark albums as ‘The Return’, ‘The Road Less Travelled’, ‘This Is Life’, ‘The Moment’ and ‘Still Walking’.
And of course there are new songs, including the title track where Connors says that he’s now “right smack dab where I wanna be.” He’s seen sixty summers and still he wants more. Sixty summers and he ain’t done yet.
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