When I was twelve, a Canadian family came to stay in my town. The mother was a lady named Donna, and she brought with her two teenage girls. Donna had a short-term job as a teacher at the same school where my dad worked, and the girls were going to go there too.
I was in utter awe of Donna’s daughters. Not only did they come from the Whole Other Side of the World, they had accents like the people on TV, they wore cool clothes, and they were the first ever girls I had met who had short hair.
Not long after they arrived, I cut my hair short too.
The other notable thing about Donna’s girls was their love of country music.
Even though we lived in a rural area, none of my friends were into country. They listened to Girlfriend, Take That and, later, The Spice Girls and 5ive. Country was, I thought, my secret. It was the music my dad played, the music that we danced to together, the music that made me feel like home. None of my friends had this music playing in their houses. I thought it was a Lovell family thing.
Then these two short-haired wonders came from the other side of the planet and they loved Country too. In fact, they told me, where they came from, most people did. Over there, the music I loved wasn’t a secret. It was a huge industry, as, if not more, popular than “pop” music.
I wanted to go to Canada. I wanted to live with the people who liked the same music I did.
Yes, I liked The Spice Girls. Yes, I loved Robbie Williams, but none of that spoke to my heart the way Willie Nelson did, or Jimmy Buffett.
On Friday night, I went with my dad to see Troy Cassar Daly and Adam Harvey play in Hobart, and I realised, finally, that I didn’t need to go to Canada to find my people. They were right here.
The room was packed, full of people who knew all the words to all the old songs and I found I did too, even if I hadn’t heard them since I was a kid. Willie, Waylon, Johnny, Tom T Hall, Merle Haggard and, yes, of course, Kenny Rogers. I knew all of it. It was in my blood. And, sitting there in the dark, with my beloved father by my side, I never felt more at home.
And they were good. Oh golly they were good. Troy had just undergone throat surgery, but there was no way the audience could have known this if we hadn’t been told. Adam’s voice is beautifully Johnny Cash deep and sultry and I have to admit I developed a bit of a crush over the course of the show. He is also wickedly funny. The audience was in stitches at his banter and, being only the second show of the tour, Troy had obviously not heard many of his jokes before and was incapacitated by giggles for much of the show. You can tell the men love each other, and it was beautiful to watch them interact. They had such chemistry (even if Troy denied Adam’s assertions that they had shared more than just a hotel room on the trip), and such affection for each other. It made me more than a little bit teary. And listening to them singing the songs of my childhood?
I had something in my eye. And it was a big something.
Much of musical taste is individual. Much is about belonging. Humans are herd animals. We need our people. My dad is my people, and so were the people in that room on Friday night (yes, even the obese man with the pirate eye patch sitting in front of me and the mullet-permed woman dancing like Peter Garrett to Thank God I’m a Country Boy. Yes, even them).
The only thing missing was Tiger. It was the first time I ever missed bedtime (though I did call twice to say goodnight – I know, pathetic), and golly it hurt. But soon she will come with me, and to metal concerts with her Daddy Bear, and footy matches, and foreign films and feeding horses with Gran Laurel and, in all of that, she will find her people.
Because that’s what we do; humans. We spend our lives searching for ways to belong.
As the great Mr Nelson said, “You don’t have to be poor to need something or somebody.”
I hope, in Canada, those short-haired girls found their somebodies. I hope they’ve found their people. And I will be forever linked to them by the music we love.