Just when you thought a new album from Lee Kernaghan was going to be more of the same, he spins his ute wheels and sends the dirt flying.
Beautiful Noise is the Australian country singer, songwriter and guitarist’s 10th studio album and is an exciting step in a number of new directions.
Kernaghan has been adamant for many years that he’s happy with his status and success in Australia and doesn’t need to head to Nashville — but it hasn’t stopped him from utilising plenty of what makes American country records successful for Beautiful Noise.
You’ll find everything from country and rock to musical influences and nods from dance, pop and hip-hop.
“There’s lots of different stuff going on in the DNA of the songs,” explains Kernaghan.
“But the thread is still country so it just felt right.
“I think this album mixes the traditional way I have been doing things and a way to look forward. I love what people like Eric Church and Jason Aldean do. That’s what I love about country — it continues to embrace all kinds of style and elements and evolves so we can make it what we want.”
Part of what set the 48-year-old father-of-two on the journey to this album was a conversation with Keith Urban about starting a song with a great vocal and a couple of music lines — and building it from there.
“He reminded me that no matter what I did with the song after that, I would always be able to keep the essence and the spirit of the song,” he says.
Kernaghan said Dirt Music was the first song he wrote, keeping the advice "at the front" of his mind.
Borrowing from American country party anthems, there’s the mandatory mention of bikini tops and tailgates when it comes to the party songs such as Ute Me, It’s Only Country and Party Town, but combined with an Aussie twang, lots of red dirt and visits to the Riverina, it could never be confused with something from the back roads of Tennessee.
“A song like Ute Me would have been forbidden to me in the past but I just let go of any thoughts about that, let the song go where it needed to go and it ended up great fun,” Kernaghan says.
Beautiful Noise is also the singer’s most revealing, whether it’s the love story of Bang Bang (Shooting from the Heart), or new Kind of High, which features his wife, Robby, on the duet.
Alongside songs such as Splash, there’s sentimentality and a sweet look at the past which has crept in.
“That’s really just about having lived some life though, isn’t it? It’s about appreciating the things that stand out and the things of the past which have been important, which you carry in your heart,” he says.
“Like Kenny Chesney has done, writing those songs about first love, or Tim McGraw has — it’s about having had some experience.”
Beautiful Noise is out now.