October 9th, 2021Joe Camilleri: Country life, music and gardens
HE IS one of Australia’s favourite rockers, an ARIA Hall of Famer and together with The Black Sorrows he’s sold more than two million albums.
And just last month he released yet another album.
But 73-year-old, Joe Camilleri, who now calls the Macedon Ranges home, has no plans to slow down.
Joe’s publicist arranged a half-hour chat. But 75 minutes later we had covered topics ranging across a leaking makeshift home recording studio, gardening, endless housework, more than 400 shows cancelled, lockdown stresses, friendships with his neighbours and random acts of kindness that he has never experienced.
Joe, despite the fame and all that’s associated with it, is a dad with young kids just trying to get through constant lockdowns and navigate his Australian tour, constantly in threat of cancellations.
Joe’s called the area home for around three years and it was a spontaneous drive to Macedon Ranges with his former partner that changed his life and his postcode. “We decided to drive to the area as that’s where my dad used to take me as a kid and when we stopped to get a coffee in Kyneton the café owner recognised me. We got chatting and she mentioned a house that was for sale,” he said.
“We went around and it’s a Japanese style box house. I’m not really into that style. I’m more into art deco and art nouveau but it was the tree in the front yard that was amazing. The owner of the house was a well-known local artist and had the house set out beautifully. After kicking the tyres so to speak and turning taps on and off, we ended up buying it. A drive ended in a coffee and a house,” he said.
Joe has settled into country life thanks to neighbours (including an inspirational 80-year-called Tom) who have all become friends, along with the peace he has found in his garden.
“Having lived in the inner city for years means there’s a lot to learn when you move to the country. Like shovels. There are so many for different uses. And wheelbarrows. My neighbours have helped me from the start gently advising me on what I needed and helping. There is something quite magic living in the country,” he said.
“I have been practicing the saxophone every morning. One day a neighbour came by and said he gets so much pleasure from listening every morning that he recorded it to play back. Another time I opened the front door and found a bag of lemons. No note but a neighbour providing joy through dropping off lemons. It’s a beautiful life here.”
Joe has two school-aged children so still frequents Melbourne for visits and his little girl is always at his country home.
But asked if he has any regrets moving out of the city, it’s ‘none at all’.
Celebrities from the music, sport and entertainment industry live or regularly holiday in the Macedon Ranges and Hepburn shires. For Joe, the ability just to be one of the locals and to be seen as a person first has been ‘wonderful.’
Joe is a true gentleman – a self-taught musician who has made 51 albums, has travelled the world with Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons in his early career and later with the Black Sorrows, who admits he drank his way through many tours, was frivolous with money but realised one day that wasn’t the way he wanted to live his life.
He’s pretty chuffed with his new album and teamed up with friend and long-time writing partner Nick Smith who co-wrote 11 tracks on the album, Saint Georges Road. At the final listening session, as the title track was played, Joe recalls a profound moment, “We were two like-minded souls coming together for what could be the last time…we knew we had something special…a record that was a culmination of everything I’d done before and probably the best record I’ve made.
“The following day our producer Peter Solley headed back to his home in the US. The day after that Australia’s borders were shut.”
Joe Camilleri, with The Black Sorrows, will perform on Friday, October 15 at the Palais Hepburn in Hepburn Springs as part of their Livin’ Like Kings National Tour and for Joe it’s a chance to meet some more ‘neighbours’ now that he’s a local.
Pictured, Joe Camilleri, second from right, and The Black Sorrows
Words: Narelle Groenhout | Im