While we are only a few weeks into the new year, 2018 is already shaping up to be a huge one for Shannon Noll.
His new album, Unbroken, set for release on February 2, is his first since 2011.
He has also planned a national tour encompassing the far reaches of rural Australia and a song writing trip to Nashville, Tennessee, in the coming months.
Noll has used the hiatus from releasing music to reconnect with his country roots.
“There’s a lot more of a country influence on this album, much more than anything I have ever done before,” he said.
“My boss wanted to hear some more stories about me and my upbringing and where I come from.”
“I wrote a lot of lyrics explaining the stuff we used to get up to. An example is on the new single ‘Land of Mine’ where I’m talking about watching country girls singing Run to Paradise, which, being a touring musician in the country is something I have seen a thousand times.”
Noll also hopes the new album will spark conversations about mental health in the bush.
“I’ve got a song on the new album called Never To Late, when it comes out I want to use that track to get people talking.”
“It’s a hard topic. We need to change the mentality that rural people have had in the past about mental health, and make sure everyone knows that it is okay to ask for help,” he said.
“The silence of it is the problem. People are embarrassed to talk about it, and in small communities word does travel fast. Changing perceptions in small communities about mental health is the key.”
From his upbringing in Tullibigeal, Noll is no stranger to the adversities which can be faced by people in farming communities, from personal tragedies to periods of drought.
“We had the farm until I was about 26, until sadly my Dad got killed in a farm accident. That was followed by two years of drought and failed crops which was the start of a ten year drought.”
Ultimately, the family were forced to sell the farm as conditions worsened.
“If we had kept on going we would have been kicked off with nothing to show for 100 years on that land,” he said.
Noll says the loss of the family property is a regret that has stuck with him through the years.
“Dad used to say that farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world – gambling on the weather.”
“There’s a lot left to the God’s, obviously you can do all the preparation perfectly and then be crucified by the rain or a lack of it. From experience, that is a very bitter pill to swallow,” he said.
“With farmers the land is their history, their heritage and the family line so its a whole different ball game. A lot harder to let go of something like that.”
After years in the city writing and recording music, a move back to the country is high on the priority list.
“I’ll always be a country boy at heart.
“The kids are still in school down here, but a move is something I am looking to sort out when they finish up.”
Worries by the alarming rate of technological advancements in the agriculture industry, Noll believes a move into cattle is his safest bet for a return to farming.
“I would love to get into cattle. Always loved it.
“When I last farmed mate there was barely a need for a computer on a farm apart from doing the books. Nowadays everything is a bit more technical, I would have to go back to school almost.
“You feed your cattle and they put on weight mate, I would need to keep in simple. There is some great breeds getting around now with your speckled cattle, and that’s an area I would be very keen to get involved with,” he said.
For now, Noll will have to get his fill of the country during a national tour later this year.
“Hopefully I’ll be getting out to all the rural areas that we can.
“Regional crows are always terrific. Coming from a small area I know there is not always loads of entertainment on offer. To get out into those small towns and play is great, they always turn one on for me.”
Noll can also confirm that he is still an avid reader of The Land.
If you or someone you know needs crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For mental health services contact the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.