LIFE may be a little quieter these days but Shannon Noll is as passionate about music as ever, writes JOHANNA LEGGATT
There is the Shannon Noll that most viewers remember from the early days of talent show Australian Idol: the country boy from Condobolin in NSW, who could belt out pub classics with his eyes closed, and very often did.
And then there is the Shannon Noll of almost a decade on, whose ambition has been blunted by the unforgiving economics of the music industry and the exacting toll of tours and deals designed to wring as much as possible out of this highly bankable runner-up.
Shannon is still passionate about music, and is working harder than ever, but there is no doubt his perspective has changed in the ensuing years, that he has grown wary of the music svengalis who promise the world, but rarely deliver.
"They’re business people, it’s a business and a very old business," Shannon reflects."
The people who are involved in the music business have worked out how to extract money out of talented people.
"It’s like any other business, you learn from your mistakes and if you are lucky enough to survive then you make sure you don’t make them again."
These days, Shannon hankers more than ever for the quiet life, for some cattle and sheep to run, and a few thousand hectares to call a farm.
Right now though he will have to make do with four hectares and 10 Dorper ewes, although he is hoping to add some Wagyu steers to the mix.
He and his wife, Rochelle, recently swapped their life in Sydney for the property in Gisborne, on Melbourne’s outskirts, so their three children could experience a childhood with wide open spaces."
Rochelle’s family is in (nearby) Sunbury, we also wanted to get on a bit of land and I wanted to get the kids out of the city," Shannon says.
"I didn’t want them hanging around shopping centres, I wanted them to get out and learn some life skills, responsibility and looking after animals so they can go out camping and do all that outdoorsy stuff, too.
"I want to get back out there myself, too, as well and try and live a more self-supporting life."
This is not to suggest Shannon has taken a step back from making music.
He is in the final stage of his A Million Suns tour across Victoria, and has just released a ghost-written biography, So Far, which canvases his early years on the farm, the years wasted in a fog of pot smoke, his close relationship with his brothers whom he played with in a band for many years, and his business battles with record executives.There was a time when Shannon yearned to crack an overseas market, but those desires have abated.
"A lot of the things I was trying to achieve earlier I am not too worried about anymore," he says."But I got told I was going to be given that chance, and I believed that but I never got given the chance. It gives you the s----, you know, but what are you going to do about it?"I don’t desire that (cracking overseas) so much now, I work hard enough here, let alone being away from family and kids and my wife for months on end.
"I want to consolidate what I have here; John Farnham hasn’t really left Australia too much, and he is one of our most successful artists. When is enough enough?"
Despite still feeling bruised by some of his hard-won business acumen, Shannon is grateful for the start Idol gave him, largely because by the time Idol rolled around he and his family had their backs against the wall.It was 2003, the bush was in the grip of a drought, the family had farm debts and he and Rochelle were struggling to make ends meet.
To make matters worse, his father had just died, which forced Shannon to make some tough decision about his future. If he was going to give this music thing a crack, it would be now or never."They were really tough years. The slow decline of our situation on the farm (in Condobolin in NSW), leading up to that was tough, too," he says."Sometimes I try and find a reasoning for it (his Dad’s death), and start wondering if that had to happen to get all this kicked off and started.
"I definitely had no one to sort of piggyback me anymore, I had to walk on my own two feet."
For now, Shannon is excited about the prospect of his pocket of solitude that awaits him once the tour winds up."Being able to be away from anybody’s eyes, to be totally on your own you have to be able to enjoy your own company and that is what makes country people a little bit more adaptable, I think, because at some point they have had to enjoy their own company or fend for themselves in some way," he says.
"Although I don’t think I will ever be a business farmer. It’s just a matter of getting your hands dirty.” and remembering who you are."