The muso and former Powderfinger frontman loves Australia’s tropical north and dusty Red Centre, though his heart was truly stolen in Spain.
1977: When I was eight, my parents took my brother, Paul, my sister, Carmel, and me on a family holiday to Cooktown in a pop-top Kombi. On the first day, at a rest stop near Gympie, which was four hours north of Brisbane back then, I was pretending to be a bus driver and locked the steering wheel. It was new technology to us so Dad had to hitch to the next town to find out how to undo it. I was not popular! In Lucinda, a small town near Ingham, on my eighth birthday I caught a tiny, clearly undersized fish but Mum and Dad let me keep it. The next day, while we were out, the fridge in the Kombi failed. Though my memories of that holiday are tinged with the smell of vanilla essence and dead fish, that trip to the tropics, so colourful and dynamic, sparked my fascination with the ocean – looking at it, walking along it and swimming in it. It was awesome, absolutely awesome.
2004: Powderfinger finally made it to Spain and on a rare day off in Madrid,I met my wife, Andrea [Moreno]. She worked for our record label – ticking every cliché box possible. We were both with other people at the time but I went back the following year – by then we were both single. While we were driving around the countryside, falling in love and having the greatest time ever, she told me they have a saying there that you have a beer to “open the stomach” and I thought, “Oh God, this is where I belong.” We got married in 2006 and I’ve lived in Madrid for four years out of the past 10. Our children are fluent in Spanish, whereas I sound like a Spanish Con the Fruiterer. It was an eye-opener coming from Brisbane, which is young and culturally so focused on sport, to wind up in a city more than a thousand years old and with a deep cultural history that still resonates daily.
2006: I wanted to impress my wife when she came to Australia so we went to Uluru. It affected me a lot to witness her experiencing something so different from growing up in a European city, being somewhere with so much space. There is some kind of elemental, inexplicably spiritual thing out there; it makes you feel like you’re closer to nature. The impact is similar to being in New York, which has an electricity to it – but the opposite, if that makes sense. We were absolutely overtaken by that feeling. And Kata Tjuta is just as spectacular. There must be some evolutionary thing that connects us to giant rocks and the ocean. If you applied a kind of contemporary religious thinking, you might be able to explain it but I don’t subscribe to any of that.