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Shannon takes to the stage, it’s an energy thing

Singer Shannon Noll… “My original songs are positive… there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and a sense of positive encouragement.”

For the first time in 10 years, legendary Australian singer-songwriter Shannon Noll will forsake the pubs and festivals, which have been the mainstay of his career for a long time, and hit the main stages of Australia, including the Canberra Theatre, where he will perform on April 26.

When I catch up with “Nollsie” at his home in the northern rivers region of NSW near Casino, he tells me that he’s “been doing all over-18 stuff,” so he’s looking forward to doing an all-ages show in a more conventional theatre environment. 

So, what’s the difference? I ask. After all, Noll’s shows are not known as X-rated.

“It’s an energy thing,” he says, explaining that at a festival like Deni Ute Muster, Savannah in the Round or Summernats, everybody stands up right at the front, in your face, but this time it’ll be different. 

“I’ll lean into the mic, I’ll talk to the crowd and it will be acoustic.”

“It’ll be great to have kids there with their parents, too,” he says.

Noll needs no introduction. The farm-boy from the one-horse town of Tullibigeal in the central west of NSW (I’ve been there a couple of times) swept to fame when he appeared on the stage of Sydney Opera House in the November 2003 finals of Australian Idol before an estimated viewing audience of four million. 

Yes, he was pipped at the post by Guy Sebastian, but his performance was enough to catapult him to national and then world fame. It’s been just over two decades since that night of nights.

As for the idea that he’s led a glamorous life touring the world, he’s not so enchanted. 

“I got to go overseas as part of being signed to worldwide labels in the expectation that they were going to release my albums. I liked touring countries, but I prefer to be home.”

Now comfortably settled with his family in northern NSW, he can look back on a career almost unbelievable for any Australian artist, not least achieving seven ARIA Top 10 Albums, 10 consecutive Top 10 Singles, 17 Platinum and three gold accreditations. 

He’s been the face for brands such as Uber, KFC, and Jetstar in ad campaigns and also built a name for himself as a philanthropist, having to date given over $1 million and the earnings from C’mon Aussie C’mon and Don’t Give Up, to various charities. 

Right now, Noll is gearing up for the big tour, which also marks the release last week of the 20th anniversary edition of his debut album, That’s What I’m Talking About.

Unsurprisingly, the songs in this album, including the hit singles What About Me, Drive and Learn To Fly, will form the backbone of the show, but there are also two new numbers, a duet with another Idol finalist, Cosima De Vito and No Time, with his old collaborator, Aussie songwriter, Gary Frost – Noll reckons that’s a winner.

When I talk to him, he’s very much on the up and up.

“I like to keep my songs bright,” he says. 

Noll believes this is particularly needed at the moment, because, “in the world of the music industry, there’s a lot of negativity these days.” 

By chance, we’re talking immediately after it’s been announced that Splendour in the Grass would be cancelled, and that doesn’t surprise Noll, who says it’s pretty tough out there.

He doesn’t blame covid per se, but blames the aftermath of the pandemic when grants were up for grabs, left right and centre.

“There was a festival every two minutes,” he says, “but most of them have given up and gone home” and it’s had a deflating effect on the industry.

Programming-wise, his coming theatre show will be business as usual, as he plans to mix material from old albums with the big hits that his audiences expect. 

“And I’ll be singing a few Australian Idol songs from way back when.”

“My original songs are positive… there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and a sense of positive encouragement.”

Shannon Noll, That’s What I’m Talking About 20th Anniversary Tour, Canberra Theatre, April 26. 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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