The story so far...

Nominated for Best New Talent at the 2017 Golden Guitar awards, Michael Waugh gives a profound new voice to the Australian experience. His insightful storytelling cuts to the emotional heart of everyday life. A unique, intelligent and emotionally charged performer, Waugh has been compared to the honesty and power of Australian folk and country legends, Mick Thomas, Paul Kelly and John Williamson. He is uniquely Australian and genuine – the real deal.

Michael’s debut album, ‘What We Might Be’ was nominated for Best Country Album 2016 in The Age, Music Victoria Awards. The album was launched to a sell out room at the Melbourne Folk Club. The record, produced by multiple Golden Guitar and ARIA award winner, Shane Nicholson, has impressed critics:

"with this one record Waugh has done enough to add himself to the list of archetypical Aussie singer-songwriters” (Four star review, Paul Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald)

"a flawless collection of beautiful songs" (Allan Caswell, Country Music Capitol News)

"outstanding debut release" (Billy Pinnell, Stacks Magazine)

"his songs reverberate with reminiscences from rural Victoria sung in an accent as broad as the Murray-Darling Basin" (Four star review by Tony Hillier, The Weekend Australian)

The record is gut-wrenchingly honest, emotionally brave, and compellingly beautiful. It is about growing up in an East Gippsland dairy farming community and of being a dad. As a result, the album pays tribute to his family and friends in a way that has won the hearts of audiences all over the country.

Michael has released 5 singles from the record to date, ‘Heyfield Girl’ (listed as one of the best releases for 2015 on the Unpaved website and included on the top 10 ARIA compilation album 2017 CMAA Winners, released through Universal records) and ‘Mafeking Hill’ (featured on Felicity Urquhart’s 2016 Saturday Night Country Compilation, ABC Records). The title of the record comes from the single ‘Paul’, a showstopper of a song, performed live on 2017 Tamworth House Concert on ‘Saturday Night Country’ and a finalist in the 2016 Tamworth Songwriter’s awards. Michael was also invited to perform his single ‘Maffra Under 10s’ live on NITVs Marngrook Footy Show. Michael also had an opportunity to share the single ‘Dairy Farmer’s Son’ on Live At Spectrum, aired on Foxtel’s Aurora and Channel 31.

Michael recently played at the 2017 Tamworth Country Music Festival and the Woodford Folk Festival and has impressed audiences at a range of Australian music festivals, including the Major’s Creek Folk Festival, Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival and the Gympie Music Muster. 5 tracks from the album were finalists in the TSA National Songwriting Contest and TSA Salute Awards. Other songwriting awards include the Best Country Song (Songsalive! Australia Awards), Roddy Read Award (Winner at Maldon Folk Festival), Song of Peace Tolerance and Understanding (Winner at Port Fairy), and Rudy Brandsma Award (Winner – Australian Songwriter’s Association).

'What We Might Be'

“My musical education was in the back seat of a Ford, driving down bumpy tracks on long country drives. My parents played car tapes – usually the Greatest Hits collections of American Country singers – and you had no choice but to look out the window and listen to the stories. It was a case of ‘learn to love country music, or jump out of the moving vehicle’.

Sometimes Dolly Parton would tell about growing up in the Tennessee mountains, sometimes Kenny Rogers would sing about a woman who’d done him wrong in a saloon, sometimes Jim Reeves would croon about brave men and long distance phone calls. Always, there was the road and a story.

Those American songs seemed larger than the little country life that I was living. But they were also the closest thing that we had to the soundtrack of growing up in East Gippsland.

In this collection of songs I wanted to create stories like those musicians and songwriters who are my heroes. The texture of their rhyme and meter is the shacks and bars and snowdrifts of American life. I wanted to capture the magpies and lawnmowers and footy games of rural Australian life. Because, to me, that is the beauty and the poetry of how I grew up. Maffra, Heyfield and Sale may not have the exotic twang of Nashville – but we’ve got the Macalister Hotel, Mafeking Hill, the Heyfield Timber Mills and more cows than you would ever want to have to get up at 5am to milk. And there’s music in our stories, too.

Some of that time is funny and beautiful – even if I didn’t always recognise it at the time. The teasing and Chinese burns for my brothers. The raucous underage parties with my friends. The endless bloody country drives with my family.

Some of it was awful. The smell of shit from the cow yard. The vicious torture of little boys in the change rooms, humiliated because they were weird or gay or just a little bit original. The sound of my father struggling under the weight of asthma, a massive mortgage and a workload that would never end. The old men who slaved on farms for years and then slipped into forgetting, as Alzheimer’s stole the peace that they worked their whole lives to enjoy. Little country towns with their guts ripped out of them as industry and infrastructure were stripped away.

I wanted to give voice to all of these stories, because they are about brave, beautiful, honest, undervalued and overworked men and women who taught me what to be. I’m honoured to have come from Gippsland and to be a dairy farmer’s son.

When I started making this record with Shane, he asked what I wanted it to sound like. I told him that I had this vision of an old vinyl record in my mum’s record collection – sitting next to Glenn Campbell, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves and Kenny Rogers – but a record that tells our story, not theirs.

Shane is a beautiful musician and a sensitive songwriter and storyteller. I really felt that he cradled those stories in the way that he built musical homes for them. His studio is like a craftsman’s workshop – surrounded by guitars and harmoniums and horse brushes (that feature in the rhythm section of ‘Terrorists and Planes’), like tools hanging on a shadow board in my pa’s tool shed. I really feel that you can hear the care in how he has chiselled and sanded each of those story-songs for ‘What We Might Be’.

He has helped me to make a record where more people will get to hear the stories of my family and of the people that I grew up with. And that means the world to me. I hope that the people of East Gippsland feel that their stories have been treated with honour and respect – because that is the intention.

At the heart of this record is my mum and dad. My mum is a great storyteller. My dad is a dairy farmer. They are about as ordinary as you can get but they are the bravest and strongest people that I know. I’m at a place now where I can recognise how incredible their story is. When I was growing up, it was just life.

As I fumble my way through adulthood and fatherhood, a backwards glance gives me insight. And I’m proud that I come from there – even if I don’t always know where I’m heading to. As I said in the dedication on the record sleeve - they supported me to be what I was and my family in Melbourne give me hope for what we might be.

I had no idea in the Ford that I’d one day get to make a record with musicians as incredible as Shane Nicholson and my dear friend, Kate Crowley. I really hope that people enjoy it.”