The Saltwater Cowboy

1 April 2012 | 6:05 pm | Staff Writer

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Cullen spends his daytime hours working for Noosa Longboards, where he gets to indulge his other great love of surfing. Missing the camaraderie and adventures that go hand in hand with playing in a band, Cullen has jumped back in the deep end with a debut solo album that is no half-hearted affair.

“It's one of the first times in my music career that the stars aligned a little bit” he says of the circumstances that saw his album Tom Whisky Blues come together. “Through my job I met this guy Dare Jennings. He used to do Phantom Records back in the '70s and early-'80s. He signed the Hoodoo Gurus and Mental As Anything and that kind of stuff. He started the clothing brand Mambo which he sold, and he's just started a new one called Deus ex Machina, sort of like a motorbike brand. We had a meeting with him and I think I invited myself to his sixtieth birthday (laughs). The [SBS TV show] Rockwiz band were playing there, at the end of the night no-one was game enough to go speak to them so I went up and had a chat and we got along pretty well because we were into a lot of the same music.”

This chance meeting was the spark that inspired Cullen to get into the studio again.

“I got some balls about me and emailed Pete Luscombe (from the Rockwiz band) to see if they wanted to do this album with me. I sent down the tracks and they loved the style of music, and they don't get a chance to play that sort of rockabilly and country blues stuff very often.”

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The album itself was recorded quickly and without fuss, resulting in the kind of raw honest sound that is integral for this kind of music, especially when it's paying homage to the roots of the genre. Cullen's love of country blues can be traced back to a time in his late teens, relocating from inner-city Brisbane to the other side of the country.

“I grew up in Brisbane around the Triple Zed Market Days and the first Livid Festivals, me and my mates used to go when we were 16 or 17 and run amok and I was really into punk and grunge and that kind of stuff,” he reminisces. “When I was about 19, I spent a year in Broome in Western Australia. It was a different world, man. I met these guys called the Pigram Brothers. They're an indigenous band and they're kinda like Paul Kelly meets Slim Dusty I suppose (laughs). They're really awesome songwriters, and I got a chance to hear them when the put out their first record which is called Saltwater Country. You can see a lot of similarities with what I do from their music. That's probably the beginning of how I got into country and I think I learnt more in that year than I have in the rest of my life, it was such an amazing year.”

Some of the songs on Tom Whisky Blues date back to a band Cullen used to do in his downtime from The Daybridges called Pete Cullen And The Features. He says confidently it's not going to take him another ten years to get the next record out there.

“I really love country folk and storytelling so I'm putting all my focus into that. I hope to do another album next year and keep moving on from that over the next three or four years. That's my passion, you know?”