Australia Day: Daryl Braithwaite on The Horses and performing in Canberra

Daryl Braithwaite will perform at Stage 88 for Australia Day. Picture: Georgia Matts
Daryl Braithwaite will perform at Stage 88 for Australia Day. Picture: Georgia Matts

It's the song that Australians, of any age, love to belt out with gusto when given the chance.

So it's fitting that Daryl Braithwaite will be in nation's capital singing The Horses, and other songs from his 50-year career, on Australia Day.

But when Braithwaite released the track 30 years ago, he never thought it would reach the icon status that it has, let alone have people hail it as the unofficial national anthem.

The Horses has transcended age barriers, with many of its fans born after its release. In recent years, Braithwaite has performed for thousands of 20-somethings at events such as Falls Festival. Not only do the young fans know all of the words, but for the majority of the set, they will be calling out for The Horses to be played.

"To be honest, I have never gone out to attract a certain specific age group. It's just that I go on and do what I do. And if it appeals to you, then well and good. And if it doesn't, then doesn't matter. For some reason, it has just worked," Braithwaite said.

Some believe the surge of popularity among Millennials over the past decade is a genuine love of The Horses that has developed from liking it ironically.

But according to Braithwaite the answer of why people are still discovering and loving the track three decades later lies within the song itself.

"You try to fathom what it is about a song that makes people gravitate towards it," he said.

"There's no real reason except for the fact that they like it. It triggers things in people, like it does in me when I sing it. It's amazing that aspect of music. How people of all ages, young or older - in this case, it's younger people - can latch on to it.

"When we played at the Falls Festival, that was absolutely mind-blowing, to say the least, because I thought it was not going to go well with these young people. And we went on and bingo - it worked."

Of course, it's not just the Millennials who enjoy The Horses.

In the past 30 years, there has only been one show where the singer didn't play the song. Braithwaite said it was almost 20 years ago, and the omission from the setlist didn't go down well with fans.

"We almost got killed. People were yelling out that they were going to rip up all their albums and stuff and I won't go into it but it was a traumatic period, let me tell you," he said.

Daryl Braithwaite released his new track Love Songs last year. Picture: Supplied

Daryl Braithwaite released his new track Love Songs last year. Picture: Supplied

Braithwaite still remembers the first time he heard The Horses.

The singer was in the process of finishing off his 1990 album Rise when he listened to Rickie Lee Jones' album Flying Cowboys. The first track that came on was The Horses, which Jones wrote with Walter Becker of Steely Dan.

When Braithwaite took it into the studio to propose covering it for his album, producer Simon Hussey was hesitant but agreed.

"It was probably the last song that went on that album, and then it became the single and became very successful," Braithwaite said.

Tuesday's Australia Day concert at Stage 88 will be part of the Great Aussie Picnic, with James Reyne, Lee Kernaghan, Kingswood and Fanny Lumsden joining Braithwaite on the bill.

Stage 88 is one of six hubs for the overall event and the only ticketed concert. However, frontline workers are being offered free tickets to the Stage 88 concert to thank them for the work they have done during the coronavirus pandemic. They just need to use the code "frontline" when going through the checkout and present their work identification at the event entry.

The concert will also be one of the first Braithwaite has performed since the beginning of the pandemic.

It will also be one of the first performances of the singer's new song Love Songs.

"That'll be interesting to play that to see the reaction. I've got a bit of airplay and hopefully, people remember it," Braithwaite said.

"But I'm very much looking forward to performing and after seeing Lady Gaga on TV at the inauguration. I thought, 'Oh my god, how could is this going to be?"

Released in June 2020, Love Songs was originally written for American singer Pink. But with the American pop singer not recording at that time, her manager, and Braithwaite's former manager from his Sherbet days, Roger Davies, said the Australian singer could have it.

"I couldn't believe that it came out when it did - during the lockdown in Melbourne. And being from Melbourne, it was lucky that we managed to get it released," Braithwaite said.

"I guess it kept me busy for a little while from home, doing a lot of Zoom interviews and stuff like that."

  • Stage 88 Australia Day Concert is on Tuesday from 1pm to 9pm. Tickets are $47.12 for adults, $11.42 for children, and free for frontline workers from stage88.com.au
This story Daryl Braithwaite on his iconic song, The Horses first appeared on The Canberra Times.