Archie Roach

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Archie Roach

Archie Roach is a man that needs no introduction. Over the past twenty-five years, Roach has developed a unique style of storytelling that has woven its way into his many songs. Best known for his ’90s tune ‘Took The Children Away’, which talks directly of experiences of his family being a part of the Stolen Generation, Roach was on tour with Rodriguez when I caught up to chat with him.
“I’ve only played one date with him, but the crowd was great. It was good to perform with such a legend like Rodriguez. I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself but I’ve chatted to his daughter – who is a lovely lady. He is getting a little frail these days, but it’s going to be good to sit down and chat with him at some point,” he says.
After taking some time off from performing, it’s good to see Roach back on the road and on stage. One of the upcoming dates for Roach is playing as a part of the Music to a Tee event on the 12th of December at Barwon Heads: “The shows are going great and I can’t wait to get back down to Barwon Heads and along the coast and play again. There is just something really special about those audiences, the vibe is simply electric.”
Into The Bloodstream is the latest release for Roach and one that involved dealing with many personal problems to take on in the writing and recording process. “I suffered a stroke and they took half my left lung – it was a very tough time to come through. I went into the studio and did a vocal take, then I’d take a little bit of oxygen and rest for a bit. It took a bit longer to record in that respect. It was a great process though and it helped me to rehabilitate,” Roach says.
This latest release is regarded as, quite possibly, the most ambitious album of Roach’s career due to the extensive list of musicians involved in the production. Choirs, brass sections and strings, Roach describes the experience of playing a live show with this arrangement as just “magic”.
One of Roach’s long time collaborators is Paul Kelly. Working with Roach on his debut album Charcoal Lane, it was the rock royalty walking into the studio that initially surprised Archie as they worked on the songs. Having experienced musicians play on the tracks it made the eye-opening experience for Roach a comfortable and positive one.
“I never knew anything about recording and you’d go in and do a vocal track to this guide. Different musicians would come in and lay down their part. I remember being really taken back by the experience. Steve Connelly produced it and the next minute we were working with the Bull Sisters (Vika and Linda) and the Finn Brothers. I learned so much from recording that first album and having all those heavyweights of the industry alongside me was great too,” he says.
At the time of writing ‘Took The Children Away’, Roach had no idea of the success that was soon to follow. Last year, the song was added to the National Sound Archive, which is one of the most prestigious honours for a track.
“I never knew that song would be as big as it has become. You never set out to write hit songs, but it’s all about connecting with people emotionally. I think that’s what made that song – the story and emotion behind it,” Roach says.
With a new album out next year make sure you catch this living legend whilst he’s in town.
When&Where: 13th Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads – December 12
By Tex Miller, Photo by Pierre Baroni