Colin Buchanan’s unique career is as successful as it is diverse. He has 9 Golden Guitars to his credit, is an APRA and ARIA award winner, is loved by a generation of children for his role on ABC TV’s iconic Play School, is one of Australia’s most successful picture book authors and internationally acclaimed Christian children’s artist.
When exactly did Dublin-born Colin Buchanan’s creative career begin? His musical heritage can be traced back to those ’70’s Saturday afternoons, when, as an 8 year old, he’s make up impromptu songs as he played in the backyard of his southern Sydney family home. Entertaining has always come naturally – his reputation as class clown was tactfully toned-down by Miss O’Brien in his Year 4 school report when she wrote, “Colin is outspoken…”
“My career has been an adventure in doing what comes naturally,” admits Colin. “I’m so blessed over the last 20 years to have made a career of basically being Colin! I like to say I make a living out of what I used to get in trouble for at school!”
Colin Buchanan was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1964. In 1970, just before his 6th birthday, his family arrived in Melbourne to start a new life in Australia. His father found work in Sydney and suburban Peakhurst was home until, at 21 and as a recently graduated primary school teacher, he married his wife, Robyn.
“Just over a year into full-time teaching, I imagined the decades stretching ahead, me slowly climbing the education ladder. I liked teaching, but something inside me was hungry for more. A year later Robyn and I were living in a caravan in a Christian community 20 clicks out the back the NSW outback town of Bourke!”
It was his time at Pera Bore in 1988 then Grenfell in central-west NSW that really ignited Colin’s songwriting. “Everywhere I went, there was inspiration. Some people take photos, some paint, some keep journals – the songs I wrote then are like a diary of those couple of years. I’d see something, meet someone, go somewhere – next thing I’m scratching out a song in the caravan. Soon as I’d finished, I’d race out and find an unsuspecting friend to play it to!”
In 1989 Australian country band “The Flying Emus” came to Grenfell. Colin handed a “lounge room” tape to band leader John Kane after the gig. It was to be a turning point in Colin’s career.
Recalls Colin, “The first time John listened to that tape, he told his wife, ‘I’m going to make a record with this guy!’ He wrote back, telling me that he’d played the tape to his publisher and record company and that they were interested. I kept that letter in my pocket and showed everyone I bumped into around town!”
The result was a deal with Universal Music Publishing – the beginning of a rare, two decade-plus partnership and the first of three albums with ABC Music. Of his debut release, The Sydney Morning Herald declared Colin “…simply the best songwriter to emerge on the Australian country scene in the last decade.” In 1992 he won his first Golden Guitar at the Tamworth Country Music Awards for Best New Talent, following up a year later with Heritage Song of the Year for “A Drover’s Wife”.
1993 saw Colin’s first appearance as presenter on ABC TV’s Play School. “What attracted me to teaching was working, creating and discovering the world with children. I’d always dreamed of being on Play School and there I was, with stalwarts John Hamblin and Benita Collings, walking around the set like chickens singing “Turkey in the Straw! I loved it!” Colin wrote songs and performed on the programme for over 10 years before spending 5 years on Playhouse Disney.
Colin’s multi-media career broadened, so that, by 2000, as well as continuing his country music career he was co-hosting the most syndicated radio programme in the nation, The Toyota Outback Club. On primetime TV, Colin was presenting “Australia’s Strangest Home Improvements” on the 7 network and he became a fixture on the nationally broadcast Golden Guitar Awards, with an unrivalled 10 straight gigs as MC. He can still be heard literally anywhere in the world as long-running host of “Big Country”, the Qantas inflight audio country channel. And as a regular TGIF guest on Richard Glover’s ABC 702 Drive programme, Colin has amassed an impressive collection of impromptu topical songs, slated for long-awaited album release in 2013.
But it was a casual request by fellow country star Lee Kernaghan in the mid-90’s that would create yet another role for Colin, that of songwriting collaborator. “Until I met that afternoon with Lee to write “She’s My Ute” (a Kernaghan career hit), I thought songwriting was like lightning – you never know when the inspiration would strike. How wrong I was!”
Colin has grown to become Australian country music’s go-to song collaborator, contributing to the award-winning careers of not only Lee, but Troy Cassar Daley, Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Adam Brand, Melinda Schneider, The Bushwackers, Tamara Stewart, Amber Lawrence, Markus Meier and Tania Kernaghan.
Yet what must be Colin’s most off-beat collaboration (with fellow songwriter Greg “Champs” Champion) became his biggest – and most unexpected – hit. The platinum-selling “Aussie Christmas with Bucko & Champs” became an Australian classic. “Thanks to that record,” laughs Colin, “Kids all over Australia think “Dashing through the bush in a rusty Holden ute” are the real words to Jingle Bells!!”
But there was another surprise turn in Colin’s diverse career. In 1996, he released a self-funded collection of children’s Christian songs he’d written since his days running youth groups and sunday schools. “I had no grand plans for “Remember The Lord”. I’ll never forget the call from my mate at Koorong Books just a couple of days after release. He said, ‘We’ve created a monster and it’s called Colin Buchanan!’”
15 years and multiple albums and DVDs later, Colin is unquestionably Australia’s leading Christian children’s artist. His songs have been the Christian music soundtrack to countless car trips, kids clubs and sunday schools. His UK tours have taken his music across the globe – you’ll hear “Colin songs” in Hull and Hartford, Sevenoaks and Stirling. “My kids Christian music has always been so important to me – I take the singing of God’s truth very seriously – I just happen to do it in dressed as a caveman or in an inflatable chef suit! I think my UK friends consider me slightly eccentric!”
2012 saw the release of “The Songwriter Sessions” CD & DVD, a landmark live-to-tape recording with a stellar list of collaborators – John Williamson, Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar Daley, Sara Storer, Diana Corcoran, Dobe Newton, Markus Meier, Anne Kirkpatrick and Peter Denahy. It’s a fitting monument to a delightfully diverse career that began with some songs written in a caravan out the back of Bourke.
“Of course, I never knew what lay ahead when I started this whole songwriting thing!” admits Colin. “I’m no more sure now, really! I just keep writing songs and the road keeps unfolding, with all its interesting twists and turns. It’s such a blessed life and I thank God for opening the doors as he has.”