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01 April 2020
By Dylan De Jong
I’ll never give it up, not in a million years.”
These are the words of Horsham’s John Canning, a musician-songwriter whose music spans intimate country and bluegrass.
Canning is among many musicians who have found themselves at a loose end, with gigs being cancelled across the country due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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But little can stop him from doing what he loves.
Canning said without any live performances on the horizon, he would use his time in self-isolation to write and practice.
“I don’t know how long I’m not performing for but what I’ll do is keep writing and practising – I’ll never give it up because music’s my life,” he said.
Canning has been heavily involved in the Wimmera’s country music scene for the past 11 years, where he can usually be seen playing at many live music venues or festivals across the region.
He even hosts a radio program called ‘Country Style’ at Horsham’s Triple H community radio station on Tuesday mornings and also performs for seniors at retirement villages.
Canning said he fell in love with country music after his parents exposed him to it in his early childhood.
He said he vividly remembered all the jamborees his family hosted when he lived in Northcote, Melbourne.
“My mother played piano when I was a little kid, and at four years old I used to sit next to her and listen to her play all these tunes – she could make the piano just about talk,” he said.
“I still remember it like it was yesterday – we used to have sing-alongs on Friday nights where mum would play the piano and one of dad’s friends would play the spoons.
“That just stayed with me after she passed away.”
Canning has been performing and writing music for more than 45 years.
He said retiring from working as a surpervisor in international security 11 years ago gave him the perfect opportunity to immerse himself in music. Canning said he played a whole range of western-style stringed instruments and the harmonica.
“I can play six and 12-string guitar, slide guitar, ukulele and the harmonica – I can play just about anything with strings, except the violin,” he laughed.
He said he was now writing a song for an American banjo he recently acquired.
“It’s about an old man with his dog, fishing down by the river,” he said.
“He’s got a tear in his eye thinking back to his wife who passed away – I haven’t completed it yet, but I’m excited to see how it sounds when it is finished.”
Canning has been channelling his broad life experiences into the music he writes.
He said escorting prisoners around the world was a big influence on his writing.
“I worked for 40 years with Qantas security,” he said.
“That was the best job I ever had. I travelled the world, taking prisoners back to their homeland, deporting people for committing crimes against Australian law.
“There’s a lot of stories that came out of that part of my life.
“I’ve got a lot of experiences to write about, you can write about and be inspired by many things.”
Canning said his favourite song to perform is his song Will It Ever Rain Again – which tells a story of the plight of drought stricken farmers.
“That was just a joy to write,” he said.
“It’s a sad song that tells the story of the drought and people losing their farms and their livestock.
“It took me a little while to write it – I’ve performed it many times and it’s probably one of the best I’ve written.”
Yellow Bird, G’day Mate, Snowy Mountain Home and Big Blue Mountain are all songs Canning has written over his career.
He said he hoped one day he and wife Janice could travel to the heartland of country music in American states Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia.
The entire April 1, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!