ICON: Archie Roach will appear as part of the Boomerang line-up at Bluesfest next year.
ICON: Archie Roach will appear as part of the Boomerang line-up at Bluesfest next year. Cathy Adams

Archie reflects on his debut album Charcoal Lane, 25 years on

THIS year has been a time of reflection for Archie Roach.

The ARIA Award winner was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list as a Member of the Order of Australia and 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of his acclaimed debut album Charcoal Lane featuring his famous song Took The Children Away.

“You don’t think of it through the years. When I realised it was 25 years, I just thought ‘it can’t be’,” Roach said.

“It certainly is time to reflect and think about how that happened and when it happened, leading up to recording that album.”

Roach had a turbulent childhood as part of the Stolen Generations and found comfort in music after leaving his foster family.

“When I started writing songs I was just quite happy to do that and sing around here and there,” he says.

“I had a job. I was working at a hostel for homeless men and music was something I loved to do. It was something you just did. I wasn’t really thinking of doing an album.”

Roach was encouraged to record Charcoal Lane by his late wife and band mate Ruby Hunter and Melbourne singer songwriter Paul Kelly.

“I wasn’t prepared for the response and the reaction the album received, particularly the song Took The Children Away,” he says.

“All of a sudden people want to know who you are. They want to find out who you were, and my anonymity was completely blown.”

Roach has never been one to court the spotlight, or even feel comfortable in it unless he’s singing.

“Pretty quiet fella I was. I just like to get up and sing,” he says.

Roach has released a 25th anniversary edition of Charcoal Lane and is playing a short run of shows.

He’s also working on his next studio album planned for release sometime next year.

“The songs we’re working on now are songs of love,” he says.

“Not necessarily love between two consenting adults but love of man, of a country, love of people, the people in this country no matter who they are, people who call Australia home.

“Around probably my second or maybe even third album I was falling into a trap of writing songs that people expected me to write and sing. I realised hang on that’s not necessarily the way I wanted to go, so it (my songwriting) has changed a bit. If I see injustice it doesn’t matter who it is against – it could be anything in the world – then I might write about it.”

The 25th anniversary edition of Charcoal Lane is out now.



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