25 Apr 2024

Jimmy Barnes: 'I've grown up a hell of a lot!'

From On the Air - Mā runga iarere, 1:15 pm on 25 April 2024

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Jimmy Barnes

Jimmy Barnes Photo: Supplied

On the phone from the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, Jimmy Barnes has hit the jackpot.

"I've got a place down on the river here. I'm sitting here writing songs and getting ready to hit the road." 

Barnes will venture to Aotearoa in the last week of July on his ‘Hell of a Time' tour celebrating 30 years of his album Flesh and Wood, which he says is one of his favourite records to play. A list of legends make up this album, from gravelly English singer Joe Cocker to aboriginal musician and activist Archie Roach, Cold Chisel’s Dom Walker and Aussie rocker Ross Wilson.  

Spending every moment aiming to make Cold Chisel a hard rock band with an aim to "pin people to the back wall" became tiresome for Jimmy Barnes. Flesh and Wood became a turning point in how he sang and used his power as a performer, acknowledging "the making of this record made me a better singer". 

It hasn't all been smooth sailing for one of Australia’s most recognisable voices. Barnes was open about his traumatic childhood in his bestselling book Working Class Man, and last year brought forward a series of health challenges. In November 2023 a brutal staph infection spread to his lower back and then to his heart, forcing the singer to have a lower back surgery and a seven-hour open heart surgery he admits he was lucky to survive. 

"Since December I've done what the doctor said, and yesterday morning I got up and did 40 laps of the pool - so I'm healthier than I was in the beginning!"

Jimmy's zest for life continues as he pours his stories onto the page. Writing books has been a catharsis for the musician, who finds comfort sitting at the computer excavating his past.

 "I've grown up a hell of a lot, both literally and metaphorically."

His earliest memories were spent listening to black soul music of Little Richard and Ray Charles, but when Barnes was a teenager he decided he wanted to be in a hard rock band. 

"I wanted to sing like a soul singer but be in a rock n roll band. I think that's sort of what Cold Chisel was, really. Our roots were blues and soul, but we just adapted it playing pubs and clubs around Australia and New Zealand. If you listen closely to the music, it is very soulful." 

He is eager to return to Aotearoa. Barnes' daughter Eliza-Jane is married to a New Zealander and lives in Auckland with his young grandson Teddy. 

Barnes' glamorous youngest daughter Elly-May grew up singing on stage with her father. The musician now has a solo career, last month releasing her first solo record which has climbed the Australian charts. 

"She has taken a long time to make this record and it's been a battle for her because she was born with cerebral palsy. She struggled with chronic pain her whole life. We are all really proud of her, her first record came out and entered the Australian charts as number eight!" 

It’s clear he has a new lease on life and Barnesy is bouncing back. He is promising an intimate show with storytelling, upright bass, piano, guitar and a family band.

"We will have a lot of fun!"

Hell of a Time Tour:

  • Wednesday 24 July - TSB Showplace, New Plymouth *SOLD OUT* 
  • Thursday 25 July - The Civic, Auckland *SELLING FAST*
  • Saturday 27 July - Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch *SOLD OUT*
  • Sunday 28 July - Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington *UPGRADED VENUE*
  • Wednesday 31 July - Regent Theatre, Dunedin *NEW SHOW*

Tickets from jimmybarnes.com

Jimmy Barnes Flesh and Wood

Jimmy Barnes Flesh and Wood Album Photo: supplied

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