He’s a man that can captivate a room with a few words, a glance or a tune; Uncle Archie Roach AM is a living legend. With a head full of songs and a heart full of stories, Roach is hitting stages with his final national tour, Tell Me Why.
The 2020 Victorian of the Year will tour his album Tell Me Why, a name shared with his recently released memoir, from May through to September 2020.
“It’s the last big national tour, I’m looking forward to it. [It’s] to thank people who have supported me through the years who’ve come along and supported my shows, for their loyalty and for being there for me,” Roach said.
Roach has had a hard journey, being a member of the Stolen Generations and living with alcoholism from an early age.
“It’s important I think, a lot of people didn’t hear about the Stolen Generations, some aren’t really sure what that means … to put it down and to tell the story, tell the story about that journey,” he said.
“It wasn’t easy, and I might have not made it, it could have killed me. But it didn’t. I found my way back home, back to family and Country.”
Despite his beginnings, his music has helped him heal.
“It’s important I got those stories out, it helped me a lot doing it, getting those things off my chest.
“I didn’t realise, I had to really think about things, things in the past, heavy stuff. Drinking, getting drunk, fighting, getting in trouble with police, it was all a form of me reacting to what happened to me.
“Trying to deal with the trauma in a negative sense [is] where it got me into trouble. Through music and song, it’s helped me immensely.
“I’ve been able to talk about that or deal with those subjects in a more positive way. To be able to write a song and sing about it, it’s a great way to release that from yourself. You aren’t hurting yourself or anyone else around you.”
Thirty years on from the release of his iconic album Charcoal Lane, Roach revisits some of his classics on the new album.
Roach recalled beginning his musical journey, finding his feet in the spotlight of the stage.
“I tried my hardest but I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I was a pretty quiet and shy bloke, and I still am pretty much.”
“When I finally started performing and doing albums, getting up on stage, it just felt right.”
“To get up there and to sing and to tell stories … I’ve realised story is important to me. Not just telling story but listening to story and I still love to listen to people talk about their life.
“Especially the old people left, older than me, that talk about when they were young and growing up. It is the best thing, story for me is very important.”
Constructing his memoir, Roach has had time to reflect on the journey he’s had throughout his life.
“I’ve travelled around the country, and I’ve travelled around the world. I stayed in Monaco, we were on top of this building in this place in Monaco, overlooking the French Riviera.
“I was drinking some apple juice, looking over this view thinking, if I had told my friends back in the day when I was drinking in Charcoal Lane in Fitzroy Collingwood I’d be here, they wouldn’t believe me.
“My friends and people around me, the ones I looked up to, they were all drinkers and smokers. So, I never thought I’d end up being like this.
“Stopping drinking was probably one of the best things I ever done … I was a bad drunk … To actually stop that was one of the best things I did for myself in my life.”
From Monaco to Canada, Roach reflects on one of the proudest moments of his life.
“I was in Canada one time, a few years ago now. With the Aboriginal peoples there … an old woman came up to me and said, ‘We have meetings, healing circles. Around the healing circle, we sit around and we listen to that song, Took the Children Away. That has become our healing song.’
“If I’ve ever been proud of anything I’ve ever done, that’s probably one moment that I’m so proud of, actually doing something and being part of something like that.”
On his last trip around the country, Roach is dedicated to giving back to those who have given him so much.
“This is a big run around the country, the last one. Charcoal Lane is 30 years old this year, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I feel proud to still do that and people still go to shows.
“They have certainly helped me, especially when [my wife] Ruby passed away, the audience were right there for me, just people in that audience, the support and love they showed me.
“They carried me through that time, that’s when I realised these are more than just people I sing to. They are giving me that strength to carry on.”
Tell Me Why is set to visit Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Hobart, Launceston, Adelaide, Sydney and more.
For more information, visit: http://www.archieroach.com/tour.
By Rachael Knowles