Regional towns are in our blood here at CountryTown! From Tamworth to Toowoomba to Noojee, we love the pubs, the people and the places that make Australia tick. But most of all, we love the amazing country musicians our regional centres produce, like James Johnston.
Growing up in the small town of Wingham on the Mid North Coast of NSW, the singer-songwriter spent his early years hopping from farm-to-farm with his dad, selling and servicing tractors. With hours spent on the road travelling, James was introduced to great artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Garth Brooks and, at just four years of age, James hit the stage for the very first time, performing Friends in Low Places in front of his kindergarten class. From that moment on James’s future was set – he would be a country singer.
His debut single, Raised Like That is a tribute to his upbringing and tells the story of community, integrity, and a celebration to a way of life of people who grew up in a small close nit community.
He says, “Sometimes we don’t take enough time to look back, to appreciate the people and the places that helped shape us into being the person we are today! It takes a whole community to raise a child and help someone grow with the ups and downs that life throws at us … The last line of my new song says, ‘I wouldn’t be who I am right now if I wasn’t raised like that’ and those words couldn’t be more true!”
To get to know James a little better, we’ve asked what he loves about his hometown, Wingham.
1. Everyone says hello
One thing I miss when I’m away from my hometown is the finger wave whenever you drive past someone! It’s something that just came so natural to me growing up, that, when you’re heading in the opposite direction, it’s just a little “G’day”! But when I first drove in a big city, I had to constantly stop myself from doing it.
2. Dairy farms
Wingham was built on the bank of family run dairy farms! I spent most of my childhood in the front of a land cruiser with my dad travelling from one dairy farm to the next servicing and selling tractors! They really became my second home and the farmers that run the dairy’s were some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met!
3. Hometown support
One thing about my hometown is they have always been my greatest supporters! From the local hairdressing ladies that used to let me entertain them while mum was getting her hair done! To the local music store letting me set up with a guitar out front and busk! There was always a friendly face walking past and they would always throw a few dollars in a hat for me! That feeling of having a community behind me has never stopped and I feel incredibly lucky that, wherever I go in the world, I will always have that hometown support.
4. The stars at night
The drive to get back to my hometown is about 8 hours so I often rock up pretty late in the night and one thing I’m always struck by are the stars! I always take a second to look up and the sky is awash with light and between that and the silence of being the only person for miles around! It’s one of my favourite feelings just taking that in every time.
5. Great food!
You often wouldn’t think of a little town like Wingham as being a hub for great food but it certainly is! Wingham has some beautiful little cafes that source all the ingredients from the farms that surround the town. There’s a café called Bent On Food that really kicked it off and if you’re ever travelling down the highway near Taree, I would highly suggest a little drive inland and come and say hello to our friendly little town and enjoy a great meal!
Keep up to date with James Johnston on his Facebook page here.
For more of our My CountryTown series, check out here.