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Podcast: Johnny K recalls some special moments at The DAG country music retreats near Tamworth

The DAG Sheep Station owner Johnny Krsulja has emerged from lockdown with new songs.
The DAG Sheep Station owner Johnny Krsulja has emerged from lockdown with new songs.

The mess hall and shearers' quarters at The DAG Sheep Station, nestled in the "Hills of Gold" around Nundle, has become a musical mecca for dozens of country artists, established and emerging.

The DAG is owned by John Krsulja, or Johnny K, as he is known among friends. He plays host to retreats for country musicians, where they can meet and grow creatively.

It's the "songlines" that run beneath and through The DAG that seem to infiltrate participants' spirits, Krsulja said.

"There's no internet access for guests, no TVs in the rooms, without all that distraction people are stripped back to our bare selves very quickly."

While lockdowns have interrupted the retreats schedule, Krsulja is hopeful the events will soon return regularly and deliver more magic moments.

  • Hear John Krsulja talk about the magic of The DAG retreats in our new podcast. If you already have Spotify on your phone and are reading this on your mobile, click on the banner below. Otherwise, download the Spotify app on your phone and search for Celebrating Aussie Country. For more instructions, click here.

"There are plenty of moments when we witness at The DAG a song being born," Krsulja says.

"One of those moments would have to be Sing Me a Story. [Luke O'Shea and Felicity Urquhart] co-wrote that story on stage in front of us.

"We did it like a David Attenborough story, where we just watched. We weren't allowed to participate ... they just had to stumble through that song process."

Sing Me a Story, later recorded by O'Shea and Lyn Bowtell, went on to win a Golden Guitar at the 2020 Tamworth Country Music Festival for Heritage Song of the Year.

Krsulja has his own aspirations when it comes to country music, in 2015 releasing his debut album, Travellin', produced by the late Karl Broadie.

One of the tracks, The Old Man's Shed, co-written with Luke O'Shea, was awarded the Heritage Song of the Year in 2017.

The song talks about the legacy of relationships. Broadie died before seeing the song receive that accolade.

Read (and listen) more:

"Karl was a tutor at The DAG for at least three or four years before his untimely passing with pancreatic cancer," Krsulja said.

"The amount of connections he made through The DAG was so many ... [he was] such a powerful presence.

"There's so many memories we have of Karl at the retreat and we still keep a photo of him up on stage. There are a lot of people who come to the retreat who will know of Karl Broadie but have never met him. I certainly feel his spirit remains."

Krsulja has spent his time during the COVID restrictions of the past two years creatively, writing songs.

"I'm enjoying the new songs I'm writing. They're differently influenced by some of the artists that I've grown up with, and before my time. They're still stories that mean something to me, they need to have a personal attachment to me."

Listen: new country music podcast

To mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Tamworth Country Music Festival, ACM (publisher of this website) created a new podcast, Celebrating Aussie Country.

The podcast was recorded and released before the recent surge in coronavirus cases that forced the festival's postponement. We are sure you'll still enjoy the interviews and the music. Just bear in mind any references to performance dates are no longer current. The Tamworth Country Music Festival has been rescheduled for April 18-24.

In the 10-part series, available only on Spotify, you'll hear from established and emerging artists and their music.

To listen, you'll need to download the Spotify app on to your mobile phone and search for Celebrating Aussie Country. If you already have Spotify - and you're reading this story on your mobile - click on the banner below and your phone will take you direct to the podcast.

Each podcast episode includes an interview with the artist and some of their music. People with free Spotify subscriptions will hear a 30-second snippet of the song, while those with premium Spotify subscriptions can enjoy the full version.

This story Music and magic at The DAG sheep station first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.