Shannon Noll’s everyman appeal lies in his honesty. He possesses the knack of striking a chord with legions of music fans, jacking into a pure emotion that’s both his own and instantly relatable. His fourth album, A Million Suns, stays faithful to his classic rock roots while ramping up the pace like never before.
Three years since Shannon hit No 3 in the ARIA album chart with Turn It Up, and despite having clocked up 10 consecutive top-10 ARIA chart singles, the country boy from Condobolin, NSW remains unaffected by success and committed to his hard-working rock ethic.
First single Switch Me On sees Shannon hooking up with Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden to write a driving missive of redemption through love. In a fortuitous example of life coming full circle, Shannon used to play Good Charlotte songs when earning his stripes in a cover band many moons ago. He again drew on his dive-bar band days for Till We Say So, a track that’s pumped with fighting talk. ‘I’m a massive Living End fan and we used to close our set with Prisoner of Society,’ he recalls. ‘This has a similar message: “It ain’t over ’til we say so”. The bouncers would say, “Thanks a lot, mate, now you’ve fired them all up just as we’ve got to kick them out!”’
The anthemic ethos continues with title track Million Suns – a homage to the Aussie summer and the nostalgia packaged in with it. It’s a dramatic track that really brings Shannon’s voice to the fore. Life In Stereo is an unapologetic party number, one to put on when getting ready to go out, and then crank up when you get there.
Songwriter Adam Reily, with whom Shannon wrote 2005 hit Lift, contributes My Place in the Line, about a man finding his role in life, and Rewind, which pleads remorse over past mistakes. ‘Rewind is one of the most beautifully crafted songs I’ve ever heard,’ Shannon offers, singing a few lines. ‘The lyrics are unbelievable, with metaphors for everything.’ Shannon reunited with country star Brooke McClymont to write Would It Be So Bad, about the need to take the time to appreciate the simple things in life.
Long Way Home, meanwhile, is Shannon’s hands-down favourite. ‘It’s about the hard craft of the industry, rather than the bright lights,’ he explains. ‘No one can do my job for me, so the buck stops here. There are times when you’re tired and want to come home, but I’m not afraid of what’s in front of me.’
Wherever you first got to hear Shannon sing, you’ll instantly recognise that true-blue larynx, built sturdy by grit, gravel and beer. It recalls working-class heroes Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham and other pub-rock stalwarts, who have long scored the rousing closing-time soundtrack to broken hearts and unbeaten spirits.
Shannon still to this day will busk in the street with his brothers when the urge takes them, determined to keep that grassroots joy alive. ‘I tell it straight up and down when I’m writing songs,’ he says. ‘I’m not the sort of person who’ll write something that means 15 things to 15 different people. Music’s about making you feel something, and even more importantly, making you feel that someone else out there feels the same way.’
See Shannon at Twin Towns this Saturday.