Listen to the full interview here
Welcome to Coffee with a Coastie, I had the pleasure of sitting down with David Kirkpatrick. David is an Australian country music artist, born in Rockhampton, Queensland, and the son of Australian country music royalty Joy McKean and Slim Dusty. As a child, David spent his first six years on the road, living in a caravan with his family, before going to boarding school and then onto a successful career as an emergency medicine doctor. Though he has always followed in his family’s footsteps with his love of music, having been part of a band throughout his medical career. Then since retiring from medicine in 2019, after nearly 30 years of service at Gosford Public Hospital, David has formed the band Two Tone Pony. And so it was with great pleasure that I got to sit down and chat with David about life and Two Tone Pony.
When I think of the many kms you must have travelled around this wonderful country both as a child and later in life. What made you choose the Central Coast to live and work?
Well, that’s a funny story. I didn’t really choose it, it chose me, and music had everything to do with it. Because as I was working in bands all through my university career, doing three or four nights a week at one stage in a successful rock band, and as I was getting towards the end of my studies I kept saying, I’ve got to wind back and concentrate. Unfortunately, I didn’t wind back soon enough and I had to do a supplementary exam at the end of my university course. That meant instead of graduating in December, I graduated in January and by that time I didn’t have a choice where I got posted as an intern. As you got posted where the need was. Luckily for me it was the year that Gosford started getting its own interns. So, I came up to Gosford and absolutely loved it, never looked back. I then met my wife here that same year. So, it was a sliding doors moment. Where I look back now and think, wow, if I hadn’t have failed that last exam, I might never have been up here or met my wife.
Two Tone Pony consists of yourself, Ian Rhodes, Graham Puglisi, Glenn Willey and your brother–in–law Greg Richardson. I’ve heard you say that the band was formed because your daughter asked you to perform at her wedding. As a dad, how did it feel to not only be able to produce the goods and form a band to perform at your daughter’s wedding, but to have friends and family come together to make it happen and create the band we hear today?
It was very special to be able to have that extra bit of involvement in Hannah’s wedding. My brother–in–law Greg is on drums, we had always talked about music as he was a studio manager and audio technician at Radio National for nearly 30 years, but we’d never been able to play together in a band before. Then Ian Rhodes and Graham Puglisi, who I’d played in cover bands with on the Coast for 20 years while I was working in medicine. Then of course Glenn Willey, my friend on keyboards, he wasn’t at the wedding. He joined the band a bit later when I sent him some demos. I met Glenn when he came up to me in year 11 at Trinity Grammar School and said, I hear you play drums. Do you want to join a band? He and I played all through university. He then went on to become a specialist dental surgeon. So he hadn’t played any live music for a while until I invited him up. Hannah had specifically wanted a country rock band, which was great. As this is what I want to do, I’d always loved Country Rock. I don’t want to do another covers band; I want to put the effort into writing original music. I have a vision that combines my rock background and my country background to come up with our own sound and that’s what we’ve been working on for the last four years.
Your latest single is called ‘A Life Well Lived’. Which is a phrase you used in an introductory speech to honour your mother Joy McKean when she received her Ted Albert Lifetime Achievement Award at the APRA Awards. How did this song come about and what does a ‘Life Well Lived’ look and feel like to you?
I really just liked that phrase to describe someone who has had a fantastically interesting and varied life, like my mother. But when I was in my music room downstairs writing the song, I had a tune in my head, along with that phrase and I then thought, how can I use it? Then I thought about conversations I’ve had with people, whether it be at work or socially, talking about great times and memories. Predominantly around relationships, time they’ve spent with friends and family, or an unexpected act of kindness from someone. As I’ve said many times, people don’t tend to reminisce about the big car, the big job or the big money when they really get to the nitty gritty of it. I would like to think that when I’m thinking back on my life, that I would hope that I have lived it well and I have given back something. I certainly feel that way with my job as an emergency medicine physician. I feel that I have done good for a lot of people and to gain the respect and trust of your colleagues is incredibly important to me. So that’s something that I reflect on. And I guess I just came up with the idea of an imaginary next–door neighbour that I would go over and have a cup of tea with and chat, and she’d tell me about her life well lived. Then when you get to the end of the song, you’ve got the younger person sitting there realizing, well that’s really what I want as well. So I hope that’s how it comes across.
In researching you, I came across the cover of your dads album ‘Sing along with dad’. That has you, your mum and sister on the cover. Can you share some memories of singing with your family as a child, and how did those experiences shape your love of music?
Well, I hated that cover, I’ve got to tell you. You’re very self–conscious when you’re a kid and having been put on the cover like that, well. We didn’t sit around the campfire singing songs every night. Though my parents were very tolerant of listening to any music. Dad bought me a Black Sabbath album that I wanted. He never said, you can’t listen to this or that. At Christmas time when on holidays, we didn’t have a television or anything. We had a record player, and each night everyone had a turn at picking a record to play. So, dad would put on Buck Owens or Merle Haggard and Mum would put on folk music, as she was really into folk music at that stage. Anne might have the Beatles and I’d be the one to put on Led Zeppelin or something, just to be obnoxious probably. But that was fine, everyone put up with it. Everyone would sit there and listen to it whether they wanted to or not. We’d listen to it all. I love Merle Haggard, I love Buck Owens, even when I was listening to Led Zeppelin. I would sit down and very happily listen to Buck Owens; it gave me that breadth of music. If it’s good music, it’s good music. If you appreciate music, you’re able to appreciate someone who’s playing an instrument well or who’s got a good voice, whether you particularly like the genre or not.
Finally, I’ve heard you say your dad Slim’s credo was, ‘stay true to what you are and what you believe, don’t try to be what you’re not’. Looking at your life having gone into medicine, to now later in life forming Two Tone Pony and your debut single being titled ‘A Life Well Lived’. It would seem to me you have followed your dad’s credo and stayed true to who you are and what you believe. Did you have any advice for your own kids growing up?
It is a matter of being true to yourself, true to your family, true to your friends, and true to what you state. You’ve got to actually do what you say. With your kids, you can only tell them so many times, and it’s very satisfying now because my kids are in their thirties and they look back and say you showed us by example, because you and mum, you always stuck to it and led by example. You didn’t have to sit us down and give us a set of rules, you just showed us how to live those rules. It’s then up to them to decide, is that how they want to live their life?
If you would like to find out more about David and Two Tone Pony, go to twotonepony.com