Adjusting to an expanded new life in the big city is an ongoing adventure for singer/songwriter Tane Rua.
“Living in Brisbane is a world away from my childhood in Muttaburra,” he says. “There are some pretty wild differences - a lot of adjustments to be made.”
The 24-year-old musician drives the 14 hours home at least two or three times a year and now knows every turn in the road along the way to outback Muttaburra. The outback town is a mere dot on the map (population about 100), located at the geographic centre of Queensland, and best known for a dinosaur fossil find, the Muttaburrasaurus.
Tane describes the all-day drive to see family and friends as tedious, especially if undertaken alone.
“There’s a lot of time to fill in, so I sing a lot,” he says. “Work on a few songs. Plenty of time to think.
“Going back to my old hometown is like time travel right back to my teenage years.”
“There’s not much for a young person to do in a place as small as Muttaburra.
“I don’t spend much time wondering how Australian I am. I just am.“
“There’s roo shooting, wild pigs, motorbike riding, and fishing in the Thomson River. Not much else.
“It’s really easy for young people to get a bit lost in a place like that. The drink and the drugs are both big temptations. People fall into those things. It happens.”
Educational opportunities for young Tane were limited. The two-teacher school at Muttaburra caters for students from kindy to year six, with all 10 or so students in one classroom.
Tane attended high school at Longreach, “the big smoke” for a kid from tiny Muttaburra, over 90 minutes away by road. He stayed at a student hostel there, coming home most weekends and holidays.
After leaving school, he joined some locals in beginning a community garden, a new idea for
Tane surprised himself, finding satisfaction in clearing an overgrown block and working to establish a grove of trees including mulberries, ice cream bean trees, figs and mangos.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says.
It’s a matter of pride for Tane that the community garden is still going now, several years after his involvement as a teenager.
“I feel like it's a kind of legacy,” he says.
Tane says he also spent time wool handling in shearing sheds around the district and could have trained as a shearer with his father, a hard-working Kiwi immigrant.
“My Dad spent a lifetime as a shearer and would have helped me to get a start,” he says.
But Tane’s early love was music, and the guitar won out over the shearing machine.
He enrolled in uni and earned a Diploma in Contemporary Music.
“It was supposed to be an arts degree,” Tane says, but he “decided to scale it back”.
“I ended up with a diploma,” he says. “I think they felt sorry for me.”
In addition, Tane took a course to update his skills around self-employment with Brisbane-based training company ASE Group.
He believes the training has been very helpful to him as he adapted to working in the big smoke and making his way in the world of music.
“The CEO Taj Pabari has been very supportive, with personalised advice as I needed it,” he says.
After initially finding Brisbane to be a very large place, Tane has adapted well.
“Music has been a lifesaver for me,” he says.
He plays two or three gigs every weekend and loves his new life on Brisbane’s northside.
When people mistake Tane for a Kiwi, he usually lets it go. Blessed with a Kiwi-sounding name and a “Kiwi-lite” accent, he can’t quickly explain his first-generation Aussie roots, so often says nothing.
“While the fans are happy with my music, I won’t be arguing over my country of origin,” he says.
“I don’t spend much time wondering how Australian I am. I just am.
“I am more interested in how blues, rock, country or folk I am. I love to explore new music across a wide spectrum but get a kick out of doing covers as well. I like to entertain a broad audience.”
As for whether Tane defines himself as a city or a country bloke, that is still an open question.
At this stage, he stands astride those two different worlds, and that’s a situation that may never change.
Tane’s music can be found on Spotify, and you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram by searching for Tane-Rua.