With a caravan full of instruments, The Family Tree has travelled the country making music.

Story by Justine McClymont  Photo Elise Hassey

As he steps forward on stage with guitar in hand at Mataranka Homestead in the Northern Territory, Rob Imeson looks out at the crowd and says, “This is our parting gift to you”. It’s the last song of the night before it’s time to pack up and head back to the caravan under the stars of the outback sky. “In the land of plenty of time,” Rob sings, as he strums the guitar. It’s a gentle country folk song – the type that can only be found in the quiet spaces far away from the noise of busy life. 

Next to Rob is his wife Amy, with her tangle of long blonde hair and sparkling eyes. She sings a harmony to the song: “You’ll be bound forever, to the Never Never, long will you remember her name.” Their daughter Molly plays a tune on the violin and weaves her own music around the song her dad wrote, while her older brother Joel and younger sister Charlie watch on. In between the lyrics, there are moments of space and patience, much like those long-lost hours on the road between outback towns, when the dusty haze shimmers in the distance. 

Rob and Amy Imeson and their children Joel, 14, Molly, 12, and Charlie, 10, are The Family Tree, an alternative country folk band that has travelled all over Australia playing music as a family. While the big river country of the Clarence Valley, on the New South Wales North Coast, is the place they call home, they have spent a total of two-and-a-half years on the road on three different trips with their trusty instruments packed into a four-wheel-drive and caravan. 

As a singer/songwriter in his own right and a lover of Australian storytellers such as Slim Dusty and Paul Kelly, Rob writes most of the songs. Amy sings and plays the flute, while their eldest, Joel, plays ukulele and percussion, and recites bush poetry when the occasion calls for it. Molly plays the violin, guitar and mandolin, and Charlie sings and plays piano. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #113

Outback Magazine: June/July 2017