The Lee family has become one of Australia’s most popular country bands since deciding that playing music was a good way for each of its six members to make a living.
Story By Jenet Stewart
It was 1995 when Steve and Tracey Lee stood in the audience listening to the Dead Ringer Band, the family band of country songstress Kasey Chambers. Tracey was struck with an idea. “I thought this would be a good way for our family to make a living,” she says. And so the Lee family’s musical journey began. Today they are still travelling the country together as one of Australia’s up-and-coming country-folk bands.
The shiny silver and black coach pulls into the street across the road from the Royal Hotel in Gilgandra, in central New South Wales. The Lees have stopped for a short break in their journey. They performed last night at the Tamworth Country Music Festival until 4am; Steve had decided to get an early start on the day as they had a long drive to Broken Hill ahead of them. The door of the coach slowly eases open and out steps a long, thin, young man, dressed in black right down to his canvas joggers. It is Jarod Lee followed closely behind by the family dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier called ‘Vivienne’, who also needs to stretch her legs.
Inside the rest of the Lee family – Steve, Tracey, Raechel, Faith and Savannah – are enjoying cool drinks in air-conditioned comfort. The coach includes a dining area, kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom. It has become home to them as they travel and perform throughout country New South Wales.
Steve says when the family decided to make a living performing, “we purchased a set of drums for Jarod, mandolin for Raechel, a bass for Tracey and a guitar for myself”. Steve’s experience in music stemmed from being a member of his family’s band in Broken Hill where his father was the minister of a local church.
After roughly three years of practice developing singing, song-writing and performing skills, the Lees set out on the first of many journeys. Raechel was 12 years of age, Jarod, 11, Faith, eight, and Savannah, just five.
“We had two vehicles – a Triton twin cab, which towed the musical instruments in a trailer, and a Toyota Troupie towing the family caravan,” Steve says. “We arrived at the Tamworth Country Music Festival with just $40 in our pockets and within a few weeks turned that into a couple of grand busking in the streets.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #71
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2010