Country musician Danny Phegan is living the lifestyle others only sing about – and raising funds for cancer research along the way.

Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick

In the pine scrub west of Lightning Ridge, NSW, a camp fire smoulders. Through its smoke can be seen a blackened grill plate, an assortment of swags – underlain by empty stubbies, rum cans and rubber snakes – two flat-tyred caravans and a going-nowhere bus. Metres from the party scene, metal fences guard mining shafts and a protesting piece of machinery regurgitates opal dirt to the surface. The concession to modernity is one poor bar of mobile reception. “Would you look at that,” Danny Phegan exclaims as he pushes back a weathered Akubra and looks at a text. “Me single’s made it to number one.”

Danny’s latest single is The Fight Song, a true-to-life romp through a 10-round boxing match, which is a follow up to The Halfway Hotel, based loosely on his publican experiences. Both songs are peppered with the self-deprecating humour Danny uses to mask an intelligent and inquiring mind, for he has always been more than a country music singer. His life experience stretches from the Rocky Mountains in the US, through Europe and, most importantly, across the breadth of the Australian bush. Along the way, his resume has included horseman, farmer, grazier, business owner, fundraiser, publican and opal miner.

This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023