The music, memories and 78,000km behind Mortimer’s rise

Stephanie Gardiner |

Australian country music artist Robbie Mortimer has clocked up 78,000km playing live shows.
Australian country music artist Robbie Mortimer has clocked up 78,000km playing live shows.

Grainy home video shows a young Robbie Mortimer standing on a table wearing a backwards cap, belting out a song and rocking a black toy guitar.

These tiny moments stick with the country musician, who fondly remembers his dad playing guitar on Christmas Day and listening to Johnny Cash tapes in the family’s farm truck.

“I grew up on a farm with my four older brothers and we did a lot of hard work,” Mortimer tells AAP.

“I remember, in dad’s old Land Cruiser, music would play out through the speakers and across the vineyards.”

Mortimer shared footage of his early musical flourishes with his 48,000 Instagram followers ahead of the release of his new single Blow the Speakers on March 22.

The track celebrates those formative memories and “the songs we’ll be singing until the day we die”. 

The 30-year-old has doggedly pursued songwriting for 15 years, defying pressure to join his family’s rich sporting legacy.

His dad Peter and uncle Steve played for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in the 1970s and 80s, while his brother Daniel played for several NRL teams.

Mortimer said expectations to live up to his birthright never came from loved ones, but from outsiders.

“I was 16 when Daniel was playing in the grand final for Parramatta, so I was in my teens when people were starting to say ‘what are you going to do with your life?’

“I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

Music was where he felt a sense of belonging.

Starting by playing party and pub gigs around his hometown of Orange, in central west NSW, Mortimer was a grand finalist in Tamworth’s Star Maker country music competition last year.

The platform that launched the careers of artists like Keith Urban and Lee Kernaghan gave Mortimer the boost he’d been chasing.

Australian country music artist Robbie Mortimer
While Mortimer’s family has a rich sporting legacy, his heart belongs to music. (HANDOUT/SUPPLIED)

He clocked up 78,000km playing live shows around the regions and collaborating, writing and recording.

Mentors like Golden Guitar winner James Johnston have guided him through the rise, warning some might write him off as an overnight success.

“People don’t see things like the guys at the pub who tried to fight me because I didn’t play Khe Sanh for the 15th time, or the blokes who spilt rum and Coke all over my guitar pedals,” he said with a laugh.

Mortimer recently moved to Newcastle, closer to the home of country music.

He feels embraced by the industry, which is known for its support of emerging artists.

At the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, Mortimer chatted to Lee Kernaghan and took a photo, having idolised him as a kid.

Kernaghan called Mortimer just weeks later to congratulate him on his new song.

“You can imagine, eight-year-old Robbie nearly died,” Mortimer said.

Mortimer will play shows across NSW and Queensland from next month.