Country music vs coal seam gas
Jay and Mark O’Shea wrote and performed a song with Rob Hirst inspired by Darling Downs farmer George Bender. (The Truth Walks Slowly: Video)
Coal seam gas (CSG) has been a contentious issue in agricultural areas inspiring debates and protests, and now art.
The ABC’s Vote Compass survey has found two-thirds of voters say they oppose easing restrictions on CSG exploration, compared to just over half when the same question was asked during the 2013 federal election.
The highest level of disagreement to relaxing restrictions is from regional Australia.
Mark O’Shea grew up in the heart of CSG country in southern Queensland, but moved to Nashville for his career as a singer-songwriter with his wife Jay.
Their group, O’Shea, recently collaborated with Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst to pen a song, with an accompanying video, called The Truth Walks Slowly.
The song pays tribute to Queensland farmer George Bender, who took his life after a long battle to keep CSG companies from his land.
“I think it’s a public service announcement,” Mr O’Shea said.
Despite growing up in the heart of CSG country in southern Queensland, Mr O’Shea saidd he had a lot to learn about the ins and outs of CSG production.
“I’ve been guilty of not educating myself on the subject, and now that I have, I’m outraged,” he said.
“If we were walking around with our heads in the sand on this issue, then we figured we weren’t the only ones who don’t know this, so that was the impetus to tell the story.
“I discovered so many things I didn’t know about CSG, its effects on the land and farmer’s rights. Or lack of farmer’s rights, to be precise.”
The power of a song
In an industry where songs about pickup trucks and partying on Friday night are the norm, Mr O’Shea said he had noticed his song writing focus change.
“Music has the power to change the way people think about something,” he said.
“In the early days you wrote a song in the hope it got on the radio, but the older we get we seem to want to make music that resonates with people in a different way.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel or saying anything different to anyone else, but I think the imagery in a three or four-minute song, where you get to know George Bender, and realise he’s not just a name in a newspaper article.
The song and its accompanying video have been shared on social media thousands of times.
“It’s a very complex issue, but it’s a pretty universal theme.”
“The story that happened to George is pretty self-explanatory,” Mr O’Shea said.
“It’s been wonderful to see folks like Russell Crowe and Missy Higgins sharing the video, and I’ve even had emails from people in Italy and France talking about their different laws.”
The group plans to play the song on its return to Australia later in the year.
“The song doesn’t put power back in anybody’s hands, but I guess it helps educate people on these issues that are happening right now all over Australia.”