14 November 2023

The song inspired by a Tooma bushman's plans for a wake

| Edwina Mason
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bearded man standing outside with dark clouds in background

Tooma’s legendary Brett McCallum admits he ambushed fellow local Fanny Lumsden in the local pub one night with a request that she sing at his wake. Photo: Fanny Lumsden.

When Brett McCallum bailed up singer-songwriter Fanny Lumsden one night at their local, The Tooma Inn, she didn’t expect him to become her muse.

Brett, a heavily bearded bushie in a battered hat, is something of a local legend even his sister Jo Rutter says he has some unusual ideas that she suggests were the result of their mum being bitten by a tiger snake when she was eight months pregnant with Brett.

But rather than his coming into the world, Brett’s now more concerned with how he’ll leave the world.

So he propositioned Fanny.

“He came up to me at the pub and asked what I would charge to perform at his wake,” Fanny said.

“I nominated an outrageous fee and a down payment of a cow and two loads of wood,” she said.

She thought he was joking until he turned up at her house six months later with the first load of wood.

“That’s the down payment,” he said as he dumped it.

But the story got a whole lot bigger than that and has inspired a song called When I Die on Fanny’s new album, Hey Dawn.

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The song is about Brett’s meticulously planned wake, which involves gathering around a bonfire and the shell of an old Bedford truck on a steep hillside he calls “Awesome View” on his farm, with live music from Fanny to serenade him out of this world – and his ashes, in shotgun casings, getting shot out of BYO shotguns across the valley during golden hour, or dusk!

The ashes will be sprinkled with glitter, and clay targets will be provided for a bit of sport.

It’s a send-off predicated on the death of Brett’s dogs and his 37-year-old horse who will also be memorialised during the wake. They’ll be buried near the Bedford when their time comes.

woman standing in field with hands on knees

Tooma singer-songwriter Fanny Lumsden is on the cusp of launching her fourth album Hey Dawn, which is flavoured with stories that have shaped her and those around her. Image: Fanny Lumsden.

“I started thinking about it when I realised how old my horse was,” he told Fanny.

A song list has been provided for Fanny, a bargained five songs including I’m a Lumberjack, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Conversation with the Devil and Please Don’t Bury Me.

When I Die is now a firm favourite for the final inclusion.

Fanny said she wrote the song sitting alone around a campfire on the Nullarbor Plain.

“It’s a song about sticking to your guns and being true to who you are both in life and in death,” she explained.

Hey Dawn – Fanny’s fourth studio album – is set to drop on 4 August and will be accompanied by a national tour with her band The Prawn Stars, kicking off on 28 July in Bendigo and working along the east coast.

She describes the album as a rich character study, reflective of the stories that have shaped her and those around her.

In particular, she found herself drawn to her childhood, “when obviously I felt no weight of anything”.

“I think that might have been a reaction to the last few years, which were heavy for everyone,” she said.

This week Fanny shared another snapshot of the album with a video featuring family home videos and slides for the new single Ugly Flowers.

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She says the song is her favorite on the album, nostalgic in touching on the stories of bygone days and people, the geraniums that used to be called ugly and how life back then is the life we often hark for now.

“In real time it is directly about my family and how as we get older our families or the families we build for ourselves are really all that matter,” Fanny said.

It is thus dedicated to her family.

Fanny will hit the road from the end of July playing with The Prawn Stars across Vic, ACT, NSW and QLD including Canberra Street Theatre on 4 August, Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre on 5 August and Milton Theatre on 1 September.

Tickets are available here.

Ahead of the album release, Fanny has devised the ‘Golden Fanny Ticket’!

Hidden inside one Hey Dawn CD and one Hey Dawn vinyl are the tickets that will give the lucky winners a lifetime pass to any and all Fanny Lumsden headline shows.

To be in the running, fans just order Hey Dawn on vinyl or CD from Fanny’s website.

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