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Deadly tune wins heart of Robbie Miller

When singer-songwriter Robbie Miller walked into an IGA and heard Goanna’s 1982 hit single ‘Solid Rock’ playing on the sound system, he took it as a sign.

Earlier the same day, Miller had been Googling songs to find one that he could record for a compilation of Australian classics.

His stop at the store sealed his decision.

“I was kind of like, this is definitely the song; this is a sign,” Miller says. “The original is a bit rockier than my version, a bit rockier than the kind of songs I listen to, but when I looked at the lyrics and read through what the message was, yeah, I kind of stuck with it.”

Miller’s version of Solid Rock will appear on a new album, Deadly Hearts, which features Australia’s hottest young Indigenous music stars singing some of the country’s most recognised songs.

Jimbiah performs ‘Island Home’, the Warumpi Band classic made famous by Christine Anu; Emily Wurramara does a jazz interpretation of Coloured Stone’s ‘Black Boy’; Benny Walker takes on ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’; Gawurra sings John Farnham’s ‘When the War is Over’; and Birdz adds a hip hop touch to Yothu Yindi’s ‘Sunset Dreaming’.

The album will be out on Friday in the lead up to NAIDOC Week, which runs from July 2 to 9.

Miller wasn’t yet born and his parents were still newlyweds when Goanna recorded Solid Rock in the ’80s, but he says the song resonates with him.

“I kind of picked Solid Rock because I feel a connection to land per se,” he says. “Whenever I head to the coast and head inland or to Central Queensland where I was born, I feel at peace, I feel at home.

“I saw that song, went to a few others and said ‘No, I’m going to go back to this song’. It was one that stood out for me.”

Miller says it was daunting recording a classic.

“It’s hard because you don’t want to do anything that’s too different or you don’t want to take away from anything that made the song so good,” he says.

“In the end I was like, I’m just going to approach the song like it is a song that I’ve written and if I was going to write a song with this message how would I relay it so people could hear?

“It took a long time. There were seven or eight demos beforehand I’d work through and done whole arrangements for. None were really sticking. They just sounded cliche cover band, which wasn’t what I wanted.

“I had a couple of days’ break, sat down on the electric guitar and started playing chords and the version you hear on the album just came out literally in five minutes and by the end of the next day it was done.”

* Deadly Hearts will be released by ABC Music on June 30.

Wendy Caccetta

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