A MOVE to the south-west has given Melbourne comedian Stephen 'Stretch' Teakle, who performs under the moniker Barry Morgan, the opportunity to take a "meaningful" look at his life and career.
It will also be the region he kicks off his next tour, Barry Blows Thru Your Town, with the first show being held at Dirty Angel Comedy at Mozart Hall in Warrnambool on November 3.
The tour will see the freelance artist drive himself around the country to perform in regional towns, including a stop in Yambuk for a day of country music.
"I'm really excited to be in Mozart Hall - I'm sure his (Mozart's) ears will be ringing," Teakle said.
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Barry rose to fame after performing on an episode of ABC's Spicks and Specks in 2010.
"When you're in this industry, you hit on something people want and tomorrow you are wanted everywhere and it becomes chaotic," he said of the whirlwind after the performance.
This led to touring, including a show in Warrnambool, various television appearances and slots on comedy festivals in Australia, New Zealand and Edinburgh.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a four-year stop to touring which is when Teakle decided to make the move from Melbourne, his home for 10 years, to the south-west.
"It just seemed like a good time to get out of the city," he said.
"I didn't really think I'd stay in the south-west area for long but it got under my skin and I love it.
"The future looks like more touring and television shows that we're bidding for so the area is great to retreat to."
He moved to the Nirranda and Nullawarre area about two-and-a-half years ago, along the coast to Thunder Point where he became "addicted to early rise morning ocean swims" and is now living the quiet life on a farm outside of Port Fairy near Codrington.
He said when the entire country was in lockdown, like many other city dwellers, the motivation to move was for a tree change.
"It was when everyone was told to stop," Teakle said.
"You look at yourself and think what do I really want to do after being in the music industry with all the lights and touring?
"A tree change is a welcome thing in certain parts of your life and career."
The 53-year-old was born in Coonabarabran in New South Wales.
"I grew up around farm animals and horses and pony club," he said.
"Being in the south-west gives me space and time.
"Being in the country gives you time to think and plan things.
"I've never been so planned ahead before."
Teakle said giving up alcohol a year ago had given him the chance to take a step back to look at his life.
"I feel I'm now at a point of having a break from partying by having my year with no beer," he said.
"I'm really getting the clarity and motivation to really get all this done and take it to the next level and I'm really proud I've stayed the line of a freelance artist through the difficult years when everyone else was getting proper jobs.
"There was family and financial pressures but I never gave up."
You look at yourself and think what do I really want to do after being in the music industry with all the lights and touring? A tree change is a welcome thing in certain parts of your life and career.- Stephen Teakle
Teakle said it also gave him the opportunity to work on another project, his band Stretch and The Truth, which he said had been on the backburner for years when "Barry took over his life".
Teakle's early career saw him perform with the Warumpi Band, and he also played as a session pianist with Neil Murray and Sarah Storer.
He has worked with James Reyne, Chris Wilson and Gotye.
He has also worked in a range of jobs including as a stockman and a wool classer. The farmers in Yambuk are now teaching him how to drive a tractor.
Another connection he has to the south-west includes his work with the late Killarney musician Archie Roach and his wife Ruby Hunter, visiting remote communities in the Northern Territory and East Arnhem Land.
Looking back at his time on Spicks and Specks, Teakle said it was the first time he'd been in a television studio.
"I didn't speak but Barry speaks. Barry talks, he's a really good organ salesman, he's got the gift of the gab, it was innocent fun," he said.
"There was a beautiful moment where one of the show's captains, Myf Warhurst, was standing next to me and host Adam Hills told us to smile into the camera because it was our wedding day."
Warhurst told The Standard it was her favourite moment in the show's 17-year history.
"That was one of the funniest days on Spicks and Specks," she said.
"That smile, I adore him as Barry Morgan, but I know him as Stephen because he played in bands with my brothers (Kit and Andre), so I've known him for a few years around in Melbourne.
"He's a great fella, we were hamming it up and it was such a funny day."
The Barry Morgan character was born out of nostalgia for the immense popularity of home organs in the late 70s and 80s when the organ was a symbol of prestige in Australian, New Zealand, British and American homes.
Looking to the future, Teakle said he was interested in doing an interview show where Barry would talk to other artists and jam with them.
He will also head to Tamworth for the first time.
"I love country music," he said.
"I studied jazz piano and that's where country rock comes through for Stretch and the Truth.
"I got my passion after studying at university by going to the campfires in the Northern Territory and working with Indigenous musos in Arnhem Land and in the desert.
"Some of the Stretch and the Truth repertoire I sing in language."
The Barry Blows Thru Your Town! tour will take the organ player to:
- Dirty Angel Comedy in Warrnambool on November 3,
- Commercial Hotel Terang on November 17,
- Hamilton Performing Arts Centre on November 18 and
- Port Fairy Lecture Hall on November 19.
In the lead up to the 2023 Tamworth Country Music Festival, he will be doing a "one-off" family-friendly show at Yambuk Hall on November 20 including retro finger food.
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