Charlie Owen on Tex, Don and Charlie and their new album 12 years in the making

It was in 1993 when Tex Perkins, Don Walker and Charlie Owen first banded together to make some sensationally-sad country music on an album now widely considered an Australian classic, Sad But True. It would take another 12 years for a sequel to surface in the form of the equally-beautiful LP All is Forgiven.

You might already be doing the maths in your head, and yes – it's been 12 years since that very record. Like clockwork, the third LP from Tex, Don and Charlie has arrived. It's entitled You Don't Know Lonely, and it's unsurprisingly a hat-trick from the impeccable trio. What may be more surprising, however, is the fact that we were actually supposed to hear this album sooner.
“It honestly wasn't supposed to take another 12 years,” says Owen, who provides dobro, pedal steel, guitars and vocals to the group. “We started writing and putting this record together years ago. It was just one of those things where it was held up by life getting in the way.
“We lost our good friend Shane Walsh – a brilliant double-bass player and one of the great Melbourne personalities. He was integral to Tex, Don and Charlie – and when he passed away in 2014, we were already sharing songs around. That all came to a halt – it was really hard to start again in the wake of his passing. He was a great friend to us all, and a great part of our collective.”
Eventually, the trio were able to reconvene and complete the writing of You Don't Know Lonely, partially in tribute to their fallen friend. Owen believes the experience was able to give the three of them a sense of perspective; and allowed the songs to come together more organically. “At the end of the day, we've made a record that I really, really like,” he says. “It's got its own personality, much like the two records before it. Maybe it was supposed to be 12 years, after all. All good things come to those who wait, I believe is the phrase.”
With the DNA of acts like The Cruel Sea, Cold Chisel, Beasts of Bourbon and Paul Kelly floating around the Tex, Don and Charlie Venn diagram, it's worth noting that a lot of very diverse music has come from each individual's collective body of work. When the three songwriters come together, however, there's a real sense of unity – their styles tessellate, their voices complement one another and each of their three albums has a through line that makes it identifiably theirs.
When queried on what defines their working relationship, Owen muses that it's not really anything to do with a combined love of country music. “I actually think it's our differences that make the whole thing work,” he offers.
“We're all very different people. When Don plays one of our songs, it sounds really different. It's the same when Tex does one, or if Tex and I do one together. When it's all three of us, though, that'swhat makes it sound how it does. When we made Sad But True, we weren't trying to be like anyone or sound like anything in particular. Americana wasn't really the thing that it is now. That whole urban-country, alt-country thing hadn't really hit. As we moved forward, rather than being influenced by the rise in those musical trends, we were more inspired and influenced by what the three of us sounded like. We felt like we had something unique.”
With the album out, the threesome are set to hit the road for the first time in over a decade together. Bringing together a full live band, they'll be performing selected highlights from all three albums in both regional areas and capital cities across the country. “I think the only place we're not visiting on this run is Tasmania,” says Owen. “That's a bit of a shame, but hopefully we'll get down there before we put this record to bed.” After that? Who's to say? Expect a fourth album in 2029, perhaps? Owen laughs, “We might have to be a bit quicker next time if we want to do another one.”

Tex, Don and Charlie will play the Thornbury Theatre on Tuesday August 29 and Wednesday August 30 and Memo Music Hall on Thursday August 31 and Saturday September 2. You Don't Know Lonely is out now.