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Daryl Braithwaite on millennials' obsession with 'The Horses'

That's the way it's gonna be, little darlin'. 

Daryl Braithwaite is a man needing no introduction. Starting his career fronting Sherbet – one of the most prominent bands in the Australian rock scene during the ‘70s – before parting ways with the band and launching what he refers to as “part two” of his solo career with the critically acclaimed album Edge, Braithwaite has more than earned his iconic status. Despite being 68 years old and 47 years into his career, he isn’t looking to throw in the towel anytime soon.

Last month, Braithwaite was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame, an honour for which he’s most grateful, yet speaks of in modest terms. “I’m sure no-one ever expects those things, they just pop up occasionally,” he says. “But it’s very warming to think about it. It also takes you back, it makes you reflect back to when you started and for me that was 1968-69, singing in bands and then all of a sudden going professional and bingo, that was it.”

In line with reminiscing on the many successes of his career, Braithwaite has just released his greatest hits album Days Go By, featuring classic hits such as ‘One Summer’, ‘As The Days Go By’ and ‘The Horses’.

“That was interesting because I’d forgotten some of the tunes that I’d recorded,” he says of the album. “There were some b-sides that I’d written, because I’m not a prolific writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I did get a chance to get a couple on the album that I’d written. They sound a bit daggy but at least they’re on there.”

Although he’s almost five decades into his career, Braithwaite’s enthusiasm for what he does is unwavering, his voice beaming with passion as he reflects on his accomplishments and full of excitement for all that still lies ahead – something he partially attributes to a recent health scare that could have seen it all taken away.

Braithwaite spent months in and out of hospital between the end of 2016 and the beginning of this year after his doctor discovered a tumour in his stomach. Although the mass was declared benign following its removal – along with his spleen – he suffered a series of infections and developed a hole in his stomach following the procedure.

“It gives you an awakening because sometimes you do think that you’re immortal. Especially coming from a surfing clan down here at Auburn, we always thought that none of us would die or we wouldn’t drown or anything. Later on in life, it hits you. But now I realise that you do have to, not that I don’t, but you do have to look after yourself. Things happen and there’s not much you can do about it sometimes.”

Since recovering, Braithwaite is as spritely as ever, having just kicked off an Australian tour which will see him performing alongside John Farnham and Baby Animals in 2018, as well as locking in a slot at Falls Festival. Many musicians half his age would be weary thinking about attempting his touring schedule, but as he describes the joy he feels watching his fans react to his performances, it’s evident that the stage has his heart.

“It’s instantaneous gratification and you’re there with people and it’s uncertain as well, that’s what I like about it. Every gig, and every audience, is different and it’s up to, not them, but me, whether it’s going to be a great show or it’s going to be just good. I don’t think we ever have a bad one, but it’s quite a difference between a great show and a good show.

“Sometimes we come off and we say to each other, the band, ‘Can you believe how good that was?’ and you just know, between all of us, that something clicked and I think that’s the beauty of it, it’s never a certainty.”

Braithwaite’s audience now consists largely of members who were born after his music was released, something which he finds both endearing and perplexing. His hit single ‘The Horses’ has become anthemic amongst millennials, sparking a cult-like following in the process for a new generation. 

“I look out at that audience – the young people – and they give us back, the band and myself, such a good feeling and we’re curious as to why that happened, especially for ‘The Horses’. It does bring a lot of happiness when we play it, every time, and it seems to be more now than what it ever was. It’s 26 years old but it’s comforting and it’s really nice to be in that situation. I didn’t conspire to have it that way, it’s just one of those things that’s happened. It’s strange in many ways.

“The band and I, we’ve been playing together for about 25 years and we love it and maybe it’s infectious. There has to be something there that people look for or hear and just go, ‘Yeah, that’s not bad.’”

Although Braithwaite doesn’t understand what it is about ‘The Horses’ that resonates with his younger audience so deeply. He finds the phenomenon to be cyclical – feeding off the enthusiastic energy of his fans whenever he performs.  

“Hopefully, at Falls Festival they’ll put up with us for 30 minutes before we maybe do ‘The Horses’,” he laughs. “How good’s that going to be, if they just stand there and boo for 30 minutes and then when we start ‘The Horses’ they go, ‘Yeah, here we go’. That’ll be fun. We’re all looking forward to that, let me tell you.”

Related: Every song we can't wait to hear at Falls Festival

Daryl Braithwaite will perform at Falls Festival, coming to Lorne from Thursday December 28 until Sunday December 31. He’ll also support Bryan Adams at Mt Duneed Estate on Friday January 12, and join the Red Hot Summer Tour stopping through Mornington Racecourse on Saturday March 10. Days Go By is out now.