Craig Atkins: songs from the heart

Craig Atkins. (Supplied)

Matt Hewson

Music has been a part of songwriter and storyteller Craig Atkins’ life for as long as he can remember.

A gentleman of the road with a swag of roots, blues and folk tunes, Atkins sings stories of life, love and loss, accompanying himself with various guitars, didgeridoos, harmonica, percussion and a loop station.

Born and raised in the small Riverland town of Winkie in South Australia, some of his earliest memories revolve around the music of his family and community.

“My father played button accordion and spoons, which was always fun and entertaining as a kid,” Atkins said.

“I’ve got four older brothers and one played guitar and another one played drums. So just from an early age, it was just constantly surrounded by instruments and music.

“I remember when I was about three or four, sneaking into a brother’s room just to open his guitar case and strum the strings. And where my brother’s drum kit was set up, I’d just go and have a bash every now and again.

“From a young age, (there was) that gravity towards music. My parents both had a lot of family friends that played in bands, so I remember at weekends going out to see live music and supporting those sort of elements around the small country town.

“There’s oxygen and water, and music’s been that third constant in my life.”

After doing the band thing for some years as a young man – his first real gig was as bassist in a five-piece grunge band called Gutter Ballet – Atkins moved to Adelaide to focus on his career with the South Australian public service, including 10 years service in the Army Reserves.

That caused a hiatus from performing for a few years, but “the itch came back”. A period of session work and involvement in a series of bands (most recently alt-folk outfit The Timbers) followed, with plenty of big festival appearances around the country.

But at some point, Atkins needed to do his own thing.

“I’d been playing guitar for years and it was like, maybe I should take the songs I’ve written myself, develop those and see how I can go on my own. Get out of my comfort zone,” he said.

For more than a decade Atkins has been plying his trade around the country, living out the “romantic notion of getting paid to travel and see my country and getting to play music along the way”.

“There’s just so much out there if you put yourself into a different situation, of (thinking) this could be an interesting experience, let’s give that a shot and see how it goes,” he said.

Craig Atkins is at Pistol Pete’s on Saturday, May 11 from 9.30pm.