The multi-award-winning family band Haystack Mountain Hermits are Kerrie Gambley, Dave, Jackson, Marcus, Lachlan and Ella Church. Their new song, ‘The Horses Stay Behind (One Last Ride)’ is an Australian soldier’s tale of his days during WW1 with his horse Ebenezer, and their last ride together after the orders came that the horses would stay behind.
With great-grandfather Tom enlisted in the Australian Light Horse 2nd Brigade, grandfather Tam in the New Zealand Army Medical Corps, and both of them serving at Gallipoli; the family was perhaps destined to write and record an ANZAC ballad.
Mum Hermit Kerrie Gambley spoke about the origins of the song:
We have a very personal connection to this tale. There are biographical elements to it, but the story is too big to remain truly biographical. I tried to capture the moment in history when the men learned, after the war had finished, that they would not be returning home with their beloved, brave companions who had been with them through unimaginable horror.
I had started writing more songs during the COVID lockdown (I’ve no idea why, I was still going to work every day, studying and busier than ever), and one day in August I had a message from a relative. Out of the blue, she relayed that my great-grandfather had spoken about his horse on his deathbed – saying that leaving him was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do in his life.
I had always known that of the many thousands of horses who went overseas, only one horse returned from WW1. Suddenly, that tragic statistic became intensely personal. I didn’t set out to write an ANZAC song – what sane songwriter would, with so many iconic songs already written? I just started writing my thoughts – it was a private, contemplative tribute to my great-grandfather.
I shared it with the family, who were encouraging, but thought Ebenezer was a terrible choice of name for the horse! Once they realised it was their great-great grandfather’s horse’s name, they were ready to saddle up for the project! Then we won an Arts Grant to record and produce the song, so I had to finish it! Other than that, it might be still sitting in my notebook with many others.
Arts Qld/RADF Grant:
Kerrie designed the application to support as many local arts people as she could, to assist in their recovery from pandemic-induced losses. As a band who lost many festival bookings last year, the Hermits knew all about that! So they employed predominantly locals in the project. The very talented sound engineer, Tom Hawker, Long Road Studios, recorded, engineered and mixed the tracks. They recorded in a local studio – Taramalin Sound and engaged local photographer Kate Wall, The Light Chaser, as well as Heather Dale, Patchwork Dog, for the graphic art. Now they are working with Elijah Cavanagh, Cavanagh Films, to produce their art piece film clip, which will be a visual memorial to those men and horses. They are also producing a limited number of commemorative vinyl singles, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Tamborine Mountain RSL Sub-branch.
Kerrie said: With the support of the Australian Light Horse Association, we are filming a clip over the next month to be released in time for ANZAC Day, COVID gods willing!
You can purchase the song (through iTunes, Bandcamp) or presave here https://gyro.lnk.to/TheHorsesStayBehindOneLastRide to stream from Spotify, Apple Music etc on the 25th March. The song is also released to Australian radio through AMRAP.
‘The Horses Stay Behind (One Last Ride)’ is a family story, but a National story as well. It’s a tale of heroes and horses. Haystack Mountain Hermits have been honoured with support from the Australian Light Horse Association as they tell the tragic tale of the horses left behind at the end of WW1.
The song has been produced with the support of an Arts Queensland Grant through the Scenic Rim Regional Council Regional Arts Development Fund. The band is currently organising a commemorative event to honour the men and horses of the Australian Light Horse, which will become an art film memorial piece to accompany their song.
The family hit the A1 National Highway ten years ago on a 7 month long busking tour of Australia, with the kids learning to play their instruments in the back of the van as they travelled. The Hermits haven’t stopped travelling, busking or performing since then. They’ve been Australian National Busking Champions and Tamworth Country Music Festival Busking Champions, amongst other things.
Between them they play guitar, mandolin, double bass, accordion, washboard, ukulele, banjo, dobro, snare drum, harmonica, kazoo, xaphoon … and more! The family showcases fine musicianship, original and traditional songs and 4-6 part family harmony. They are fast becoming popular on the Festival circuit, having performed at many festivals, including the opening and closing Tamworth concerts, Groundwater and Woodford Folk Festival.
The Horses Stay Behind (One Last Ride) – streaming from March 25 with digital distribution by GYROstream.