Country singer-songwriter Kevin Sullivan has played in Wagga Wagga plenty of times, but this weekend will be the first time with his kids, The Sulli-Vans.
Multi-generational family bands are no longer common on the Australian music scene, but Kev reckons it’s a privilege to perform at gigs across the country with the youngest three of his five children.
“It’s certainly a different dynamic touring with your own kids,” said Kev with a laugh.
“People will always make the connection and will compare us to the old Slim Dusty Travelling Family Band and Bill Chambers and the Dead Ringer Band, which is a real compliment of course.”
Kev will be performing two shows in Wagga: at The Curious Rabbit on Saturday and the Wagga RSL on Sunday along with KJ (13), Cha Cha (11), and Jet (7).
He explained that the evolution from a solo act to a family show happened almost by accident after his supporting musician pulled out on a tour of Cape York.
“My wife Belinda said, ‘You’ll be right’, and we just kept on going and our three young children just organically formed the little Sulli-Vans,” he said.
“They started doing some harmonies and then they’d sing their own songs.”
In the past three years, they have travelled more than 150,000 km across Australia in their custom-made ”Sulli-van” caravan, playing hundreds of shows in regional and remote communities and appearing on The Voice.
“Someone asked me, ‘What’s the best thing you did when you’re on tour? And I said, ‘Look, we were in Kakadu, we saw Indigenous paintings that were 20,000 years old. We swam with whale sharks in Exmouth in Western Australia and they were fantastic,” he said.
“But seriously, performing on stage with my three little kids is just a blessing every single night. And I really love it.”
While music has been a constant in Kev’s life, performing and touring took a back seat through a 27-year career in the NSW Police.
It was in the wake of a serious cycling accident and a subsequent battle with PTSD that he decided to go full time with his music.
Belinda suggested that there may have been some divine intervention nudging him into the next phase of life.
“My wife said, ‘I believe God threw you off your pushbike because you’re very stubborn and you should have always been a musician,” he recalled with a chuckle.
“And look, it really was a life-changing moment and I’m a really big believer in the fact that it’s never too late to chase your dream.
“‘I’ve gone from doing these major crime jobs and bomb technician and doing all these crazy jobs to writing songs about the places and the people and you know, it’s just been so fantastic.”
Kev said music had not only brought him healing but, by sharing his own battles with post-traumatic stress and depression, he’d been able to encourage others.
“We did a show in Bourke during COVID and an older guy came up to me at the end and he said, ‘I really enjoyed your show. I’ve been struggling and I was thinking of taking my life today’,” Kev said, explaining that a few moments of joy and music had provided a lifeline.
“I think it was just the tip of the iceberg with the mental health issues from that challenging time and I think it’s so powerful just bringing a bit of relief.”
Kev and the Sulli-Vans are planning to launch songs from his new original album, ”Three Ways”, at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, and you can get a taste of their unique brand of country music in Wagga this weekend.
They will be performing at The Curious Rabbit on Saturday and the Wagga RSL on Sunday.
You can find out more and book tickets on their website.