Michael Waugh Walks Us Through His Compelling New Album ‘Beauty & Truth’

21 June 2024 | 1:25 pm | Emma Newbury

Waugh remarks about his new album, "Here I am – this is a record about being proud to be gay."

Michael Waugh

Michael Waugh (Credit: V.Cummins)

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Country star Michael Waugh has fans in high places, ranging from The Waifs frontman Josh Cunningham to country singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson. Fellow country icon Eric Bogle has described Waugh as a “gifted songwriter and insightful human being”; meanwhile, charting country artist Fanny Lumsden has stated, “his lyrics stop me in my tracks”.

While praises constantly come in for the revered country singer, it wasn’t always that way. As an openly out queer country artist who grew up in a small rural town outside of Victoria, Waugh has faced his fair share of adversities, helping to pioneer some of the steps forward in country music’s ever-expanding history.

In his most ambitious project yet, Waugh unveils his newest creation, Beauty & Truth, an 11-song album dedicated to the core memories of the singer’s experience growing up queer in a small country town.

The album is full of ticker, and Michael Waugh is prepared to walk us through every beat. Take a glimpse into the meaning behind each track below. 


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We Are Here was an ambitious writing project. I wanted to honour the gay elders who had come before me, who had made it safer for me to come out. I also wanted to position myself in that narrative – staking my claim in that lineage because I also want to be a part of a tradition that makes it safer for somebody else to be who they are meant to be.

I always saw this song as the mission statement for this album. It is kind of a personal anthem – singing about those who came before me and those who are yet to come.

‘Personal anthems’ was the brief I gave Shane Nicholson when we started working on the record. I love that he and the rest of the band (Ali Foster, James Gillard, and Ollie Thorpe) have captured this rousing, stirring feel while avoiding some of the cheesy tropes sometimes associated with anthems. I love the backing vocals that Jen Mize delivered on this track (and on Out!) – it really brought the emotional kick to the end of the song I was looking for.

Here I am – this is a record about being proud to be gay.


The thing I love about Fix Me is that it has these musical nods to the 80s. I wrote this song as a response to Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy. While it’s not in the same world as that song, I think Shane paid homage to the inspiration.

This song is a mantra for myself. I wrote it after seeing a cardboard sign held up by a queer activist: “You Can’t Fix Me. I’m Not Broken,’ the sign said. It struck a chord of hope within me, but it also reminded me of the strong message of shame and damage that I had been given as a gay child in country Victoria.

This song has the anger of someone shouting back: I got big, and I got certain that I was never really wrong. I love the passion and drive that Shane and the band captured in this track.


Beauty & Truth is the album's title track, and it took me a long time to write. At the time that I was working on it, I wasn’t able to complete it because I wasn’t ready to be completely honest with myself or the world. I was holding on to a version of myself that I thought I needed to be. It was like a suit that didn’t fit me, and I swam around in someone else’s clothes.

This is about the pain of having to be honest with someone that you love. It’s also about letting someone go with love. I don’t want to hold on to any bitterness about who I was. Nor do I want to make excuses for the mistakes that I’ve made. This is just about trying to put out into the world a message of love and healing and hope for beauty and truth.


I wrote Father’s Day a long time ago, but it still resonates and feels right sitting alongside the other songs on this record. This might be the most emotionally vulnerable I’ve been on the album. It is certainly the most painful to perform – and gut-wrenching to write.

I’ve often written about being a son, but this is the first time I’ve tried to experience the joys and pain associated with fathering. We are surrounded by so many messages about what men should be and what fathers should be like. We don’t always have the capacity to recognise what we’ve got at the time when we hold their tiny little hands – it is only, perhaps, with age and hindsight, that we recognise what we’ve lost when we no longer hold them.

The musical reference point for this song was Phosphorescent’s Song For Zula. There is such longing in that track – and those trembling guitars give voice to the pain in the lyrics.


I wrote Out on a visit to Sydney with my partner (now fiancé), TJ. This is the first track on the album where I mention him. From this point on, there is a new clear theme through the record: falling in love.

The album is dedicated to TJ, and I wrote this song because I really feel that I can let out all of the pain that I went through when I was younger – and also look to a brighter future. It feels like light breaking through the darkness when I’m with him. On that trip to Sydney, it was the end of Autumn, and we were sitting in the park close to Oxford Street. There were patches of light through the trees, and we kept following the patches of light around the park. Though, we still felt a little unsure about holding hands in the park.

You perhaps can’t be safer as a gay person than you are sitting in a park near Oxford Street, Sydney, but we both had voices from our past telling us that we shouldn’t hold hands with another man. This song is about letting those voices out so we can let them go.


Early in our relationship, TJ and I had a tradition of sending each other a morning song. These songs formed a playlist of all of the songs that reminded us of each other. Playlist is a love song about how every love song reminds you of the person you’re in love with. It’s about how you carry those songs around so you can be close to him, even when he’s far away.

Even when you feel scared that this relationship is going to test you in some way, you keep playing the songs in your headphones, as if hearing it loudly might make it feel like he is with you in that moment. I love the acoustic bass in this track. There’s something so stripped back and honest about this feeling, and James’ bass really drives that message home.


If you listen to this album on vinyl, the B side opens with Young And Dumb. I work at a school, and I wrote this song after I received an email from a naughty Year 9 student who apologised to me, claiming that one day – when he wasn’t so young and dumb – that he might be able to behave better and understand all the smart things that I had tried to teach him.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that even old teachers can feel like they’re young and dumb, like there’s still so many lessons to learn. In many ways, this song is exploring the same themes as other songs on the album. It’s all about self-doubt but also striving for a better future. Shane really captured some of the drive and child-like fun in this song – especially through the banjo. But it’s those anthemic backing vocals that make me swoon. In an album that sometimes gets pretty dark sometimes, this is an important patch of light and fun for me.


I wrote Moved early in my relationship with TJ. It chronicles the transition from inert to moving—flying by the end of the song. It’s about sex and love and the tingling excitement in the first stages of love. I love the way Shane has built this track. It starts so small and keeps building and evolving, which reminds me of the emotional territory that it tries to cover.


Songs About Women began as a tribute to the incredible writers and performers who have inspired me and who have often had to work harder than their male peers simply because of their gender. I love the production on this track. We experimented with so many ways into this song. I love that it starts with an angry, punk-like acoustic guitar. Then, when we start listing those legendary women, the track opens up and takes off.


I wrote Patsy Cline a very long time ago. Unapologetically, it’s a tribute to Patsy Cline - though the second verse is also a tribute to Tammy Wynette. Every line in the first verse is a reference to a Patsy song (and every line in the second verse references a Tammy song). Like all the best Country songs, this is a song about the sad parts of love, and it’s a story song: it’s fatally flawed because you listen to techno, and I like to listen to Patsy Cline. I love when you put on one of those old country albums, and for a moment, she is singing your truth – and making it beautiful. It was such an honour working with the Roslyns on this track. Their BVs bring to mind the great country backing vocalists like the Jordanaires.


The album closes with To Be Alive – such a stirring, irreverent way to finish an album about lofty subject matter, such as Beauty & Truth. But I wanted to close the record with a song about those beautiful, playful, funny moments with your partner – like being hungover with your partner on the couch after a big night out; on the big night out, you know you might regret it tomorrow, but if I leave now I might regret it more.

It’s funny because when we were recording this song, TJ was very hungover and came in to visit us at the studio. Talk about life mirroring art! This album covers some dark internal terrains – but at the end of the day, I’m happier, I’m in love, and I’m having fun. And, fuck, it’s good to be alive.

Beauty & Truth is out now via Compass Bros Records.