Billy Bragg will bring his "lovely band of English musicians" to Canberra.

Billy Bragg will bring his "lovely band of English musicians" to Canberra.

It was just a day after folk music legend Pete Seeger died, aged 94, when British punk rocker turned folk hero Billy Bragg got on the phone to chat about his latest tour Down Under.

It was a poignant moment for Bragg, who knew Seeger and who regarded him as "the real deal".

Seeger was one of the first to get behind Bragg's 1998 Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue, which married previously unknown Guthrie lyrics with music written by Bragg and American band Wilco.

It began as an idea of Guthrie's daughter Nora and the album was a huge success, especially in Australia.

And one of the project's loudest cheerleaders was now gone.

"Pete was a real great supporter of the Mermaid Avenue project," Bragg says while reflecting on Seeger's death.

"When Nora Guthrie first suggested bringing in some outsiders to look at Woody's lyrics, there was a little bit of - well I wouldn't say anger, but there was a question mark about how it would work.

"The first time I began playing the songs was at an event in Cleveland when Woody Guthrie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Pete was there at the gig, as always, and he was very, very supportive.

"He was one of the guys who believed that music was more than just singing songs. It was about social conscience too. For me he was the connection to all those guys who did that kind of stuff before, like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly.

"I never got to meet those guys, but I got to meet Pete and he was my very real connection to all of that.

"And it was a strong connection. When you shook his hand, you were one handshake away from Woody Guthrie."

Bragg's latest album Tooth & Nail is, he insists, reconnecting with the vibe and sentiment of his tribute to Guthrie.

"It's been very well received and is an album I'm really, really pleased with and it was a pleasure to make," he says.

Bragg is touring the album in Australia throughout March. He was here briefly last year for a gig at Brisbane's Bigsound festival and a showcase in Sydney.

Before that, it was the year before when Bragg toured Australia solo.

This time he is bringing a band to fire up a mix of his greatest hits and the latest album.

"I made a conscious effort with Tooth & Nail to reconnect with Mermaid Avenue. I've returned to that sensitivity."

Bragg sometimes calls Australia home and believes he has a stronger connection here than most places in the world.

"It's not just the language and the culture, because America has that as well and so does New Zealand," he says.

"But I think there is something about the kind of music that I make, the kind of politics that it addresses, that resonates very strongly in Australia. The Australian audiences are really supportive of what I do, which is why I came back so soon."


With: Courtney Barnett
When: March 19
Where: Canberra Theatre
$85.85+bf from