This bloke from Condobolin doesn't want to discuss his bad back. It's as though the serious ailment he's been dealing with for more than 18 months is something he'd rather forget, only because there are tougher things people deal with in the world. He takes it in his stride, and it's not long into the interview I realise Shannon Noll is still that straight-talking Aussie bloke this country fell in love with on 2003's Australian Idol.
He's a star of the pub variety and his honest-to-god rock songs speak directly from the heart.
But seriously, how is the back following the recent withdrawal from Dancing with the Stars?
''Yeah it is a little bit slow, I think back operations usually are,'' Shannon says in an unassuming manner. ''It is just a matter of trying to rest and keep a little bit active as well but I have been doing a bit of rehearsals at home like singing and playing guitar, and singing is no problem so it is heading in the right direction. It'll be just a matter of taking it easy and not jumping around like a rabbit.''
Shannon Noll may need to tone down his dance manoeuvres given it's only a couple of weeks until he embarks on his biggest tour in four years to promote his latest album A Million Suns - which is a lot more likely to get your feet shuffling than some of his previous works.
''I intentionally tried to write this album tailored to the live show,'' Noll says. ''Because we do so much touring, you know, and up-tempo is sort of the hardest style of song to write - I don't know why but it is really hard to write and anyone who writes songs will tell you that. And so we tried to make some really good-quality up-tempo songs so we could put in a live set and people could really let their hair down a bit and bust a move if you know what I mean?''
I knew what he meant; but before I could respond Noll laughs. ''You know get a bit of rhythm going and dance around the floor a bit as a lot of the previous mid-tempo stuff had that mid-tempo timing and it's a little difficult to get a free-flowing move going so you'd just sit there and bob you head a bit … it's a bit more vibrant than sitting there and watching.''
With a swag of breakthrough hits - possibly more than any future singer will rack up for some time - Shannon Noll is the only Aussie artist in Australian chart history to have 10 consecutive top-10 singles. (That's not to mention his regular albums also drop into the top 10 of the ARIA charts) This isn't bad for a family man who was devoted to working on other farms and properties shearing sheep until Noll and his brothers formed a band. His brothers were so appreciative of his musical talents they encouraged Noll to travel to Melbourne to audition for the 2003 debut season of Australian Idol. Since then he hasn't looked back, recognising things have changed since Idol.
''It was a bit of deer in the headlights at the start that's for sure,'' Noll says. ''But I've learnt so much over the nine years about the industry and about my own voice and everything to do with the business side of things … now it is a lot more about the business and trying to put the best product out there and also put the best quality show we can put out there as well with musicians and songs and that as well. You know, it is more focussed on the professional side of things now.''
Noll is also a tireless charity worker. Whether busking in the streets in some of Australia's busiest shopping areas as part of the Optus Celebrity Carols initiative or working with Mission Australia to give students a behind-the-scenes look into the music industry. ''Giving back'' is really important to him.
''I think it is really good to be able to do something and give a little bit back instead of just writing a cheque or something like that,'' Noll says. ''Time is a much more precious thing in my opinion so to be able to get out there and give a bit of your time here and there and lend your voice and profile to something that mightn't get as much publicity as it should I think it is a great way to get awareness of different sort of charities and the great work that they do.
''I think it gives you a felling of self-satisfaction that you have helped in some way as well and I think that sort of levels the scales a little bit along the way and once you see some people who have been helped by these charities, it is very humbling as well and I think it all puts it into perspective a little.''
WHEN: Saturday, July 21
WHERE: Canberra Southern Cross Club
TICKETS: $37.95 from 6283 7288 or www.cscc.com.au or foxtix.com.au
■ Sean Palmer is a Canberra writer and a severe tunes enthusiast.