10 May 2023

Big Pups a big fan of Cape York

| Samuel Davis
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In the past 12 months Big Pups, aka Pere Paul, has performed in almost every remote community across Cape York.

JUST like his cooking, Big Pups’ music has a little kick to it.

“I was never trained but I always tried to hang around good musos and learn from them,” the country crooner, whose real name is Pere Paul, said.

The former Sea Swift chef spent a decade serving meals on boats, with a slice of singing on the side.

Smuggling his guitar aboard the Trinity Bay, the country crooner would step out of the galley between meals to serenade travellers with his warm baritone.

“I started four years ago and I only knew three chords and two songs,” he said laughing.

“I’d play Stand By Me and Wonderful Tonight.”

Peppered with country-fried guitar licks and honey drizzled vocals, Big Pups’ renditions quickly earned him a following.

“The passengers on the vessel were kind of like guinea pigs,” he said.

“But I was getting a good response even when I started playing my own songs.

“So I thought, ‘Let’s give it a crack’.”

Last year Big Pups took his performances beyond the diner’s lounge and became a full-time musician.

His first paid gig was probably his most intimidating performance to date.

“That was at Irish Molly’s in Charters Towers on New Year’s Eve,” he said.

“It’s the biggest night of the year. The owner said, ‘You’re either going to sink or swim’.

“I was scared at first but it just kicked on from there and hasn’t really stopped since.”

With wife-turned-promoter Ellen riding shotgun, Big Pups hit the road touring across Cape York, the Torres Strait and Gulf.

“We’ve been everywhere,” Ellen said.

“In Wujal Wujal, we showed up on a Sunday night not long after there had been sorry business in the community. They didn’t think they’d get many people there.

“Nobody knew him but it was so good. People came as a family and it felt like it was a reprieve to have some music and joy in the community.”

And while the cover songs get the crowds dancing, Big Pups’ originals often deal with sensitive subject matter.

“I wrote a song a few years ago after a friend of mine committed suicide,” he said.

“It’s called Pieces and when I drive around to communities I always play the song and tell the story behind it.

“The reason I do it is because as men, we have to get rid of this stigma about being too tough.

“This whole idea that ‘you’re a man so you can’t cry’ has to go.

“Blokes and even women will come up to me after the song and cry, or tell me they’ve lost a niece or a daughter. One community I visited said they’d had four suicides recently and 12 attempts.

“That’s crazy. It’s so isolated up there. So I always say, if you can’t talk to family or friends, talk to someone.”

This month Big Pups will play his first festival gig at Savannah in the Round in Mareeba.

“We were at Three Rivers when we found out we were on the bill,” Ellen said.

“We didn’t know if we should laugh or cry, so we did both.”

Then in October, Big Pups heads south for a four-month tour.

But as soon as they’re back, another tour of the Cape beckons.

“We’ll be doing a workshop in Pormpuraaw early next year. We don’t mind camping and our dog comes with us. Exploring the Cape has been a great experience.”

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