In 2016 Josh Philpot & Kendall Smith made the decision to form their Duo JoKeria, Josh Kendall Roebourne Independent Artists, after previously playing in the same cover band together. They both call Roebourne their hometown, known as Yirramagardu in the local language on the land of the Ngarluma people, it is located in the remote Pilbara region of North Western Australia. Josh was originally from Melbourne in Victoria but moved to Roebourne when he was 11 years old while Kendall was born in Wickham, a neighbouring Iron Ore Port town and was raised in Mingullatharndo Aboriginal Community, located 5 miles east of Roebourne. They both started playing instruments at a young age, their parents went to the same church, they attended the same high school and have both worked in the surrounding mining industry. Out here country music is life and with two albums released and a third one announced to come out this year,
here’s a look at JoKeria’s journey so far… They got their first break when Alan Pigram, of The Pigram Brothers, agreed to record and produce their debut album, Back No More, at his studio in Broome WA, after hearing a demo they had put together of songs written over the years. One of the songs, Stockman Renown, is the first country song Kendall ever wrote at aged 13, a dedication to the life of his Uncle who lost his battle with cancer. Culture Child, another song from the album, was a finalist at the 2017 WAM Song Of The Year Awards in the Outstanding Indigenous category. Grammy award winning pedal steel guitarist, Lucky Oceans, had played on 4 of the tracks which he then passed on to Australian country music legend, Bill Chambers saying, ‘I worked with these boys out here in the west and they are playing a brand of country music you might want to hear’.
They were contacted by Bill who really liked the music, and asked if they would be interested in coming to the 2018 Tamworth Country Music Festival to perform a couple of songs at his annual show at The Pub. Not wanting to miss such a humbling experience JoKeria packed into a 12 seat Toyota rental van and drove the 5000 kms to Tamworth in New South Wales.
Not long after, Bill offered the boys the opportunity to go to Sydney in 2019 to record and so with Bill Chambers on production duties, mastering by Jeff McCormack and music by some of Australian country music’s best session musicians, Duncan Toombs, Glen Hannah & Paul Novosel, their sophomore album, Red Country, was born and released in June 2019. Thanks to the success of the album that year they were finalists in 3 categories, Best Album, Best Male Vocalist and Best Band/Group, at the 2019 WA NAIDOC Music Awards. Again, they were also finalists in the Outstanding Indigenous category at the 2020 WAM Song Of The Year Awards for the song, Ballad Of Uncle Thomas.
Finally feeling the hard work was starting to pay off Covid-19 came and brought the world to a standstill. Lockdown meant no album release tour, no more live shows and like most artists they found it to be a difficult period contemplating multiple times whether to keep going or not, fortunately they decided to stick at it and began to look to the future writing and recording new demos.
Fast forward to the present and they have again teamed up with Bill Chambers and Lucky Oceans to record 11 new songs for their upcoming third album at Crank Recording in Perth with seasoned engineer Lee Buddle, which has also seen the boys taking on their first co-producing responsibilities. Starting the year with a bang at the Boyup Brook Country Music Festival where they performed for the first time and were a finalist for Country Duo/Group of the Year in the 2023 West Australian Country Music Awards, 2023 is shaping up to be a defining year for JoKeria with new music on the way and getting back to touring, it’s not hard to see that the duo have only one way to go: Up.