Jarrod Witherow is a young man with a big country heart that beats for its music, people – and his beloved ute. If Jarrod Witherow had to choose between his ute and a girl he would be hard-pressed. In fact he has already been in that predicament – and the ute won.
words sally o’neill photos warren reed
The 3MFM radio personality lives and breathes country. As presenter of ‘This Great Country’ each Saturday, the twenty-two-year-old adds his own stamp to the popular show pioneered by Natalie Lee and co-hosted by Peter Steele.
“I’m the complete opposite of most presenters,” Jarrod admits. “I do organise my music before the show, but when it comes to what I say, I do it on the run. Hopefully I get away with it!” He describes his winning formula as a “mixed bag”, playing older classics through to new releases to keep his broad demographic happy.
Introduced to the community radio station by his grandfather, George, a veteran presenter of over 20 years, it didn’t take Jarrod long to learn the ropes when offered a spot of his own. “When you first walk into a studio, it looks like the cockpit of a Boeing 747,” says Jarrod, but he actually found learning to use the equipment pretty straightforward. It was when he heard his voice played back and thought about the audience that he felt daunted.
“There could be one person or two hundred thousand people listening, but you just have to put that out of your mind. And we don’t have a delay set-up, whereas Melbourne stations have a five- to eight-second delay. Whatever we say will be live in point five of a second. Mistakes are ok, but if someone lets out an expletive, you’re gone. There’s no safety net,” he laughs. Luckily this hasn’t happened so far.
Jarrod takes it all in his laid-back style. “One day you can have a great show; other days you get names wrong and CDs are scratched and jumpy – you feel like banging your head against the wall. But our catchphrase is ‘That’s the joy of live radio’. We’re not celebrities; we’re just real people doing the job because we love it.”
His inherited passion for country music is paternal. As he was growing up in Koonwarra, Jarrod recalls his dad David playing Alan Jackson and Lee Kernaghan out in the shed. “That’s where it began. He’s a diehard country fan, but I think even he’s a bit surprised at how far I’ve taken the whole concept.”
Jarrod has embraced the country lifestyle wholeheartedly. You won’t find him at clubs and raves – he’d rather be out camping, or at ute shows, B&S balls, and rodeos. “It’s all about the people. I’ve been the to Deni Muster for the past four years. You meet the most wicked people you can imagine. I now have mates all over Australia.” He appreciates the laid-back atmosphere at country events. “You see reports of people knocking the shit out of each other at pubs and clubs on the news every night. I like country events because they’re relaxed and everyone gets along with everyone.”
His gig as radio host has led him to the country’s biggest festivals, and given him the chance to meet and interview some of Australia’s biggest country music names, including Lee Kernaghan, Adam Harvey, the Sunny Cowgirls and Troy Cassar Daley. He’s also talked his way into more than one after-party – which he describes as “money can’t buy” experiences.
Struggling to name his dream radio guest, he finally settles on country singer Alan Jackson. “My old man bought me up listening to him – Dad has every album he ever made. He seems so down to earth. He’s not into being in the limelight.”
The dedication to country music is obvious, but mention ‘The Ute’ and it’s pure love. “Ahh… me ute,” he laughs, talking of his five- year relationship with a Holden VS. It was his first car and, inspired by what he saw at a ute show in Korumburra, he has totally transformed it ‘B&S Style’ – with big bull bars, side girth, mud flaps, lights, the lot. “She lights up like Luna Park,” he says proudly. “I used to get into trouble at school because during study periods I’d be out polishing and putting Armor All on her!” He got an ‘award’ for caring more about his car than his education.
‘The Ute’ is officially more famous than her owner, with celebrity appearances in movies, TV shows like ‘Winners and Losers’, the ‘Feed Downunder 2016 Nude Charity Calendar’ and more. “I’ve done every ute show in Victoria, and everyone in the country scene knows her. They told me that because I loved her so much, I should marry her, so I did – on Facebook, and it snowballed from there.”
For the time being Jarrod is happy with his big country life that includes finishing a painting and decorating apprenticeship, relief driving for a local trucking firm, running his own small business with a mate installing lighting and accessories on trucks and utes, hosting the weekly radio show, and touring the country visiting ute shows and music festivals.
Now content walking his own country path, he does admits it was hard at school when he was listening to different music from everyone else. “I still wore the Billabong clothing and all that, but eventually you have to draw a line on the sand and say: ‘I’m not doing this anymore: I’m just going to be who I am’. Getting the ute was a turning point. I rolled into school and it turned heads. People still snap their necks when I drive through the street in the Gatha. I still even cop it at work every now and again. But this is me: this is who I am and I’m not going to change because it doesn’t go with the flow.
“You just have to enjoy life and be happy. I have a lot of friends who get a bit down, and they wonder why I’m so happy. I’ve got a nice car, family, friends, a job – and I’m very lucky also to have a girlfriend at the moment. What more do you need?
So Jarrod will keep rolling on, cruising the highway of life in his beloved ute with his favourite song, Lee Kernaghan’s ‘She’s My Ute’, cranked up to the max.
“Well I had a girl but she laid down the law
She said you can’t keep that dirty old Ute any more
There comes a point when a man’s gotta choose
Well I told her straight
I’ll stick with my mate
She’s been gone a year
But the Ute’s still here.”
‘This Great Country’ can be heard on 3MFM each Saturday between 10am and 1pm