Author Guest Posts

A Story with a Soundtrack. Check out Renae Black’s Playlist for Red Dirt Home


A Story with a Soundtrack. Check out Renae Black’s Playlist for Red Dirt Home

Music is a huge part of my life, especially my writing life. I did a year of piano lessons in grade three, and played the saxophone from primary school to my senior year. I sang in choirs as soon as I figured out what they were and performed in many music nights, talent shows and school musicals. Yes, I even went to band camp – not the American Pie version. One of my closest friends and I performed in community events as a country singing duo and our senior music group did a really fun rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which may or may not still be on YouTube.

When it came to writing, of course music would play a part.

Part of my writing process is to create a playlist for each story as it comes to my mind. The songs that go on the list either add to the general vibe of the story or are chosen for a specific scene. There’s nothing like that ahh moment when a song comes on that perfectly captures the feeling I’m trying to convey on the page. It’s a soundtrack to the story, one I listen to on repeat any chance I get – in the car, while folding washing or going for a walk, until the first draft is done. The same songs. Does it drive my family crazy? Maybe a little bit.

Red Dirt Home was no different, and on the very last page you’ll see a list of songs. These are some of the songs that make up the Red Dirt Home Playlist.

And yes, they’re all country songs. Not only because it’s a rural romance book, but because I really believe in the power of storytelling through country music. I mean, everyone knows that Jolene could’ve taken that man if she wanted to and it’s no secret where Steve Earl ended up. We know why Carrie Underwood asked Jesus to take the wheel and we all wanted to kiss somebody the way Morgan Evans did. Country music allows listeners to connect with songs on a personal level in the same way they do with books.

If there was one song that could sum up Red Dirt Home it would be the first song on the playlist, ‘Fire’ by Lady A. In my book, Paige is living her best life until a horrific act of betrayal by someone she trusts leaves her broken, unemployed and homeless. She walks through fire and has to learn to embrace it to find her true strength and be able to trust again.

‘Steer’ by Missy Higgins is another song that speaks to the vibe of the book. It may not be a new song, but in my opinion it’s a classic Australian country song. I dare you to listen to it and not imagine the open space of the outback.

Casey Barnes is an Australian country singer, winner of the Toyota Album of the Year at the 2023 Golden Guitar Awards. Whenever I hear a Casey Barnes song, it makes me think of Jackson. ‘Sparks Fly’ perfectly illustrates the picture of Jackson I had in mind when I first started drafting Red Dirt Home. The song’s energetic, easy to dance to and talks about an effortless hook-up by a guy who knows what he’s doing. A song that’s not in the list in the back of the book but that you will find on the Spotify playlist is another of Casey’s called ‘Get to Know Ya’. I love the acoustic version. When I listen to those songs in that order, I can feel the growth of Jackson as a person and his affection for Paige.

And what song would be playing when the end credits roll if Red Dirt Home was a movie? For this story, it has to be ‘Home’ by Kaylee Bell. It evokes a deep  sense of what home is really about – a place, the people, where you belong – and the perfect summary of Paige and Jackson’s journeys through the pages.

There are also songs on this playlist that speak to specific scenes in Red Dirt Home. In the spirit of not giving spoilers in this article, I want to hear from you as to which moment you think they belong to:

‘Pick Me Up’ – Gabby Barrett

‘Knocking Boots’ – Luke Bryan

‘Love is a Cowboy’ – Kelsea Ballerini

‘Everything Changes’ – Morgan Evans

You can reach out to me by commenting below or finding my on Instagram @renae_black_writes


Renae Black lives in Queensland with her husband and two young bookworms. By day she works as a social worker within the child protection industry. By night, she escapes to the romantic fictional realms of rural Australia that transport her back to her childhood home, a large property that bred cattle and hosted the odd ostrich sale.

Don’t miss Red Dirt Home!

To move forward, she’ll have to face the past.

Paige Bennett is fulfilling her childhood dream of working and living on the land as a station hand on Whitetail Ridge. Getting her hands dirty, riding horses, working with cattle and kicking up red dust. Life can’t get much better. Or so she thinks, until a devastating act of violent betrayal leaves her unemployed, homeless and broken.

A fight with his father drove Jackson Brady off Karilga, his family’s cattle station in the Queensland outback. Now he’s made a life for himself away from the land, joining a band and settling into the city. When the girl he’s always had his eye on shows up with news from back home, he’s faced with a difficult choice: go home where he’s needed or stay where he’s wanted.

Winding up on Karilga Station, Paige is a shadow of the person she once was. Desperate to forget what happened to her, she considers leaving her beloved channel country. But things aren’t so easily forgotten in the outback. When fate gives her no option but to trust again, will she find love as well? Or at least a safe place to land?

Jackson knows he’s never been more to Paige than a country larrikin who only takes the beer at the end of the day seriously – a sentiment closely echoed by his father. Can Jackson prove himself to his father and become the man Paige needs him to be? Or will it all crumble in the red dirt of the outback?

A heartfelt, deeply emotional story about finding home, facing the past and falling in love, from a captivating new voice in rural romance.

Out now

Must reads