Keely Johnson

Keely Johnson – The Man In The Hat

There would be few in the country music industry who are not aware of Burdekin-based Keely Johnson. The inspirational teenager has already earned a name for herself both from her previous #1 hit on the country charts – a duet with Lee Kernaghan titled Turn This To Gold in 2014 – to her enduring charity work. Now, this multi-talented humanitarian is bottling her passion into her debut solo single, an ode to the man who has inspired her throughout the bad times, Lee Kernaghan, aptly titled The Man In The Hat. The single will not only pay homage to her musical hero, but also go further to help her achieve her goal of helping out children struggling with cancer.

Diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of cancer herself, the now 17-year-old hasn’t grown since she was 10-years-old, but rather than give up, her diagnosis and ongoing battle has made Keely even more determined to help others. Forming the charity the Golden Octopus Foundation, she now plans to raise $1million in funds by the end of 2016 and her musical offering is just the beginning. As Australia headed into Easter, Channel 9’s Inside Story dedicated their last episode for the series to Keely, giving this amazing youngster a national platform to share her story and her desire to help others. Releasing The Man In The Hat is something that Keely hopes can show other children and adults who are doing it tough that anything can be achieved if you keep trying. Additionally, she hopes it shines awareness on the important work she is doing for her foundation.”

“This song is my pride and joy because it is written about a truly wonderful person that helps so many people,” says Keely. “It was my way of saying thank you to him for helping me and I would love the world to hear it. I was having my 12-months of chemo in Brisbane when I wrote the song. I wrote the lines of his life story down and mum helped me rhyme it a bit. When I took it to my producer, Brendan Radford, he added a few lines and put the music to it. Brendan knows him [Lee] very well so he could tell me a few secrets. Some days I was pretty crook and tired, but I needed to get it done before we left to come home so that we didn’t need to find the airfares to get back to Brendan and record it.”

Keely and Lee Kernaghan have a long friendship, one that has seen the philanthropist join him on stage at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. “Lee Kernaghan has been my hero for my whole life,” says Keely. “Not just because of his music, but I also used to hear about all the people he has helped. I love country music and I love to help people too, so we are sort of alike, but he is famous and I am not. We became best friends after I met him through Make A Wish and we sang Turn This To Gold together, and I couldn’t think of a better role model or an Ambassador for my charity. I also wanted the world to know that he helps everyone from the kids to returned soldiers, to farmers in drought.”

Following in her hero’s footsteps, with a goal of raising $1million by the end of the year through her Golden Octopus Foundation, Keely hopes specifically to help children diagnosed with cancer in regional areas. “Our foundations main objective is to upgrade paediatric oncology services in regional hospitals and implement childhood cancer nurses across Australia so kids don’t have to travel so far away from their homes for treatment and check-ups,” she says. “I was in Brisbane for 12-months and many kids from country areas are the same, and with Lee Kernaghan as our ambassador, he is always thinking of people in regional areas. I plan to work from one regional hospital to another upgrading facilities, so kids can be seen at a closer hospital to their home. Kids need that, and the parents need it more, as they are going through the worst time of their lives and don’t need added stress of renting, or staying at small accommodation away from everyone else. I’m going to work right across Australia.”

While Keely will be using The Man In The Hat to raise the profile of the foundation, she also hopes any income from the single will assist in her own, extremely expensive, ongoing cancer treatment. But mainly, she hopes that it provides a level of hope for other children diagnosed with cancer, that against all odds, you can tough it out and follow your dreams.

“My advice to anyone about giving up is to forget what happened yesterday, look forward to tomorrow, because we never know what is ahead for us, so don’t waste time,” says Keely. “If things are tough, just look around you and there will always be someone out there doing it tougher. Reach out to your neighbour and lend a hand because that is what being an Aussie is all about. My saying for the kids is ‘let’s go gold bright and bold so our kids will all grow old’.”

Check out the video of The Man In The Hat at For more information on the Golden Octopus Foundation and to donate, please visit

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