Sanctuary album cover

'Sanctuary' is the debut album from Magpie Diaries.

 The album is out now via Dashville.


Dashville born and bred, Magpie Diaries are currently in lock down working on their next musical release. The follow up to their acclaimed debut album 'Sanctuary' which met the world in November, 2018.

The first single on the album 'When Love Comes' was an instant classic for its upbeat rhythm, catchy minor chorus and hilarious video clip with Magpie speed dating a bunch of local dogs.  The song gained radio plays around the country, including features on Double J and rotation on ABC country.

After an extensive 32 date summer tour in support of the first single, the 5 piece band playing alongside good friend Steve Smyth and book ended by acclaimed performances at Woodford Folk festival in Qld and Nannup Festival in WA.

In March the band released they're second official single 'Honey' with another charming video, shot on location at Magpie's home of Dashville at Lower Belford. The video paints a seemingly biographical picture of how the song emerged, growing up in the heavily industrialised area of the Upper Hunter and striving towards an idealism to believe in.

 ‘ A few years back I was twenty and travelling through parts of Africa and marvelling at the simple nature of people farming, making things and surviving off the land they had come to occupy. Essentially I came home and put that philosophy into play with the creation of The Gum Ball. 

‘When I saw this old fellow, parked up with his beautiful canary yellow Datsun staionwagon selling honey, I couldn’t help but think he must have been well travelled and made some smart decsions in life. He looked happy and it got me thinking that this elderly man could hopefully be me one day.’  

Magpie Diaries embarked on 'The Honey Chapter' throughout May-July, heading back up to Brisbane and Sunny coast, before travelling through Tamworth via central QLD and into Darwin, playing both their own ticketed shows, a crazy rodeo and the revered Mindil markets. As a troupe of 6 they travelled down the Stuart via Alice Springs, into Adelaide, across to Melbourne and back home again to Dashville. Travelling over 9500kms in 18 days to gallantly complete the final leg of a massive album tour. Solidifying their commitment to the craft and no doubt establishing a growing fan base ready for more things to come.

Dealing with a heavy drought on the local scene throughout the later part of 2019, after their appearance at Dashville Skyline, no plans were made for touring.

Early in 2020, Magpie Diaries headed up to Kamilaroi country to record at Vale Studios, popping down to play a few highlight shows as part of Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Stay tuned for the new music and shows coming soon.

Thank you for supporting the music and the band.

The debut album is available for purchase through the Dashville store

Magpie Diaries is the authentic folk musings of singer-songwriter and Dashville founder Matt "Magpie" Johnston.

Alluding to an era of more simplistic notions, Magpie Diaries take flight into an abundant musical sanctuary with this 11-track debut album; a sanctuary that delivers Magpie’s story via smooth soulful folk country, with subtle flourishes of psychedelic rock 'n' roll attributed to great acts like Grateful Dead, Neil Young and Van Morrison, melded with modern influences such as Cat Power and My Morning Jacket.

Sanctuary is a journey through the past and into the future, where one can still roam with wild exuberance,  where the desire to perform is matched with the desire to escape and unravel inside the music.

Sanctuary is Magpie’s happy place.


'..beyond being a beautiful recording it’s a real genuine slice of classic Australian music, which is rare as hens teeth.  I hear a lot of stuff in there from Hunters to really obscure acts like The Apartments, and the much better side of alt country we do in this land, but it’s all digested and comes out very much your own - again very rare.' (Glen Richards, Augie March)

Sanctuary is their debut album and finds them inhabiting a sweet spot right at the nexus of country, soul and psychedelia.

There’s a warm and communal feel right across the album, its woolly and homespun vibe come off like The Band but they colour the music with some beautiful saxophone playing that combines perfectly with cosmic Americana pedal steel sounds and plenty of country twang and strum in the guitars. (Post To Wire)



MDs Sanctuary tour Poster
DASH0061 Magpie Diaries Honey Tour Poster_Added dates Round 2_A3_v2



"The monsters of the hellish day were suddenly, non-violently, given the bum's rush by a mob of brightly coloured elves whose singing and dancing and smiling was, frankly, infectious. My mind was then soothed by the far-off mating of bittersweet prairie guitars and knowing back-verandah harmonies, a saxophone soaring on the wedgetail's wing, the music propelled with carefree grace by lyrical beauty and honesty mined directly from spirits unbound. It was, as you can see, an all-time subconscious jam, detonated by one serious drink, this fluke potion with voodoo healing power.

The name for this wonder came to me in a vision... I called it Magpie Diaries."

(words by Ben Quinn)


The band title and songs centre around the unique mind of singer-songwriter and Dashville founder Matt ‘Magpie’ Johnston.

Matt committed to being a resourceful trojan hosting music festivals in his parents front yard since 2004, had somehow acquired a working pseudonym as the Magpie, due to his nature of swooping in on anything tangible that would potentially provide service to the festival site.

In the winter of 2012, after the sudden tragic passing of a close friend, Johnston began the Magpie Diaries project as a way of coming to terms with the loss. The emotional journey led him to revisit past musical escapades and written memoirs, where he pieced memories together in order to play a special solo show at his favourite pub in the world, the Junkyard.

Fast forward to July 2018, together with his wife Jessica on drums and vocals, national treasure Lyle Dennis on lead guitar, Todd Johnston on bass and special guest Cassie Bofinger on tenor saxophone, the band known as Magpie Diaries are excited about the prospects of touring the east coast of Australia throughout July and August in support of this first official release.

Another version...
Born and bred to be the Dashville man, he grew up on the same rural property where he now hosts some of the best weekend outdoor parties Australia has to offer. Generally consumed by festival creation and the “running of the project”, it was the desire to play music that started it all.
It’s been a rollicking 13 years since the first Gum Ball was held, where he first stood on stage alongside his brother Dan in their teenage rock n blues outfit Johnny Real & The Lovemakers. Over the years, just as the audiences have grown, so has Magpie and his musical vocation. Through development within the all-star band the Dashville Progress Society, his brotherhood with Baghead and his beautiful drumming wife Jessica, he is slowly but surely working his way towards sharing a collection of personal music that tells his story within this crazy world. Originally Magpie Diaries was a performance concept where Magpie set out to compile and perform all his random writings amongst various books and scrap paper, from time spent travelling, under the influence or in solitary confinement in the back shack at Belford as a teenager. The songs are old soul, unique and somewhat timeless, some are new, some are about 18 years old. One thing is for sure though, a catalogue of music has begun that will appeal to anyone who enjoys laid back music from the heart.


Magpie Diaries

MEDIA - Images & Content

Visit here for high res and low res images, bio etc of the artist.

MEDIA - Dashville's story

Dashville was created by Magpie when he started The Gum Ball back in 2005, this is a story he wrote about that journey.