Between international tours and a busy schedule of fun projects, we somehow managed to knock on enough doors to chat with Anthony Field about his Army experience, mental health advocacy and incredible journey with The Wiggles. It doesn’t take long to realise that Anthony is incredibly humble and has a fantastic sense of humour that shines through his loveable character as the blue Wiggle.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO JOIN THE ARMY?
My life always seems to cycle around Elvis... I was watching GI Blues and thought it looked like fun, so I enlisted as a Rifleman on the 13 July 1982, then I went to Kapooka and released it was nothing like the movie! I remember the first comment from my Recruit Instructor; “you’re not smoking w**d on Bondi Beach now, Recruit Field”. I’m lucky I had a sense of humour and never took it to heart - I loved it.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF TRANSITIONING FROM THE ADF?
I transitioned from Army in1985. In those days, you only had a 3-year obligation and I was loving Army life, but I had played in a band called the “Cockroaches” before enlistment and they wanted me back.
I played the pipes and drums in parades for the Battalion and I remember a CPL Royston writing on my farewell plaque; “there’s nothing out there for you!” [laughs]. I was planning to join the NSW Police Pipe Band while playing with the ‘Cockroaches’, but it closed down just before I transitioned, so I went to study Early Childhood Education at University. It was not an easy decision for me to leave at the time - I loved every minute of life in the Army and I have fantastic memories.
WHAT SKILLS/LESSONS DID YOU LEARN IN THE MILITARY THAT YOU STILL USE REGULARLY?
I still carry my bags in my left hand so I can salute people randomly!
I also learned to play bagpipes in Army, which was a great tradition and honour in the Infantry. We played at parades and funerals. The best thing I learned was self-discipline and knowing that your actions and decisions can affect the team, which also includes working collaboratively in a group to help the team progress. My mates from 5/7 RAR have stayed in contact, which has been really meaningful for me.
The success of The Wiggles is based on showing the team how to tour well, pack light and work as a team to perform as a group. We all know how important it is to be reliable and resourceful. We have a structure a bit like the CoC, which has been so successful and our team have worked with us for 25 years because they know they will be treated well. Sometimes we have veterans working with us on tour and they have so many random skills (forklift etc) and work harder than anyone! We recently had an Army Engineer help us with one of our Wiggles projects.
As a Private Soldier in Army, I did what I was told and learned as many skills as I could. But, when I left defence, I realised that I had to think for myself, which was a big transition for a Private and I felt a bit unsure until I found my feet at University.
HOW DID YOU GO FROM ARMY TO CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINMENT?
I’ve always loved music, especially Rock n Roll! My sister suggested that I study pre-school teaching, so I became qualified and then gathered a few guys at University to join in with my kid's idea. It was a beautiful accident. There was apparently ‘no market for it’ and ABC originally said that we would be lucky to sell 500 tapes...
We then went to visit a lady in Double Bay to ask her to manage us, and she replied; ‘what am I going to do with 4 guys, a guitar and a dinosaur?’. After that, we just did it ourselves and started organically.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND AND MANAGE STRESS?
I always use music to relax and manage stress. I play tenor banjo, bagpipes, mandolin and folk instruments. I can sometimes play for 3 hours per day, and it feels like I don’t have a problem in the world.
I suffer from anxiety and depression, and there have been many times that I would have to stop the car on tour and get out. I would often curl up in a ball and I suffered really badly with panic attacks. I’m medicated now, but music helps me so much. I had PTSD from Boarding School, so certain things trigger me, and I have learned to talk about things when they start affecting me.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCACY AND YOUR BOOK “HOW I GOT MY WIGGLE BACK?”
The book was written when my mental and physical health was on track, but I started on the rollercoaster again. I feel like it’s important to remember that life is transient, and happiness and sadness can pass. I now ask myself; what can I do to help myself? I find solutions to feel better so I can manage my mental health.
WHAT IS A COMMON QUESTION THAT PEOPLE ASK YOU?
Are you going ok today, Anthony? I have a very supportive team and generations of fans who thank me and lift me up - it’s such a positive job!
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I’m inspired to be honest with myself and other people. I like seeing great people doing great things, but it doesn’t have to be a famous person. I love being Australian. I love our country and our sports. I love our military personnel who get the job done without much praise. I especially loved the Salvation Army van coming out field and giving us tea and biscuits. It was always so inspiring to me - I wanted to be them [laughs]! They don’t do it to be thanked, they are just good people.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?
I have trusted a lot of people in business who may not have had the right intentions. I like to be open and trust people, but it takes me a while to get over being betrayed.
WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE?
We have had a lot of funny moments on the road!
Paul Paddick (Captain Feathersword) is hilarious. One time, he took Greg’s microphone and substituted it for the microphone with a helium voice before we went on stage. We were in fits of laughter for a long time!
At another performance, the girl who plays Dorothy the Dinosaur was sick and my brother stepped in at short notice. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing and the head fell off, but he stayed on stage dancing around while Jeff was following him trying to put the head back on.
Not that long ago, I was buying jellybeans at David Jones when a lady mentioned that I looked just like the blue Wiggle and I probably wished I had his salary too! [laughs]. It was funny, but extremely awkward.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
From my Dad; “don’t be hard on yourself”, which is good advice for everyone. You don’t always get it right and sometimes you stuff up.
WHAT CAR DO YOU DRIVE?
I drive a big Jeep Gladiator and I love it! When I was in the Army, all the guys had Torana’s. We’d talk about fixing up the SLR 5000 to be the coolest of the Rifleman. My first girlfriend’s mum was not impressed with my Torana...
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR RECENT COVER ALBUM?
ReWiggled was released on March 11th and it’s really good to listen to. So many Aussie artists have covered The Wiggles songs, so we thought it would be fun to return the favour; Elephant, Thunderstruck, Bohemian Rhapsody. We had so much fun making it because we really challenged ourselves and it was a lot of work to get it right. We have a large adult following who has grown with us and still love The Wiggles.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE WIGGLES SONG?
My favourite Wiggles song is Rock-a-Bye Your Bear. It’s probably the first one that kids do with their parents and the audience really get into it.
WHO IS YOUR HERO?
Musically, Elvis. My Dad is my hero in life.
HOW DID IT FEEL TO WIN TRIPLE J’S HOTTEST 100 IN 2022?
It was such a great achievement for us and a very emotional moment. I don’t normally get emotional about awards, but that one really meant something to me. It’s hard to comprehend that 2.2 million Australian’s voted for us and recognised our contribution to Australian music. I had a tear and Murray was bawling his eyes out.
FAVOURITE BAND / SONG / STYLE OF MUSIC?
We always use this song before we go on stage - Cannibal by Buster Poindexter. It’s definitely an 80s party song and I love the energy it creates.
FAVOURITE PLACE IN AUSTRALIA?
Uluru, I love it - it’s so rugged and has the power to recharge your body. It’s so historical and spiritual... A place where you really feel something.
FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE TOP END?
I have always enjoyed exploring Darwin. I also love the outback and everywhere in between. It’s so different to living in Sydney. I love the mixture of cultures and being barefoot. Darwin is still so down to earth, and people can really be themselves without judgement.
A sincere thank you to Anthony Field for his time taken to chat with us and the generosity of The Wiggles to donate competition prizes for our defence community!
Interviewed by Deb Herring Committee Member The Top Ender Magazine