Home' LOTL : January 2005 Contents COVERSTORY13
This year's Tamworth Country Music Festival features an
unprecedented pool of Australian country music talent --
including our cover girl Melinda Schneider, and Kasey
Chambers, slugging it out for Female Vocalist of the Year and
Album of the Year in the Toyota Golden Guitar Awards.
Chambers may be a household name, but Melinda
Schneider, who took home the Golden Guitar for Female
Vocalist of the Year in 2003, will take on Chambers with her
song "Real People". Schneider is also nominated for Video
Clip of the Year with "I Wanna Be Married" and her album
Family Tree is also up for Top Selling Album of the Year. Both
ladies hold a record 6 nominations each.
Melinda Schneider has been attending Tamworth since she
was eight years old. She's seen it grow from humble beginnings
to the star-studded occasion it now is. Melinda has been around
country music all her life. As she sings in one of her songs, "I
was born in '71 to a policeman dad and a yodelling mum" --
that's famous Australian yodeller Mary Schneider. There was
some expectation that Melinda, who started performing at the
tender age of three, would follow in her mum's footsteps.
"When I was 8 years old there was some pressure to be a
yodelling star. I developed a phobia about it because I knew I
had to find my own voice. So I rebelled a bit in my late teens
and went into fashion, and created my own label. I was slaving
over a hot sewing machine for three years but singing at the top
of my voice to the American top 40. I knew I really wanted to
sing, so I did a full circle and came back to music."
And her musical success has been steadily building. July
1999, Melinda's first single "Love's Out to Get Me" reached
#8 on the national country airplay chart and in September
"Love Away The Night", a duet with Adam Brand, reached #1
and earned her a Golden Guitar Award for Best Vocal
Collaboration in 2000. In 2000 she recorded her debut album
My Oxygen in Nashville and in 2001 Melinda opened the
CMAA Country Music Awards where she was nominated three
times. The same year, "Count to Three", co-written with Sam
Hawkesley, reached #4 and she won her second Mo Award.
2002 saw Melinda release her second album Happy Tears
which gave her five Golden Guitar nominations. It's the only album
by a female artist to be nominated as the Album of the Year.
Melinda won her third Golden Guitar in 2003. By February "The
Story of My Life" had topped the country charts.
In 2003, Melinda signed on as spokesperson for National
Tree Day, a community initiative including other celebrities
Olivia Newton-John and Jamie Drurie. She also toured with
The Dixie Chicks -- an unforgettable experience. But her dream
run was shattered by her father's death.
"I was devastated. Here I was at the high point in my career
so far, crying my eyes out in my hotel room because my dad
was sick and would die any day. I wanted to come home and be
with him but he wanted me to keep going. I did my last gig on
my birthday and came home. He died a few days later. He
waited for me."
It's a story that somehow reflects the spirit of country
music: get on with the job even while your heart is breaking.
Honesty is the attraction of country for Melinda, who is a
Sydney girl -- more so than any romantic notion of being in
wide, open spaces.
"I don't sing about the land. I sing about relationships,
love, life. Real issues, like young girls leaving home and
spreading their wings, motherhood, and sex -- you can't be too
squeaky clean, even though it is country music. That's what
most female country singers have always done. Think of Patsy
Cline -- she always sung of her emotional life. The best singers
use simple lyrics that reflect the speaking voice. That's the key
to a great song."
And Melinda writes most of her own songs. Her proudest
moments as a songwriter have come through the recognition of
other artists. Both John Farnham and country music icon
Jimmy Little have recorded Melinda's compositions.
Melinda has not only found her own voice, but contributes
to the growth of others' by being an ambassador for Toyota,
sponsor of the FanFest and StarMaker events, and sponsor of the
Golden Guitar Awards for 13 years. "To be able to get up with
your guitar and sing an original song live is essential. It's real
music. You've got to have the goods. Country music really
encourages new talent to come through."
This year's 33rd Gala Awards Presentation will see
Australia's established and rising country music stars rub
shoulders with 5,000 fans, industry folk and media. Other
nominees for Female Vocalist are Beccy Cole, Sara Storer and
Felicity Urquhart. All-girl trio Bella is up for Best Vocal Group
and Tracy Coster & Anne Kirkpatrick are up for Best Vocal
Collaboration. "I'll certainly be sitting in the audience being
ner vous," says Melinda.
Win or lose, it is sure to be a great night for all involved, and
while the evening will be the climax of the festival for many, there
is so much more to see and enjoy, as you soak up the summer
atmosphere of this famous part of Australian heartland. "You just
feel exultant driving down the New England Highway. As soon
as you turn into Peel Street, and see all the buskers, you know
you're in Tamworth," says Melinda.
Plans for 2005? Back on the road. "I've spent the last six
months promoting my album Family Tree in my Toyota Camry
and I will be heading out again to Western NSW in March!"
The Tamworth Country Music Festival, January 14--23. For festival
highlights visit www.countrymusic.asn.au/tamworth/
For more info on Tamworth visit www.tamworth.nsw.gov.au
PHOTO FIORA SACCO PHOTOGRAPHY CAR TOYOTA KLUGER GRANDE
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