Lost the internet for a couple of days – blogging nightmare!  Back in the saddle now – so on we go –

Conference/Festival Proper

After arriving, registering and attending the Awards show last night, most folks are ready to hit the ground running, and the Sheraton lobby’s a-buzz with serious meetn ‘n greetn going on.  Today, the panel sessions start in earnest covering all the usual music business/media/marketing/promotion topics – but all from a fascinating ‘Americana’ viewpoint.  Even though it’s dwarfed in market share by mainstream ‘country’ pop/rock, there’s still a significant number of media outlets and businesses actively involved in the genre – an intriguing situation for we Aussies who are used to even the most mainstream of country being a blip on the music media/industry radar.

A feature of this program – as with all major music conferences worldwide, is the emphasis on social media and direct fan interaction in an over-arching DIY model – from creation and funding to delivery and performance.

The good news is that there are so many potential avenues of ‘assistance’ available via the web and mobile communications.  The bad news is that it all requires so much more artist involvement and time commitment.

With the Sounds Australia ‘brand’ now becoming increasingly recognised through our increasing program involvement, plus Jeff walker’s publicity efforts and my direct emails to delegates, there are a lot more people keen to come to the booth and spruik their products/services to what they see as a new ‘frontier’.  That’s good, as it gives me a chance to meet face-to-face and at least try to get behind the politeness and hospitality that’s front and centre in all conversations.

I’m not about to set myself up as some sort of arbiter, but I trust my industry nose and my now 4-year experience here to work out which ones are genuine.  Anyway, bottom line is that there are some exciting developments which potentially will help Australian roots artists to promote themselves in this market in between the obligatory visits.  I say obligatory, because despite all that the web offers, the US industry still regards these visits as a sign of commitment and intent.

It’s early days yet, but based on observation and chat, I think this indie area of the market – less reliant than the mainstream on the investment/interest of the major labels and players, is a little more glass-half-full than it was last year.

Am delighted that old mate Louis (pronounced Lewis) Myers, the head honco of the Folk Alliance, has the booth next to us, and we’ll get to chat.  Not least about the official Sounds Australia support that is now in place for the regular Australian artist involvement that’s been a part of that event for a few years.  Louis suggested several years ago that we should take a leaf (sorry) out of Canada’s book and fund a showcase room at their annual conference which is much more geared to festival/event bookers and promoters than this one.  He confirms that it’s working well.  He’s also very excited that next year’s event will be in Ontario.  They do 5 years in a US city, followed by one in Canada. They’ve just finished their stint in Memphis and will begin the next 5-year residency in Kansas City which Louis describes as “Austin 20 years ago – ready to blossom”.

‘Sisters Are Doing It ….’ – Tamworth/Sister Cities of Nashville Party – Americana Listening Lounge – 5-7pm



Originally, there was to be a delegation from the Tamworth Regional Council returning to Americana (after an initial June visit), to jointly host this ‘party’ to announce the formalisation of a relationship between Australia’s ‘Country Music Capital’ and ‘Music City USA’.

Unfortunately,  the local Council elections in Tamworth were only held last weekend and, although the city admin/management team could come back, the plan was always to have the Tamworth Mayor heading up the group.  Whoever that’s to be will be the subject of election at the first Council meeting – not for some weeks.  After some discussion, all parties were keen to signal the intent by going ahead with the event – especially given the work that had been put in over several years by the ‘Tamworth committee’ of the Sister Cities organisation (thanks John Lomax and Garry Jackson and others), plus the fact that Tamworth had already committed to send Felicity Urquhart as it’s official music ‘ambassador’.  Since she’s been chosen as one of our 4 showcase artists, it all makes sense.

I have offered to include it as part of the Sounds Australia program and to host and supply talent from the touring party.  So, we’re heading into the Listening Lounge (usually the Sheraton Ballroom) for a 5-7pm slot, in between the end of conference sessions and the start of the evening showcase program at the 6 designated venues around town that run 45-minute sets between 8pm and Midnight.

Have tried to include artists who have significant Tamworth Festival links, so we’ll have shorts spots from Felicity (accompanied by husband and renowned guitarist Glen Hannah) and the equally renowned Sam Hawksley, who’s been more or less resident here for the last couple of years.  Kasey and Shane are on the bill, with 8 Ball Aitken and Lachlan Bryan.  The Sister Cities of Nashville folks were keen to include a US artist, and we’ve had no problem agreeing on the wonderful Kim Richey, who’s been a frequent collaborator with our writers – here and on visits to Australia, and was a guest presenter at the 2012 Country Music Awards this year in Tamworth.  I suggested to her that she should inherit the mantle of ‘Aussie Kim’ now that the other Kim has retired.  She agrees, knowing us well enough by now to understand that it’s a sign of genuine affection.

With wine from our sponsor Yellow Tail, Tamworth memorabilia form the Council – for prizes, and the presentation of a diary bound in Aussie Bush Leather to Sister Cities’s President Tracy Kane, it’ll be an action-packed couple of hours.  Just hope the delegates decide to come!

Excellent turnout- especially considering there’s ALWAYS some fabulous music-based alternative to entice.  Tonight there are three – a huge free concert (part of a regular City Autumn – they actually use that word, concert series), a ‘Songs of Chip Taylor’ showcase and ‘Mercyland – Hymns Fo The Rest Of Us’ at the famous ‘Egyptian Revival’ Downtown Presbyterian Church. (More on that below).

Anyway, a splendid couple of hours of great music and rapid fire presentations and prize giving.  Only one small glitch – had forgotten the raffle tickets, so decided to do a ‘virtual’ raffle – you think of a number, so will I and then I’ll ‘channel’ the winner.  Always worked well in the past with a few laughs, but met my match this time with a gentlemen who just kept saying “I have no idea”.  Didn’t want to play at all!  Only realised later that I’d chosen the only not-really-English-speaking Ukranian in the room!  Some odds I’d suggest!  I attempted to resurrect the situation by congratulating him on the Ukraine’s recent record in the Eurovision Song Contest, but he had “no idea” about that either.  Anyway, all good in the end, and a successful celebration of the inter-city links.

Now, it’ s off to the Basement to put up some posters re the Aussie BBQ on Sunday.  Important to advertise it to those who are locals and not visiting delegates who will likely depart Sunday.  While I’m there I see Angel Snow from Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Good voice, good band – modern ‘indie’ country feel.  Followed by Sons of Fathers from Austin, Texas.  Excellent instrumental skills and fine singing, but nothing really grabs me.  “Very Austin”, I’m told.  Richard Thompson’s on at the Station Inn, but the chances of getting in to this small venue now are just about nil I suspect.  (Later met a few who’d queued in vain for 45 minutes).  So decided to have an earlyish night, so I can down to the Second Fiddle in plenty of time for our ‘Maton Aussie Lunch’.

PS.  Kasey and Shane have to sing and rush off in order to be part of the ‘Hymns….’ show at the Presbyterian Church that Buddy Miller has organised.  It’s described in the program as “left-of-centre spirituals that can satisfy even the staunch non-believer”.  We won’t be able to get there, but at least we hear the song as part of their ‘Sisters….’ set.  Beautiful!  Tom (Mason) does get to go, and tells me later that they delivered a stunning performance – of that song, and in backing Emmylou.  (Next day they were still buzzing).