This post was created with the help of Gore's Tussock Country Music Festival. Head on over to https://www.tussockcountry.nz/ to learn more about the festival!
was sitting with my flatmate when an email popped into my inbox from Recorded Music NZ. He wasn’t sure whether I’d received great or devastating news as I tried to explain the situation via happy tears and extremely excited hand signals in the (silent) top floor of the University of Otago Central Library. Creating an album that you love and are proud as punch to release is just about the best feeling any songwriter could have. But being nominated for Recorded Music NZ Country Artist | Te Kaipuoro Tuawhenua Toa Tui for that same album, is a real treat too.
I’ve grown up watching my biggest idols win the Country Tui. From Tami Neilson and Kaylee Bell to the Topp Twins - just to name a few. I particularly remember the 2006 awards that featured my Dad, Ron Mitchell, in the finalist lineup. He didn’t bring home the Tui that night but in my books he was without a doubt the coolest and best Country artist of the evening. I was so excited to tell him and my Mum about the nomination that I couldn’t bring myself to do it over the phone. So I opted to write them a letter, themed in golden-Tui colours, inviting them to be my plus-ones at the event. I think it's fair to say they also felt as thrilled and humbled as I did.
My album Wildfires had been brewing for quite some time before it was released into the world. I started writing it in 2015 and after Crowdfunding half of the project costs, I headed into studio in early 2018 and released it later that year. So the journey of this record truly has been a huge part of my life for years now. So you could imagine that the huge honour of winning that golden Tui and seeing my name engraved on the plaque was one of the the most surreal moments of my life. To top it off, I was so deeply proud to be one of three female finalists. My fellow nominees Tami Neilson and Jamie McDell are artists I adore and supportive friends that I treasure.
Before I knew it I had proudly placed the Tui on my dresser and kicked off my first New Zealand tour, living my dream at 20 years old. A bit weary and a bit broke. But more fulfilled than I’ve ever felt. The tour took me from Invercargill to Tauranga with shows in theatres, bakeries, halls and living rooms. It was a healing and grounding experience to leave the lonely bubble of independently releasing an album and finally connecting with people through the music I’d poured so much energy into.
A huge highlight since the Tui win was my Australian Golden Guitar Nomination for Wildfires. Following in the beautiful Kaylee Bell’s footsteps, it was a goosebump moment to watch a kiwi name appear in the nominee list alongside Australia’s greatest at the 2020 Golden Guitar Awards. I also recently had the pleasure of joining Fanny Lumsden, three time Golden Guitar Winner, for a run of shows in country halls throughout rural Australia.
There’s a countless number of people that have supported me over the past year I want to send a huge virtual hug to anyone who came along to show, shared my music or let me sleep in your spare room. I couldn’t have done it without you.
In between studying and touring, I'm pleased to report I’ve been writing new tunes along the way that I hope to be sharing at Gore’s very own Tussock Country Music Festival this May. Hope to see you and your best hat and mittens combo there. Until then, here’s a playlist of some Country artists that I’ve been inspired by in the past year.
See you soon,
I’ve talked a lot about APRA Songhubs on my social media & wanted to share a little more about what it is so you can understand what I’m talking about - & because I’m still buzzing from the experience.
According to APRA, Songhubs is a “collaborative song-writing retreat presented by APRA AMCOS with the generous support of NZ On Air, Auckland Council, Recorded Music New Zealand and the New Zealand Music Commission.” It’s been running in NZ for three consecutive years & is held in Auckland’s beautiful Roundhead Studios.
The applications opened in February, so I crossed my fingers & put my name on the ballot. This year’s guest writers included Marc Beeson, Heather Morgan & Kate York. All incredible songwriters based in Nashville, TN. Marc's songs have been recorded by the likes of Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum & Garth Brooks, Heather's have been recorded by Keith Urban & Maren Morris & Kate is an Emmy Award winning writer with songs featuring on the TV Shows Nashville & Grey's Anatomy (two of my favourite shows of ALL time).
There were 16 places available, 12 songwriters & 4 producers & apparently my finger crossing did the trick, as I got a call a few months later I was notified that my application was successful.
The night I arrived in Auckland my overthinking kicked in & I was so nervous that I almost didn’t attend the welcome drinks. I was very aware of the fact that I was the youngest & the most Southern of the group & didn’t feel like I belonged or deserved to be there. But after arriving, I quickly discovered that the team wasn’t all that scary at all. The truth is, being given the opportunity to work with artists who you listen to & look up to is all fun & games until you’re waiting to catch the Uber to meet them all.
Each day of the week, groups were written on a chalkboard when we arrived at Roundhead. These groups included a producer, a guest writer, a secondary writer & an artist-writer. The group combined thoughts & ideas to write and record a song that was written for the artist-writer of the day. I was selected as an artist-writer on the first day which put me about a thousand miles outside my comfort zone as I had never, ever been put in a room to co-write before.
I’ll be honest that this first co-write didn’t come naturally to me. I’m used to songwriting being such a private & quiet process in my bedroom (or sometimes bathroom for the good acoustics) so I had to turn my brain inside out in order to participate. But, by the end of the day, we had a song! Learning that I could, in fact, create in this way, comfortable or not, helped my first layer of insecurity disappear.
Every session was so unique & each one helped me to learn something about my writing, myself or gave me the incredible opportunity to watch the ways that other writers work their magic. There’s something really special about the relationship you develop when you’re put in a room to create. There were no egos in the studio & as we each opened up about our personal experiences, I realised that some themes are universal - even if most of the people I wrote with had zero idea where Gore was or why I’d want to live in a town most famous for Trout.
Working with Marc, Kate & Heather was so inspiring. Hearing their stories of life in Nashville, & their own personal music journey, lit a fire somewhere in my brain that I don’t think will be burning out anytime soon.
I got to work with musicians & producers that I might never have otherwise & in my experience, it was the moments when contrasting artistic perspectives met at crossroads that the real magic happened.
On the final night of the event, we all gathered at Roundhead to hear the outcome of the sessions throughout the week. This created a real melting pot of feelings & thoughts. I was so excited to hear everyone’s creations, but insecurities certainly come to the surface when you’re about to sit in a room bursting with talent & listen to tracks you’ve poured your heart into.
I’ll never forget sitting sitting between the glorious hearts of Jamie McDell, Kaylee Bell & Tami Neilson that resulted in the strongest sisterhood vibes I’ve felt since I started working in the music world.
APRA Songhubs was a huge development of both co-writing skills & self confidence, & in order to tell that full story I need to share a few not so wonderful thoughts of the week, so I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the entire journey of the experience.
I’d like to give a special shoutout to the team who put the event together. Greg Haver, Victoria Kelly & Lydia Jenkins - you guys deserve a medal. Thank-you so much for the opportunity & for bringing your lovely smiling faces to the studio everyday.
P.S All photos featured on this blog were taken by the lovely & talented Amanda Ratcliffe, check out more of her work here.
* To hear music from any of the artists or writers mentioned in this post, just click their names.
I recently returned from a six week trip to Ireland + a few cool stops along the away. My travels began on November 22nd flying from Auckland to Stockholm, Sweden. The excitement of a plane leaving the ground & a year of planning becoming reality was rather fantastic.
I arrived in Stockholm to quickly discover that a Northern Winter truly is bone chilling. My suitcase, backpack, guitar & I jumped on a bus that took me to a train, that was apparently just the right temperature & level of comfort to make me have an involuntary nap. The following hours were comprised of swearing if I ever got back to NZ alive I would move home & never leave my house, smiling while internally screaming about the fact I could not recognise even one of the train stop names on my map with the words coming from the loud speaker & coming to the harsh realisation that I really should have conquered my fear of the dark before making my way to a country that has an average sunset time is 3pm.
You really don’t know what it’s like to feel far away from your mum until you’re lost, alone & only have 3% battery on a phone with no sim card on the Swedish coast.
Thanks to the help of a lovely young man that gave me directions (I've yet to decipher the location of this particular encounter), I ended up in Nynäshamn. I then boarded the ferry to Gotland where I met Steve Chadwick. Steve had offered to host a house concert for me in Gotland & put together a night of homebrew, some great soup & an audience that seemed to be just as gentle & kind as Steve's family. I felt so blessed to have met a family that made me feel so at ease. Below is a series of photos taken by the amazing Plathuset - check out her other work. It’s the bees knees.
Post Gotland, I spent a day exploring Old Town in Stockholm & walked to the front door of the home that my friend Jonas Hjertquist (owner of Zanzibar, Dunedin) grew up in. For the following week I explored the sights of London, watched The Killers at the O2 with fellow Gore girl Lana Moesby, spent time with my kiwi cousins Jade, Tony & baby Leo & had a night with my Grandad’s sister - Aunty Peggy.
I’m not ashamed to say that a highlight of London was visiting the Harry Potter Studios. A must do.
After a week of the colourful, fast paced landscape of London I boarded a flight to Dublin. My week of backpacking in Dublin was everything I’d dreamed of. New friends, great music & many euros spent on an attempt to introduce my taste buds to Guinness.
I then headed to Cork, where I met my cousin Margaret King. My little cousins Josh & Liam met me in a chemist with the introduction of, “You’re our cousin! I’m Josh, this is Liam & we have a dog called Ella. You’re staying with us this week.”
I visited Josh & Liam’s school where I shared some songs, had a few sing along carols to get in the Christmas spirit & told the students all about kiwiland. Words of pride, that I'd never spoken aloud before, fell out of my mouth as I told stories of the landscapes, people & animals on my side of the world.
At this stage, I hit a small bump in the road - a cheeky chest infection & a good ol’ dose of sinusitis. I slept for 8 hours after the school visit, woke up for dinner & went back to bed. I was obsessed with the idea that I wouldn’t waste even one moment of my time away, but I quickly learnt that I am in fact not superhuman & rest is something that must eventually be done.
The next stop was New Castle West, Co. Limerick - the birthplace of my late Grandad Joe Brouder. I went to the pub where he had his first pint, stayed with his sister & had a great time with the next generation of cousins - I must make a special shoutout to Kate & Moss who treated me like a queen for the week & took me for a trip to the beautiful tourist hotspot of Killarney.
On the final night of New Castle West, a small house concert was put together with a collection of family members. I had just finished writing a song in Dublin called Ends of the Earth. The song is all about grandparents migration to New Zealand & no matter how many times I play it in my life, I don’t think anything will quite compare to the connection I felt between myself & the people in that room who I’d only met once before.
The next stop was County Clare. Clare is the home of the best Irish music on the planet & I played gigs at two of the best pubs - The Roadside Tavern & Egan’s Bar. My new friends Christy & Gabi kindly hosted me & provided a night of great stories, wine & cheese.
Playing at Egan’s bar was easily one of the best gigs of my entire life. From the moment I spoke my first word I felt so much respect from every audience member (maybe it was because they couldn’t understand my accent, but we’ll go with the idea it’s because they loved the show) & nothing fills my soul more than being able to tell stories that relate & impact those listening to them. Photos below by the wonderful Bastien Réau.
The final week of my adventure was in my home away from home, Galway city. Meeting babies that had grown into beautiful young boys & girls, walking along Galway Bay with one of my favourite humans in the world, spending Christmas morning with my great Uncle Johnny & Aunty Ann, strolling through cobblestone streets with my great Aunt Margaret & having a few too many Strawberry Daiquiris (see here) are just a few of the precious memories that I have of that glorious city.
I feel so lucky that my family at the other end of the earth give me a reason to explore & wander, but I can’t put into words how it feels to be amongst their love & then have to drag my suitcase down the path where my grandparents once did & leave it all behind.
I will be forever grateful that music allows me to travel to places like Gotland that I otherwise wouldn't know existed & that I get to share my little songs that came from somewhere in my mind to people from all walks of life.
It’s cliche, but travelling (& specifically travelling alone) allows you to learn so much about yourself. I am not a Psychocentric nor Allocentric traveller, but somewhere in the middle. Some of my favourite hours were the ones when I turned my phone off & gave myself the opportunity to get lost in an unfamiliar city - but other great moments included asking Tripadvisor where I could find the best soy vanilla lattes within 10 minutes walking distance.
I know not everyone is into travel (& if you’re a kiwi, who would blame you? We’re blessed with the best). But, while it seems the only news is bad news & that the world is turning into a violent & increasingly negative place, I think the only way to learn that there are a ton of good sorts around & that strangers can be kind - is to get out there & experience it.
Or just take my word for it. Whatever suits.
Hi. I'm a songwriter from the little (but wonderful) Southern New Zealand town of Gore.