By Mehroz Siraj
The popularity of Australian country music is growing in the United States, according to music experts based in the city of Nashville.
Nashville is widely believed to be the heart of country and popular music in the United States.
The city’s premier country music radio show, Music City Roots now regularly features Australian artistes from Tamworth, according to the show’s main patron, Jim Lauderdale.
“We have an Australian night. We have already been doing that for the last three years at Music City Roots,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Lauderdale said that the Australian acts were a big hit in Nashville in general and on the show in particular.
He was also amazed at the uniqueness and freshness of Australia’s country music scene, which is mainly centred in Tamworth.
To Lauderdale, the idea of launching Australian artistes in Nashville came when he first visited the country music festival in Tamworth ten years ago.
“It blew me away at the quality of the writers, singers, pickers and the fans, how passionate they were about the music,” Lauderdale told the ABC, recalling his first ever experience of observing a music festival in Australia.
Lauderdale said that he had a strong working relationship with Dobe Newton, one of the band members of the iconic Australian band, The Bushwackers.
Newton had been constantly supplying a running flow of musicians from Australia for Music City Roots and the national music conference, The Americana.
The response from the crowd had been overwhelming, Newton added.
“We took 25 Australian artists last year and they made a significant impression,” he said.
“They actually performed on the Americana Awards Show which no international artist has ever done before,” Newton added.
According to Newton and Lauderdale, the growing population of expatriate Australians in Nashville has certainly been a factor in the overall success of Australian artistes at the Americana show and the Music City Roots.
According to Lauderdale, the success of artistes from Tamworth had been so great that last year, officials from the Tamworth City Council flew in to Nashville to observe the city’s premier musical events.
They were on a mission to learn that how the Tamworth country music scene could be made more globalized, yet uniquely Australian, Lauderdale said.
Tamworth City Council mayor Colonel Murray told the ABC that by bringing in new and fresh ideas into Australia’s premier country music festival, its relevance could be enhanced according to the needs of the modern times.
“We need to keep our festival relevant,” he said.
“I think it’s a very logical and good business sense to go and see how the leading festival in the world conducts their business,” he added.
Jeff Walker from the public relations firm, Aristo Media told the ABC that the Nashville music industry’s exposure towards Australian artistes began in the 1990s with the arrival of Keith Urban on the American music scene.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve probably had 50 or 60 Australian acts come and participate in these events,” Walker added.
Music industry experts believe that existing bonds between Tamworth and Nashville will greatly benefit Tamworth in the future as the much needed influx of new ideas into the Australian town’s own music festivals will now take place.
Country musicians, the Tamworth Council and other Australian organization are eager to chalk out commercial deals with Nashville’s music industry, it is learnt.
In fact, The Australia Council (AC) is already on board.
The AC has inked a long-term deal with a music production house run by a Nashville based Australian music producer, Mark Moffat.
The programme put together by Moffat and the AC would ensure that accommodation and proper recording equipment and assistance from the scratch are provided to all artistes who relocate from Australia, to Nashville, according to the ABC.
Industry experts believe that closer commercial cooperation between Nashville and Tamworth was only a matter of when, and not if.
According to Mayor Murray, the infusion of new ideas and music styles in Tamworth’s 40 year old country music festival will enhance its appeal for Australian youth.
Murray said that as the baby boomers of Tamworth were ageing; bringing young people to the country music festivals was a matter of importance for the local city council.
“To attract those younger fans, we need to understand what’s relevant for them and what they choose to come to see and what they come to pay to see, because that is the key to our future,” he said.
Professional and commercial collaborations with Nashville music festivals would bring in the much needed fresher ideas and approaches that the Tamworth country music scene is currently lacking, the mayor added.