1992, Kyogle NSW
My mother packed up everything that would fit into her tiny little Mazda. My big brother Bradley sat in the front seat with the job of looking after our dog sitting in between his feet and my "job" was to look after the box of $1 tins of home brand canned food that sat beside my booster seat. We were on the road to start our new life in Gunnedah.
Looking back through my naive three-year-old eyes, my Mother was invincible. No older than what I am today, with long bold, fierce curly red hair. After three years of little work and raising two children alone, she had finally got full-time work at the Gunnedah Hospital as a nurse. Up until then she would make children's clothes to sell at the markets while she was studying her nursing. We didn't have a lot of money. Some weeks Mum would eat our left-overs but despite the little income and the old crumbling walls in our humble rental property my mother's spirit could not be broken.
Not only did the prospect of a better life lay ahead of us but also an opportunity to bond with my "first music teacher". My grandfather was a police officer in Gunnedah, his love for Country Music began when he was 12 when he scrambled up the pieces of his brothers broken guitar with the promise of putting it back together so he could have an instrument to learn on. He was a 49-year-old silver fox with a far to early in life diagnosis for Parkinson's disease (but secretly every grandchild will tell you that Poppy's Parkinson's was what made him give the best cuddles). Between baking imaginary biscuits, and real ones with my Nanna. My Pops lap would be where you could find me while he would play his guitar and sing me country songs. It was there where I started my education on the Country Music Genre, Hank Williams, Slim Dusty, Kris Kristophison and more. My grandfather's repertoire books full of lyrics and chords from when he had played shows for years. He was even offered a record deal when he was 19, in his time he was a true showman.
My musical ear was being "tuned", as I learned my Pops songs I would sing along, I LOVED to sing. At this point my Uncle, who was only a few years older had started learning guitar, I became that nagging little brat with green cordial stains around my mouth, following him around the house requesting to serenade to me my favorite song, "You Are My Sunshine." By the time, I was 14, my Uncle and I would play shows together. We even recorded my famously terrible song "Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye" on a compilation album called "Heat Wave" for Rock Bands in North West NSW produced by Norma O'Hara Murphy.
I would also like to take a moment and mention how my guitar playing career could have potentially never begun when my Uncle broke my arm and ran off to leave me for dead so he had enough time to hide before Nanna and Pop could hear my screams of pain.
By the year 2001, I was performing regularly in Tamworth at "The Pub" for Open Mic nights and Songwriters nights (Tamworth just so happens to be 45 minutes from Gunnedah). It seems fated how a Penrith-born girl who had a passion for writing and singing country music ended up living less than an hour away from Australia's Capital of Country Music.
I was never a standout child. My pedigree was a disappointment measured to my lack of natural ability. I was never a pleasant singer to listen to, but I had more passion than all the other dreaming kids combined. I always had a great sense of rhythm and being the only kid at 11 writing song I was always encouraged; "You could be a songwriter in Nashville".
Being raised by a single Mum, she was 200% of a parent. After eight years of being single, she met my incredible step Dad, who also played a big roll in my story developing my gift. When we weren't making small trips to Tamworth for singing lessons or performance opportunities, my music adventures would have my Mum driving to any corner of Australia on weekends, while my Step Dad stayed home to man the family business.
In 1999, my parents started what would become a successful landscape supply yard and nursery in Gunnedah called "Gunnedah Lawns & Gardens". My brother would scrub and clean the birdbaths for $15 a week and I would sit in the office printing out lyrics and chords to songs.
By the time I could drive, if I had been up writing songs all night, my Mum would be ok if I didn't go to school until 10 am. Somedays I just would sit at home and write songs; my guitar was the only thing in the world that understood me. Seeing my Mum's fierceness and ability to create a life that she wanted from having nothing taught me the greatest lesson. "If you dream it, you can do it". I found it a struggle to go to school and have teachers tell me that I need realistic goals. To see the pitiful eye roll that I get from most non-musical people or the kids picking on me for being in the local paper again began to eat at my own self belief.
"Sing us a country song, come on. Big noter, you think you're better than everyone else". Come from a tiny little pip squeak red-headed girl with freckles who had a reputation for beating up girls who talked back to her.
I had a handful of genuine friends, among a group that I felt like an outcast. I was such a late bloomer that boys never even noticed me. I was somehow caught in two worlds, reality where I hadn't yet found myself and music where I felt at home.
To be continued...