Lili Crane- From Nashville to Tamworth and everywhere in between

Talented is the first word that springs to mind when I think about 16-year Newcastle singer/songwriter Lili Crane. Freshly returned from the Tamworth Music Festival, this girl is shooting goals.

My time with Lili begins over a casual drink-Lili a hot chocolate and me a chocolate thickshake. I can tell she’s nervous, perhaps a bit giddy, for she hasn’t done many interviews. But as soon as our interview begins, all that goes away.

Lili tells me that she has been singing for basically as long as she has been talking, but the guitar playing didn’t come until a little while later. “I started playing the guitar at age 9”.

Song writing followed soon after, something which Lili has a clear talent for. “Once I got better at the guitar at 10, I started writing heaps.” I ask Lili where she gets her inspiration. Of course, like all songwriters, life itself becomes inspiration. But for Lili, being so young, one particular thing was her influence for a while. “I got inspiration from boys that I’ve had crushes on,” she says with a smile before telling me about her subjects. “I dropped in on a guy in the surf once and he yelled me at I got heaps embarrassed. So, I wrote a song about it”.

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Photo: Bob McGahan

Lili’s song writing process is spontaneous and draws largely upon improvisational techniques. Lili will grab her guitar, play around with chords and record what she is playing. She then begins to sing to try and create lyrics. “A lot of the time, when I’m playing around, I’ll set an alarm for 5 mins to then write down what I had just experienced. From there I will record again and make up some lyrics”.

Like a large number of country singers, Lili has always dreamt of going to Nashville to record and jam with other musicians. In fact, it’s been a dream of hers since the age of nine. In 2016, Lili was fortunate enough to have that dream become a reality when she won Rising Star and in turn, a trip to Nashville. Lili knew that it would be a fantastic opportunity to write with some quality writers and sing with some really big singers. “When I was over there I had an aim to write a lot with people and try and network, get heaps of connections over there for the future when I go back”. That’s just what Lili did, performing at a few open mic nights which grabbed the attention of Greg Hudile, whose house she ended up recording at. “That wasn’t planned. He booked me that day, because it was my last day there, to record vocals”.

Also, during her time in Nashville, Lili recorded the tracks for her EP All the Sweet Things, something she had planned before travelling there. Lili’s EP contains three tracks, all written and performed by her. “It’s just me and my guitar because I couldn’t afford to bring other musicians in. It’s really raw.” Of course, being so young, there’s 2 tracks on the EP about a boy. ‘High Speed’ was written about the boy in the surf. ‘All the Sweet Things’ and ‘What You Did To Me’ were written about a boy that Lili had a crush on. “’What You Did To Me’ is about me trying to get the boy and going through all this pain and the other song is about ‘oh my god he actually started to like me back now’ but it’s not fully that sort of thing yet.” ‘All the Small Things’ was Lili’s first foot in the door as a musician and her step towards selling her own music.

Coming back to Australia with the influences from Nashville has been a positive impact on Lili’s music career. Nashville motivated Lili in a way that she had hoped it would. She tells me that it’s made her write a lot more upon her return. “I know that I can achieve anything that I want to so I’m trying really hard to do that”. She hopes to return there again this year. “That’s my number one priority and there’s a good chance I might be”.

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Photo: Eddie Cross

Prior to our interview, I had found myself watching Lili’s YouTube video and I was fortunate enough to come across her latest masterpiece ‘What Did I Do’. “It actually gave me shivers and I really felt the emotion in your voice”, I tell her. I can see that Lili is more than pleased to hear this compliment. So I ask her where her inspiration came from, out of curiosity more than anything. I couldn’t quite believe that a 16-year-old had written such a song. “It really came from that feeling of being excluded for whatever reason. I think there’s so many people that go through that whole exclusion thing, so I wanted to write a song that people could relate to what I could”. The video has amassed over 14,000 views on Facebook, the most watched video that Lili has ever posted. “It’s going so well. I promoted that. It’s the biggest promotion I’ve ever gotten. I couldn’t believe. I’m so happy”. Due to its success, Lili hopes to record and release it as a single this year with musician Bill chambers offering to play on it.

But that’s not all the excitement Lili has had this year. She has just returned from performing at her very first Tamworth Country Music Festival (CMF), a huge experience for her. “It was awesome! It was such a big week. I’m exhausted but I feel like I achieved and learnt so much”. During her time there, Lili got to play a few of her songs with Bill Chambers and his band which was definitely the highlight of her time there. She was also interviewed by Prime7, which she couldn’t believe.

But of course, one can’t perform at the Tamworth Country Music Festival without a competition (and I’m not talking about the Golden Guitars). Lili competed in the Coca-Cola Battle of the Youngsters and finished in the top 3. “I also got runner up for the CCMA battle of the song stars”. From what she tells me, it’s clear that Lili very much enjoyed her time in Tamworth and hopes this is the first of many CMF she attends there.

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Photo: Bob McGahan

Now that she is back in Newcastle, Lili will go back to surfing and school, where she starts year 11 at St Francis Xavier College in Hamilton. She will continue to focus on her music this year, hopefully with some new music out for us to hear. I have a feeling that 2018 will be Lili Crane’s year. Her career is only just beginning.

Sami’s Every Passing Minute- life on tour

It’s a warm but windy summers day in Maitland, NSW. I watch the cars go by one after the other until one catches my eye. It’s a white van with the words “SAMI” sprawled across the front, side and back. The driver gets out and walks towards me. She greets me with a hug and says, “It’s so nice to finally meet you”.

The driver is 21-year old singer/songwriter Sami Cooke from Young, a country town in New South Wales. In those first few seconds, I can see just how friendly Sami is and how passionate she is about certain things in life.

As we walk towards ‘Outback Jacks’ restaurant we pass a motorbike shop. She tells me that she recently bought a helmet there and wants to buy a bike, already having her learner’s licence. The conversation is easy and relaxed, the kind of person that Sami comes across as.

We are offered table water as we are seated, and I begin to talk to Sami about her music career.  But we are interrupted by her phone alarm. She apologises profusely and explains that she sets an alarm to remind her to drink water to keep her voice hydrated. Her voice is slightly husky, a result of the 3 gigs she had just performed on the weekend. She begins to take me on her musical journey.

Sami began her music life with a saxophone in primary school. She tells me how she and her brother, who played the clarinet, used to busk together to earn some money and practice their instruments. “We loved it because we were making money and it was great. After we went busking we would get ice cream from Wendy’s and the rest of the money would go to mum and dad for tuition.” Once Sami got to high school, she gave up playing the saxophone. It just wasn’t cool anymore. But, after discovering her talent for singing in year 6 and winning her school’s talent quest, Sami decided to focus on singing.

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Photo by Meg Bailes

After trying out multiple singing teachers, Sami found one that was best suited to her. His name is Mark Brooker. Sami tells me that he was, and still is, an amazing singer who really brought out the best of her ability. “He was a trained opera singer and taught me heaps of great techniques and if I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t be able to do 3 gigs a week”. The classical lessons helped Sami so much that she decided to enter several different Eisteddfods, winning at each one, something which really boosted her confidence.

However, living in Young and aspiring to be a singer was not the easiest. As Sami puts it, unless you were interested in sport or farming, you were pretty much an outsider. The bullying that Sami received at school almost caused her to quit a few times, but her success at eisteddfods and her determination helped her to keep going.

Sami continued singing, performing and enjoying what she was doing but never really thought of it as a career until she was in year 11. It was around about this time that she started doing a few gigs, something that she now performs over 100 of. “I did a few gigs prior to finishing school but I was at school and a lot of places you had to be over 18 to play there so I started doing a few gigs every now and then when I could”.

Once Sami caught the gigging bug, it became a massive part of her life. In 2014, Sami travelled around in a camper trailer for the whole year, performing at various places. “The whole experience was incredible”.  

Sami’s second year of touring took her to both New Zealand and Canada. “It was a couple weeks over in New Zealand just doing gigs and I felt famous because the promotion people paid for me to go over there and everything was paid for. They just wanted me to sing 3 shows. It was the first taste of what it was like going international”. Sami tells me that the people in New Zealand were very welcoming and treated her with respect for choosing their country to perform in. She also noted that all her gigs were full of people wanting to hear what her beautiful voice could do.

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Photo: Sometimes Alice Photography

Though Sami’s mum suggested that they next go to America, Sami felt that she was her own person and therefore didn’t want to follow what everyone else did. My time with Sami demonstrated that she is proud to be her own artist and do her own thing, something I think is admirable.  Instead she decided she would go to Canada, as her father had history with the country. They purchased an RV and drove from Calgary to Vancouver and back again over a period of 6 weeks. Sami smiles as she tells me how welcoming the Canadians were. “The people over there are incredible. Every single one of my gigs, packed. They’re all there to watch me which is just incredible. The musicians as well. Out of 18 shows, I had probably 4 solo, everyone plays. They just randomly jump up and jam with me. I get guitarists, harmonica players, I had a Trombone player, another singer, a bassist, an electric guitarist”. It’s true the people of Canada love Sami just as much as we do. Which is probably why she returns there every year.

In between completing her schooling and various gigs, Sami managed to release her debut album ‘Every Passing Minute’, which features 14 tracks. Sami wrote 13 tracks for the album, most of which were written whilst she was still at school. Her writing ability is incredible, with each song telling its own story. It’s not hard to hear Sami’s heart and soul in each song. Her country voice powers through. When I ask Sami what releasing her own album was like she tells me bluntly that for her it was like giving birth. “It’s your own baby, all your own emotions. It’s a very private thing to sort of take me and give it to the world”.

 ‘Every Passing Minute’ proved to be a success for Sami, with the singer being recognised for various accolades. Her powerful anti-bullying song ‘Still Searching’ hit number 10 on the Australian charts, and the track that she penned titled ‘You’re Inspirational’, which was written for people with disabilities, also reached number 10. The success of her album has lead to over 50,000 YouTube views.

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Cover photo: Raymond Mac Neill Photography

Sami is in the process of finishing her new album, having only one song left to record and the final production to be completed. “I’m hoping to have a cd launch on April 7th in Newcastle”. Sami has invited fellow musician and friend Georgina Grimshaw along to perform at the launch. After nearly 400 fans turned up to her debut album launch in Canberra, where Sami lived for 3 years, she hopes that this album launch will be as successful. Sami moved to Newcastle in 2016 and now resides in Branxton, west of the city with her boyfriend of over 3 years.  Because she isn’t a local, she doesn’t think 400 people will come to her album launch. She estimates the number would probably be around 150, but I think she is being too modest.

Aside from the album launch, 2018 appears to be a big year for Sami. She’s currently performing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and will continue to play over 100 various gigs around the Newcastle and Hunter Valley areas. She also tells me that she will be studying a Bachelor of Communciation, majoring in Media Studies at Newcastle University this year. Sami loves to write and keeps her fans up-to-date with her tours and music via her blog. She also keeps busy by doing various modelling jobs and will continue these various projects throughout the year.

As our interview comes to a close and we part ways, I walk off smiling, completely awestruck by Sami. Not only is she multi-talented and an amazing singer, she is also friendly and confident. These attributes make her the artist that she is- an artist to be proud of. Her 7,000 Facebook fans can’t be wrong.

Sami feb gigs

Kate is ready for the ride

Talented, friendly and inspirational. These are the three words that come to mind during my time with West Australian musician Kate Hindle. With the release of her brand new EP ‘Ready For the Ride’ on Friday, and after a challenging 2017, Kate’s music career couldn’t be any better right now.

21-year old Kate grew up in Collie, a small country town in Western Australia. From a young age, she knew that music was for her. Beginning with piano at the age of 7, Kate and her parents realised her talent for music. “My mum put me into guitar lessons when I was 8. Once I was really getting the hang of it, I started to sing whilst playing the guitar when I was 9”. From there, Kate’s career started to evolve, learning more instruments along the way. Kate tells me during our phone interview that she can play the bass, drums, mandolin, ukulele and the penny whistle. “I was in a Celtic band for a little while”. I can hear a smile on her face when she tells me that.

Of course once she perfected her instruments, she began to write songs, well dabble with silly lyrics as she puts it. But one day she wrote a song that she was proud of. She penned the song at 12, called it ‘Unknown Love’ and even recorded it, though the recording is no longer available. But it was in that moment that Kate realised her potential as a songwriter. “I realised that I could write about family and things happening at the time.” She is now a full-time singer/songwriter.

Around the same time that she wrote ‘Unknown Love’, Kate really began to see music as a career. She had heard about a school, Senior College of Country Music (formerly Camerata Country Music School) and aspired to attend. But unfortunately for Kate, at that time they weren’t taking applicants that young. But being determined, she started working hard to achieve her goals, eventually ending up at WAAPA. The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts offered Kate a position when she was 17, something that she is immensely thankful for. “From there I attended the Junior College of Country Music on a scholarship in 2014 and the next year in 2015 I received another scholarship for the Senior College”.

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Photo: Georgia Maloney Photography

After graduating with her music degree from WAAPA in 2015, Kate released her single ‘My Home’ on iTunes, which made it into the Top 40 Country Music Chart. But her star was only just beginning to rise. In 2016, Kate finished in the top 10 of Autralia’s highly prestigious country music competition, the Toyota Star Maker. 2016 also saw Kate perform at big music festivals such as the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival, the Gympie Muster and the Mildura Country Music Festival. In 2017, Kate visited the Tamworth Country Music Festival once again, this time performing with Golden Guitar award winner Travis Collins.

From our interview, it’s clear that Kate aspired to live in Tamworth from a young age and that aspiration turned into reality. “Living in Tamworth was a dream. I was pursuing my career as a country music artist.” Kate was making a name for herself in Tamworth for a year, when her world started to slowly crumble. She had her heart broken, but that was the least of her worries. Kate’s ever increasing back complications would suddenly put a halt to her career.

Kate had a spinal disc push through her spinal canal which almost paralysed her and caused her unbearable pain. But through her darkest days, and her doctors telling her that all her pain was psychological, Kate remained as positive as she could be. “One day the negativity just pushed me to go ‘You know what? I’m gonna get through this and I’m gonna prove to you that it’s not in my head. I’m gonna keep positive. Keep pushing everyday.’” And Kate continued to have that mind focus until one day her bladder stopped working. Suddenly the doctors realised the damage to her body. Her injury was affecting the nerve to her bladder. Following successful surgery in Newcastle, Kate was finally starting to get better but moved back to Western Australia to be closer to her family.

Although Kate’s spinal injury hasn’t stopped her, it did cause her to miss out on a few massive gigs. But Kate found inspiration in what she had been through to write music. “Being in a wheelchair really brought this determination that ‘I really want this’ and I got to write about the really positive journey. I get to write about what I’m feeling and how it affects me and music is definitely a remedy of mine.” So whilst she was in hospital, Kate started to create lyrics for a song to a melody that she had had in her mind for a few years. Kate penned the lyrics ‘I’ve gotta learn. I’ve gotta try to keep getting by’ and thus became her track and eventual EP title ‘Ready For the Ride’.

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Photo: Georgia Maloney Photography

Releasing on Friday the 19th January, the EP features 7 tracks; 4 originals and 3 covers. “All of the songs that are on there have played an important role in my journey,” she tells me. There’s a song from Canadian musician Anne Murray who has always uplifted Kate. Another cover is from country music legend Slim Dusty, who’s Bush Balladeer style has always inspired Kate’s music. The last cover is Patsy Kline.

Kate co-wrote 3 songs on the EP, and penned the remaining track solo. “The songs just symbolise life to be honest.” There is a track on the EP titled ‘Whiskey Lullaby’ which Kate co-wrote with fellow WA musician Johnny Taylor. “It’s about an alcoholic, which isn’t about me, but I just expanded my songwriting skills for this song and I thought it was very important and kind of about my journey.” Kate also co-wrote a song with Felicity Urquhart in Nundle, New South Wales. The song is titled ‘Loneliness’.

Once Kate had written several different songs for the EP, she travelled three hours to Perth to meet with Mark Donohoe, the co-producer of the EP. “We started doing demos. We worked out which songs would make the cut and which wouldn’t.” After looking at different options for the feel of the album, the two decided that the album would be positive and one that people could relate to. Mark Haggerty Jr., a drummer, joined Kate in the recording studio, an experience that she describes as “an honour. He put a twist on some things which was awesome,” a twist which Kate feels actually made the songs better. Kate also worked on the guitar lines with Tamworth musician Rusty Crook for two full days. “We worked on the guitar, the mandolin, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lead guitar. All of it.” Kate tells me that Rusty had a big input into the album, doing an incredible job. The producer Mark then put the bass line down and then spent the next few weeks tweaking the songs. “I then went back to record the, let’s just call them, end vocals. We spent the next few weeks recording harmonies and mixing and checking the balance of everything.” A long process indeed but Kate assures me that it was all worth it.

With the songs recorded and mixed, Kate was nearly ready to produce the album. But before that she had to come up the artwork, something she did herself. “I sent it to one of my friends who is a designer and she fixed it all up for me.” The CD was then ready to be manufactured, ready for release on the 19th January.

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The complete album cover

As my phone call wraps up with Kate, her gentle voice tells me about her busy year ahead. She’ll be performing 13 gigs over 10 days at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, then touring with her friend Trevor Tolton to Victoria before spending a weekend in South Australia performing. They then head to Western Australia, performing at a country music festival there. She then heads to Bundaberg, Queensland for another festival “I have 4 festivals within the first 5 months of the year”.

As Kate thanks me for the interview and I thank her for the time it’s not hard to see why Kate is so popular. With over 3,500 Facebook fans, Kate’s friendly nature and inspirational talent creates a real country music artist that I think so many people can relate to.

Talented, friendly and inspirational. This is how I describe Kate Hindle.

Kate Hindle- Captain's Eye Photography
Photo: Captain’s Eye Photography

Exciting things ahead

2018 is not just a brand new year, it’s a brand new opportunity for me and this blog.

Now I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say I was more than happy to kiss 2017 goodbye. I’m not meaning to sound cliche, but it really was the worst year of my life thus far.

So 2018 has come around and there are some exciting things happening for me. Aside from getting married in August, I have some big articles coming up that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’ve made this blog my priority this year so I’m definitely going to pour my heart and soul into bringing you some interesting articles.

Just over a week into the new year and I have 5 interviews set up. Sami Cooke from Young, now residing in Newcastle, will be one of my first stories for the year. Sami boasts an amazing talent and has some big things happening with her music career this year.

Kate Hindle, another musician who  resides in Western Australia, has overcome some pretty big things lately and will be releasing her new album later this month. I will be interviewing her to find out more about that.

16 year-old singer/songwriter Lili Crane has an amazing talent for someone so young. I will be chatting with her to talk about her current music career.

This one is for the older readers. You probably all know him as ‘King Brian’ from the Retravision commercials, but lately Brian McCombe has made a name for himself as one of the most photographed people on Facebook. Just how does he manage all these selfies with people? I’ll find out when I interview him.

Finally, Alex Shepherd A.K.A Asylem is an up and coming rapper from Newcastle. The 18 year-old will be releasing an EP at some stage this year and will feature in one of my articles this year.

I will also be following and updating news from Georgina Grimshaw and Kendall King.

I really can’t wait to share these articles with you.

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