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.

Georgina’s Cafe Corner

It’s 11am at Peppertown Coffee Bar in Mayfield, Newcastle. The smell of bacon and coffee wafts through the small, cosy café. The staff are friendly and welcoming with a smile. I sit down, waiting for my friend to arrive.

Georgina Grimshaw walks in, smiling. Her long red hair is pulled into a braid. She is dressed in jeans, a jumper and boots and remarks how cold the August weather is outside. We order our food as Georgina comments on how good the Birthday Cake milkshake is. She is friendly with the staff here, having performed numerous gigs here.

Gigs are an integral part of Georgina’s life as a musician. It’s what puts her music out into the world and it’s also something that she really loves doing. She sees touring by herself as a challenge, a way to do things for herself. “It’s good to do those things, you can have confidence in yourself to do it and do something more confidently next time,” she tells me, having just completed a solo tour throughout rural towns in New South Wales and Queensland. “I love going to play in country towns. People are friendly and really appreciate what you are doing. I love travelling, being out in nature on the open road and the adventures of meeting new people.”

Photo: Susan Mac

But of course, life wasn’t always about touring and performing for Georgina. Born in Newcastle in 1994, she has grown up always loving music. But it wasn’t until school that she really discovered her passion for music and just what she was capable of. “In music class at school I really discovered new things about music. As an assignment, I wrote a song and really kept writing from there.”

Georgina becomes reminiscent and tells me about the first time she really sung into a microphone. “I sung with a school band and it was the first time I really heard my voice and noticed what I could really do.” Her singing career only rose from there.

After performing countless gigs and writing music, Georgina began work on her debut EP Café Corner. She describes the process to me, including how she writes the songs.

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Photo: Susan Mac, Art work: Shanais Staneke

For Georgina, the song writing process is fascinating. She describes it to me as seeing something, acting on it, experiencing it then internalising it to finally understanding it and creating something from it. “I pick up a guitar and start to sing, play and work it out,” she tells me before saying where she gets her inspiration from.

Like most artists, Georgina’s stories come from life experiences, both her own and from those she knows. She doesn’t write happy songs because life isn’t always happy. “I’m not unhappy. But I do find happy songs can be corny.” Sometimes songs can help us to understand life.

Including writing the songs, it took a total of nine months for Café Corner to be recorded, produced and released. The EP was recorded at the Green Room in Warners Bay. What started as guitar lessons with Matt Purcell, turned into recording time.

“I usually spent an hour in the recording studio each week to produce/record/mix various parts of each song,” she tells me of the process. ‘The Storyteller’ and ‘Snow Globe Heart’ were partially written prior to the recording process. Whilst these songs were being worked on, the other 3 songs were written.

The five track EP demonstrates Georgina’s ability as a songwriter and a singer. As an artist who best describes her music as storytelling, the lyrics of each song take the listener on a journey. Of the songs on the EP, Georgina worries that ‘Café Corner’ might be whiny to some although she feels that it is most symbolic to her breaking out of the cover gigs and becoming her own artist.

Her personal favourite is the final track ‘Blue with the Grey’, which she wrote the morning of having to record her final track for the EP. She describes the song as meaning a lot to her. “What I wrote it about had been something I’d been struggling to talk about. The song is basically about becoming disillusioned and hurt by various people in leadership at church. It was my way of saying why I had left and expressing all the hurt and confusion I’d felt”.

Perhaps one of the most mature and emotionally driven tracks on the EP is ‘Free Now’. Following the death of one of Georgina’s friends, she wrote the track to help her understand everything she was feeling and comprehend what had happened. Most of us have lost someone close to us so it’s a track that we can all relate to and is simply breathtaking.

For independent artists like Georgina, it’s good to stay true to yourself. Independent artists get to be themselves and sing the music they want to sing, which is why she offers up this advice for aspiring independent musicians. “Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission to do what you want to do. Have an attitude that you never know what might happen, who might be there watching you perform.” She also says to try and be involved in as many open mic nights and gigs as possible to experiment as an artist and build a following. “It’s really important to get to know the people in your local scene”.

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Photo: Emma Jane Pitach

More recently, Georgina has found herself increasingly performing at weddings. “Weddings are special. To perform there makes me part of their history and makes the couple so happy,” Georgina tells me with a smile. She goes on to tell me about how emotional wedding days are and how she can channel this into her performance. “They’ll remember me singing their special songs, which is a privilege to have that access into their lives.”

For Georgina, music is her life; it is her job. It does more for her then just pay the bills. She describes song writing and performing as a way of helping her understand and cope with life. “It’s a lot cheaper than therapy,” she laughs. “Every moment of my working day is thinking or listening to music, thinking about what I could be doing or what other people are doing.”

As our interview begins to wrap up, she tells me that she would love to be a florist, and has recently started creating some flower pieces. I notice a floral piece on the wall at Peppertown that she has created. Her Instagram and Facebook also show photos of Georgina picking flowers from the wild and wearing flower crowns. I think this reveals a lot about Georgina and her free-spirited nature.

Photo: Caitlin Schokker

Georgina lists some of her favourite musicians as Missy Higgins, Angus and Julia Stone, Ed Sheeran and Delta Goodrem; all fantastic artists. One day Georgina may well be just as influential and popular as these artists, but for now she is just enjoying being her own musician and doing what she really loves- singing the songs from her heart and being her own artist.
Café Corner is available to purchase, stream and download now. To see more of Georgina Grimshaw, visit her Facebook page: