Country Pop singer Courtney Conway has recently been named as the lead for Always… Patsy Cline the musical, touring this summer.
Emerging Australian artist Courtney Conway has just been saving some baby chickens before arriving at this interview. “Hey, I’m so sorry about the time, but this is why… They chirp when they are looking for their mum because it’s their bedtime,” she said holding up some black and yellow chirping creatures.
“I’ve been trying to find things in my house!” She said pointing to the half-packed boxes behind her. She has recently moved to a new house in Perth, Australia, with her husband and toy poodle. This weekend she has performed at a local racing club called Pinjarra Harness Racing Club and today she had been looking after the chicks so it’s fortunate she had time to talk.
With being in the industry for about nine years she insists, “I’m still working my way through the industry, I would say I’m still an up and coming artist.” As an artist, she has really thrown herself into the work, especially in the last 18 months where she has worked the most gigs and helped out not only herself but other new artists for a shot at the limelight. “If I do a show, I try to get them to do a support so we can both get in front of different audiences.”
So what’s next? “I’m keeping it quite bare around now because I have just been asked to do a massive six-month tour around Australia where I have to sing 27 songs,” she said. The tour Always… Patsy Cline is more than a tribute to the legendary country singer, it is a musical play based on her true story. “It’ll be myself and this other woman called Mandy. Rehearsals for it start in June and the tour starts in Melbourne,” she said. “Then we move up to the East Coast, back down to Tasmania and southern Australia, and then finish in Western Australia.” She has never done a tour this big before, so she is very nervous, “I did one with a horse show and I was on that one for three months and that was a long time. I’m such a homebody so it’ll be hard.”
She went to see her parents only the other week in Victoria, Australia, and played at a festival at a small town called Birchip. The town is well known for its farming, cattle and their bulls and they have a big statue of a bull in the centre of town. After playing her gig at the little festival she said to her dad, “I would really like to get a photo with the bull so I can put it on Facebook.” When she got to the bull it was much taller than she expected it to be and she was just going to stand in front of it but her dad said, “What if we put you on the top?!” So her dad ended up giving her a boost up onto the bull. “Once I got up there it was all smooth and there was nothing to hold onto so I started falling but my dad thought I was stable. Even before I could warn him any different I fell on top of my dad. He kind of caught me before I could fall backwards and pushed me up so I landed the right way. We were too busy laughing I didn’t realise I’d lost my bracelet.” They had one more go at getting her onto this bull and she somehow managed to get up there. “It’s pretty amazing but the next day I was so sore!”
Courtney kicked her music career in 2007 after graduating from the College of Country Music in Tamworth. She first got interested in music from playing piano at her grandparents. She said, “My nan used to teach music even before my mum was born!” Her family used to have CDs playing around the house when they were home “My dad’s brother was also very musical too and he used to lend me his keyboard during school holidays,” she enthused.
In 2010, Courtney recorded her first five-track EP titled A Few Little Things which included her debut single Girly Girl. It was co-written with two Australian artists, Mike Carr and Adam Brand, and it definitely summed up Courtney’s life. “I can be a little bit girly you could say. I like to make my hair look pretty, wear a nice dress, wear make-up and put on my high heels,” she said. “They always said you seem like this girly girl but then you drive a Holden. It’s quite deceiving. You’re not really a girly girl at all!” The song was based on this to get the message across that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, “That song was a very true song about me and my friends.”
After soaring up into the music industry, in 2014, Courtney released her first album called 21 Days, named after one of the songs on the album. Her album was produced in Nashville by Sam Hawksley who Courtney first saw on stage at her first ever concert. “He was supporting Keith Urban who I love and my parents were kind enough to drive me and one of my best friends to the concert at the time. It’s pretty cool that all those years ago I watched him on the stage and then I got to work with him later on.”
Three of her songs from the album were written or co-written by herself too. “There are a few sad love songs included because of course every country record needs to have sad songs,” she said. But there are other songs on the album which are more uplifting, one is called Hard to Forget which Sam wrote. Another called Free Like a Summer Breeze, is just about enjoying life and having a good time with your friends. “There’s also a song on the album which I wrote about my dad as I’m the oldest one of four so I am the icebreaker,” she said. “It’s about how he struggled with us when growing up, he always said it happened so fast and I was so young. One minute he was holding my hand crossing a road and the next I’m getting married and moving to the other side of the country. He just couldn’t get over how fast it all happened.”
On the side of her music career, she works for a music licensing company called Australasian Performing Rights Association two or three times a week. It is completely different to her career as an artist but she still loves it because it is still a job within the music industry, “It always helps to work a job you actually love to support your dream job.” She has worked a lot of jobs to try to pursue her dream as a musician, but she feels, “Music is a very expensive hobby to have, I feel I don’t find it easy to make money in it because you’re always pouring money back into it.” She has to work during the week to then be able to gig on weekends, pay for records and pay for film clips. “Although the dream is to have it full-time one day!” she chimed. But she has a lot more shows happening lately and has won many awards this year alone which makes a big difference to her career. “More people pay attention,” she smiled. “They want to book you more and pay you more. When you get a win every now and again it definitely helps.”
The first ever award she won was in 2011 at the Victorian and National Awards for Best New Talent. “My parents actually have that award in their house,” she said. She’s also won a couple of Western Australia Awards. The first being New Talent of the Year. Then Female Artist of the Year and last year alone she went on to pick up three awards: Album of the Year, Female of the Year and Single of the Year. “One of the major newspapers over here has a magazine that comes out every Sunday and they name people who they think readers should watch out for and last year I was listed for one of the best and brightest for 2015 so that was huge! It was like winning an award as well!” She won one in September too which was another New Talent of the Year award in Southern Cross Independent Country Music Awards which is one of the biggest you can win, “I was hoping that one day I’d win one and last year I finally did.”
Now Courtney is dreaming for bigger, hoping one day to release another new record, or two! But her main dream is to play a really big festival in Australia called CMC Rocks. “It’s actually on this weekend in Brisbane in Queensland, the other side of the country to me.” International artists like Taylor Swift play at the festival. The year Courtney went to see it they had Tim McGraw and Faith Hill playing there. Music is Courtney’s life and she wishes she could be full-time but only time will tell!
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