Through the eyes of a musician- Tamworth Country Music Festival 2017

20170128_080735The New Year brought along the 45th Tamworth Country Music Festival starting January 19- January 29th. This ten day festival kicked off with a bang with over fifty thousand people from all over Australia, and the world, traveling to the one destination to experience Australia’s best in country music.

As a musician, this time of year is the most exhilarating and exhausting experience. Over the past five years, on average I have performed thirty shows in the ten days. This year, my management and I decided to cut back to twenty performances- including three, three hour gigs, A ‘Country Road’ duet show with Scott Douglas and reporting on the Golden Guitar Awards. Singing every day is really thrilling. Even though I’m so busy, this year I still had a chance to listen to other musicians, walk down the street and watch the buskers and even enjoy a few drinks on Australia Day which was fun!

Performing on many stages and venues including the Gunnedah Services Club, Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar, Barraba RSL, Post Office Hotel, Fanzone Stage, Peel Street Stage and many more, I must say that every year I attend the festival, it keeps getting better and better. My advice to anyone who has not attended; audience or musician, is to go. The atmosphere is captivating and the energy is so contagious that you will dread the day the festival ends. Through the eyes of a musician, it is my favourite time of the year.

For months leading up to the festival, Gold Coast musician; Scott Douglas, and I had been taking advantage of Skype to put together a great duet show. It was thrilling to see our hard work fall perfectly in place with a great response to our show; ‘Country Road’ duet show. It helped that we had very talented musicians in the band; Isaac Leong Loon (Drums), Karl (Sonic) Edwards (Bass), and Sam Shepherd (Guitar). Videos from this performance are being uploaded to my YouTube channel so subscribe and enjoy the show.

The 2017 Country Music Awards of Australia – Golden Guitars reflected on the music of 2016 and new releases of 2017 by some of the biggest names in the Australian Country Music industry, at the Tamworth Region Entertainment and Conference Centre on Saturday 28th January 2017.

The night kicked off with performances by 2017 Toyota Star Maker winner Rachel Fahim, 2010 and 2011 Toyota Star Maker winners Luke Austen and Luke Dickens and 2009 Toyota Star Maker winner Liam Brew.

The entrance to the venue was lined with the famous red carpet, topped off with hundreds of screaming fans all receiving photos and autographs of their favourite artists. I found myself a position where I was lucky enough to get selfies and interviews with majority of the artists as they made their way up the carpet and into the green room before the concert.

The Golden Guitar Awards are the most prestigious award given to country music artists in Australia. The lucky winners of the night included;

Travis Collins– MALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR, AMCOS SONG OF THE YEAR and SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Sara Storer– FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR and BUSH BALLAD OF THE YEAR
Bennett, Bowtell & Urquhart– ALTERNATIVE COUNTRY ALBUM OF THE YEAR and COUNTRY MUSIC CAPITAL NEWS GROUP OR DUO OF THE YEAR.
Catherine Britt with Kasey Chambers, Beccy Cole, Lyn Bowtell, Josh Pyke, Wes Carr and Wendy Matthews– REGIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK VOCAL COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR.
Fanny Lumsden– QANTASLINK NEW TALENT OF THE YEAR
Luke O’Shea– TOYOTA HERITAGE SONG OF THE YEAR.
Stuie French– INSTRUMENTAL OF THE YEAR
Kristy Cox– BLUEGRASS RECORDING OF THE YEAR.
O’Shea– CMC VIDEO CLIP OF THE YEAR
Troy Cassar-Daley– ALBUM OF THE YEA

As for me, my life motto is “You can never dream too big” so one day, I just might be writing about what it feels like to be walking down that red carpet. Until that day, I am going to continue what I love to do; performing three shows every weekend across Australia and traveling back to New Zealand and Canada for my tours. Planning has commenced already for two other international tours that will happen in the next couple of years.20170128_090851.jpg

Marriage Equality in Australia. What’s Going On?

“Homosexuals being given the same rights to love, marry and have a family just like everyone else, with no concerns about their safety and security is what we are aiming for. Overall life will not change for other people. The sun will rise in the east and still set in the west, it’ll just be another day”, Jacob Roberts, states firmly when I asked him what he believes will change if the marriage equality act was passed in Australia.I met 22-year-old Jacob only a few days ago and once we got to talking, I knew his take on the subject would be interesting.

Marriage equality has been an ongoing issue for decades, however, over the past year, the issue has literally gone worldwide. “We’re fighting for our deserved equality and legal rights that a defacto couple and married couple process,” he continues saying with a hopeful look in his eyes. Growing up knowing his whole life that he was different, he feels proud to not be confined in secrecy anymore.

What’s happening right now?
When Malcolm Turnbull was re-elected on the 2nd July 2016, his promise was to hold a marriage equality plebiscite before the end of the year. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declared that an “expensive” plebiscite on same-sex marriage would hurt gay people, confirming that Labor would vote against it. Without Labor’s support, it wouldn’t pass the Senate. Jacob agreed with Shorten; “With just as many advertisements supporting gay marriage, there would have been the same amount against it- potentially being harmful and discouraging to young people who are unsure about themselves.”

It was very unexpected that the plebiscite was estimated to cost Australian tax payers $160 million when a census could have been made in its place. Amnesty International explains the plebiscite as being a frustrating distraction from the simple route of a free vote in parliament.

Jacob emotionally describes one situation that can happen, which is different for a defacto or married couple. “A gay couple can live together for years, and let’s say they had twins using IVF- fertilizing each egg separately so the children have the same Mum and two Dads, being related. If one partner dies, everything legally owned by the deceased, including the child with his DNA can be taken away from the other partner and handed down to the next of kin, separating the children too.” This is one situation where equal rights are needed.

What now?
Despite 70 per cent of Australians supporting marriage equality, according to Fairfax Ipsos poll, and just 22 per cent against, the Australian government has still yet to pass this. The High Court ruled in 2013 that our parliament has the power to make this change.

Malcolm has admitted that he is still pushing for a plebiscite but a parliamentary vote would be the next resort. With quite a large number of politicians against gay marriage, the vote may be held back for years. With over 20 countries legalising gay marriage, and many others following those footsteps or even implementing similar constitutions, Jacob believes that it is only a matter of time before the Australian government accepts the change.

Want to read more on the subject?
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-11/same-sex-marriage-woman-raised-by-lesbians-supports-plebiscite/7923516
https://www.australianmarriageequality.org/
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William’s Imagination

While being captivated in the events of the week that have made their way in the morning’s newspaper, William overheard his son Brady playing outside with a soccer ball. Brady is the young age of five, and you wouldn’t think differently. With short dusty blonde hair, large hazel eyes that stare right through you and being the height of a small kitchen chair, he is a very active and outgoing boy.

Peering up from his crinkled paper to look through the sunlit window, William admired how his son could entertain himself so easily and unlike other single children, never complain to his parents about being lonely. It was a warm Autumn afternoon and the colour of the leaves making their home on the ground made the whole backyard appear golden. Brady’s job was the sweep all the leaves into a pile and he did exactly that, however he also loved to jump from his tyre swing, which was tied to the tall oak tree, into the perfectly bunched pile, scattering the leaves everywhere.

While watching his son play, William noticed that Brady was talking to himself, which instantly made him recall his own past. For some years now, he had blocked out certain memories of his early childhood but overhearing Brady made him remember when he was that age. William was the youngest of five siblings by a few years which made him a little bit of a loner growing up, and alike Brady, he made his own fun when the others were too busy to play. He became nostalgic.

Reminiscing back to the past, he was surprised by how well he could remember his imaginary friends. There was Ace the Superhero, who can shoot off like a rocket when he was called for to save someone and Miny the Mouse who was always very quiet but was the fastest runner in the world. They were his good friends but no one could compare to his best friend Quincy the Purple Dragon. Quincy was always around, even when Miny and Ace were off saving the world. Growing up, even though he had a very happy childhood with his family, playing with those three were his favourite times.

On one sweet Spring morning, Quincy and William were playing in the front yard. Miny the Mouse and Ace the Superhero were hiding so William was working with Quincy to find them. As his father walked out the front door, dressed in his best blue suit, on his way to work at a law firm, William ran up to him in his childish ways, giggling and tugging; asking him to play with them. His father seemed to have had enough of Williams games as when he turned to face William, there was only frustration in his eyes. They sat down on the front step of the house, and William’s father began to lecture him about how unreal his friends were and that his playing habits were not normal. “You’re five years old now, nearly six, so you should start to grow up. No more imaginary friends”. William can still hear his father’s voice drilling those words into him.

After that talk, William slowly began to lose sight of his friends. Miny the Mouse was the first to disappear and soon followed Ace the Superhero. He missed them greatly but he still had Quincy the Purple Dragon. He never thought that his trusty best friend would leave too but sure enough, when Summer came around, Quincy packed his bags and never came back. William was heartbroken for some time but he could see the difference in his father’s eyes when he knew they were all gone.

Williams cheeks began to blush and the strike of embarrassment rushed through him. He put down the newspaper, slowly pushed back his chair and strutted outside to where Brady was playing. He had his father’s words running through his mind and he knew exactly what he was going to say.

Just as he arrived to his spot of confrontation, before he could call out to Brady, the sound of his son’s laughter overpowered him. He watched him play and noticed how much fun he was having. Suddenly he saw himself in his son and realised that he was wrong. His father was wrong. Deep down, there was always that wish that he could have been given a little more time to be a kid so he decided not to say anything.

He slid down on his front stairs with his eyes captured on his son as he played. Brady ran over to where William was sitting and started to explain all about the game he had made up. A smile from ear to ear grew on William when Brady told him that Quincy the Purple Dragon was hiding up the tree.

Write a discription of a fictional character

Characterisation: This involves writing a description of a fictional character. This could be a character from the short story you developed in the module or another character from your imagination. Describe things like the person’s background, looks, personality, motivations, relationships and preferences. Use at least one literary device in your characterisation.
Word length: 300 words

As I peered over the bridge and across the creek, my eyes became fixated on a man. He stood tall with his back to me as he slipped off his maroon t-shirt from his sculpted body, revealing a large Maori tattoo swept across the left side of his torso. It connected to his whale bone fish-hook necklace that was hanging around his neck showing his New Zealand culture. His tousled hair was as dark as the shadows of twilight, emphasizing his sun-kissed skin. He had recently been in the creek as his body glistered in the sun light while streams of water made their way down his muscular back.
Now wearing only damp greyish jeans and a built watch on his wrist, he slowly turned around making me feel as if I was day dreaming. His face was ageless, giving me the impression that he was around 22 years old. His strong chin and shapely eyebrows allowed his dark emerald green eyes to sit flawlessly above his nose. Everything on his face led me to look at his eyes. He gave a cheeky smile, releasing his deep dimples, when he released I was spying on him.
As I approached him from the bridge, he walked my direction. For the longest seconds of my life, we stood in front of each other, eyes searching with excitement, faces bright with anticipation to who would speak the first word. His voice was kind when he said; ‘Hello’. Deep in conversation together, I found out that he loves to surf and during the day he works as a builder. When discussing the topic of life and the future, his eyes lit up with ambition and optimism as he explained his big plans for his future incorporating his love of traveling the world. He let me know that he is single at the moment but said how much he wants children of his own as he comes from a big family. He was very sweet.

An everyday Aussie mastering big feats in the worldwide fitness industry!

“I  love  the  business  but  some  days  I  just  turn  off  my  phone  and  read  a  book”  Matt  says  shyly,  running  a  hand  along  his  tanned  forearms,  navy  blue  shirt  sleeves  pushed  up  to  his  elbows.  We  are  sitting  in  the  Los  Angeles  airport,  after  being  drawn  to  meet  each  other  through  our  familiar  accents,  while  the  boy  from  the  bush  is  reminiscing  about  the  days  growing  up  on  the  outskirts  of  Coonabarabran,  NSW,  on  a  little  property  with  his  Mother  and  younger  Brother.  “Small  town,  no  traffic  jams,  I  do  miss  that  place  sometimes.”  He  smiles.  Even  though  24-year-old  Schooner  is  now  one  of  the  most  sought  after  male  fitness  models  in  Australia  and  overseas,  it’s  easy  to  see  why  he  needs  his  peace  and  quiet  from  time  to  time.  And  you  wonder  why  I  stopped  to  talk  to  him?

How  it  all  began…
Being  raised  by  a  single  devoted  Mother,  working  two  jobs,  he  was  encouraged.  “My  Mum  is  my  inspiration”,  he  says  solemnly.  “She  worked  constantly  to  make  sure  we  had  a  roof  over  our  heads  and  food  on  the  table”.  High  school  was  the  starting  point to  his  career,  when  all  the  other  kids  were  either  studying  for  a  specific  job  or playing  sport  to  get  into  the  top  leagues,  he  would  go  to  the  gym  during  lunch  time  and  then  again  in  the  afternoon.  “It  was  my  way  to  escape  the  stressfulness  of  school.  Once  I  put  those  earphones  in,  my  whole  attitude  changed  and  I  would  become  relaxed  and  energised.”  After  a  few  months  of  doing  his  routine,  a  man  approached  him  offering  advice  and  mentorship.  “Joe  Douglas;  the  owner  of  the  gym,  explained  to  me  that  he  had  been  watching  my  progress  over  the  past  few  months.  He  saw  my  dedication  and  offered  me  guidance  about  a  career  in  fitness.  I  never  really  knew  anything  about  so  Joe  assisted  me  in  learning  about  the  industry,  along  with  different  routines  and  eating  plans.”

Over  the  next  few  years  of  training  together,  Matt  began  competing  in  male  fitness comps  across  Australia.  These  competitions  are  a  new  high  class  sport  across  the  world  where  winners  can  make  an  amount  of  up  to  $500,000!  Thousands  of  athletes  compete  with  many  competitions  held  yearly.  Matt  competed  in  the  South  Coast  Physique  Championships  in  2012  at  the  age  of  20,  getting  placed  in  the  top  10  males.  Once  he  had  a  taste  of  his  first  competition,  he  craved  it.  He  attended  many more  competitions  over  the  next  years  such  as  the  Virus  Fitness  Mania  Gala  Competition  in  Victoria,  until  he  won  his  position  at  Australia’s  NSW  Championships in  2015.  “I  was  speechless  when  I  heard  them  call  my  name  out  amongst  all  the  other  5  finalists”,  he  laughs.  “I  have  to  keep  pinching  myself  to  believe  that  it  I  really  won.”

After  this  competition,  he  was  asked  to  come  on  board  with  many  different  modelling  agencies  such  as  the  AEFM  Australia’s  Elite  Fitness  Models  and  ANB  Australian  Natural  Bodybuilding.  Through  these  agencies,  he  has  gained  numerous  modelling  positions  for  Australian  magazines  such  as  Men’s  Fitness  and  Men’s  Health.

What  now?
He  claims  that  his  whole  career  started  by  dreaming  about  doing  something  big  with  his  life.  “Travel  was  always  on  my  mind  growing  up”,  he  stops  and  pauses.  “If  it  wasn’t  for  my  trainer  Jo,  and  the  dedication  my  Mother  showed  me,  I  don’t  think  any  of  this  would  have  been  possible.”  He  added  some  very  exciting  news  saying  that  his  younger  brother;  Brad  Schooner  is  beginning  to  walk  in  his  footsteps.  They both  train  together  daily,  while  residing  in  the  Gold  Coast,  so  be  sure  to  keep  an  eye  out  for  the  upcoming  brother  duo.  He’s  not  just  focused  on  family  though,  as  he  encourages  others  who  are  interested  in  fitness  and  don’t  know  where  to  start  to  contact  him  via  social  media  platforms  to  ask  him  any  questions  or  advice  they  may  need.  Things  are  only  going  to  grow  from  here  for  the  champion  fitness  model.

After  a  lot  of  sweat,  blood  and  tears,  literally,  Matt  Schooner  has  now  broken  into  the  male  fitness  modelling  profession,  being  a  highly  sought  after  man  for  competitions,  modelling,  fitness  advertisements,  fitness  fashion  shows,  sports  advertisements,  supplement  advertisements  and  magazine  spreads.  “The  decision  to  create  a  profession  out  of  such  an  industry  is  one  that  involves  constant  dedication,  self-discipline  and  plenty  of  perfect  practice  to  master!”  Meeting  Schooner  just  proves  that  an  everyday  Aussie  can  achieve  his  biggest  dreams  through  determination  and  persistence.

Follow  Matt:
Website;  www.MattSchooner.com,  Facebook;  Matt Schooner,  Twitter;  @MattSchooner,  Instagram;  Matt_Schooner

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Sami’s Canadian tour comes to an end…

Good afternoon everybody, (Well it’s afternoon here in LA)

We have now arrived at the LAX airport awaiting our next flight at midnight through to Brisbane then onto Canberra. It is unbelievable to think that a whole six weeks ago my Canadian tour began. The time has flown by so quickly. This tour has been one of my most memorable experiences and I feel so blessed to have been able to perform in such an amazing country. From the moment I stepped off my home soil, I knew I was headed to another country, yet I felt right at home. Everyone completely welcomed us into their lives and country with open arms. I met some incredible people and musicians that I will be anxious to meet up with in ten months time when I return for my second Canadian tour in June 2017.

This tour commenced on the 26th June 2016 and finished on the 3rd August, when we began our journey home. Throughout our time there, my manager and I visited many towns across Alberta and British Columbia, with me performing 12 shows at; Didsbury, Calgary, Balzac, Banff, Radium Springs, Kamloops and Aldergrove.

So what has this tour actually done for my music career?

PERSONALLY: Well not only did it help me by being able to visit another country and experience that side of life… BUT it has helped me understand my own words when I say; ‘You can never dream too big’ and that ‘I perform music because I love it’. I do live by those words but it just helped remind myself how lucky I am to be living my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better life to be able to do the one thing in the universe I LOVE for a living, travel, write about it and meet/share with other people doing what I do.

CAREER WISE: Before I left for Canada, my co-written song with Sydney musician Steve Deal hit number 5 on the world wide iTunes Country Charts thanks to all of you for purchasing it. You can still purchase the song; “I Just Want To Love You’ for $1.69 on iTunes and request it on CMC Country Music Charts AND watch the film clip on YouTube.

Since then, the song has hit number 18 on the Australia’s radio most played songs which is again amazing so thank you to every radio presenter who played it for their support. You can still help me out by requesting any SAMI song at your local radio station.

While touring Canada, it introduced my music to people who had never heard of me- which is the entire point of touring. By coming to Canada, my bookings for my return tour in 2017 has doubled including new venues due to good reputation.

Not to be vain but it does also give me the title of an ‘International Touring Artist’ which helps a lot!

IN OTHER NEWS…

While being in Canada, I have had my fun too… I flogged a few canucks (Canadians) in pool, i confused the hell of out some by using Aussie slang and scared others by stories about Aussie animals (Those funnel webs will chase ya and watch out for drop bears) haha

I also encouraged many to visit our beautiful country and explained to them about how large Australian truly is. Now with the Aussie dollar dropping so low, I’m sure a few more Canadians will pop over sometime soon.

I have loved Canada but now going back to my beautiful country to continue my touring at home.

Photo taken at the Columbian Icefields, Alberta.DSC04452.JPG

WHITE CLIFFS NSW

I am writing to you this morning from a peaceful spot at the back of the White Cliffs Hotel in NSW. White Cliffs has a population of 100 people, which includes the 50 people who live in town and the other 50 who live on the stations which range out hours either side of the town. It is a completely different world out here from where I grew up and live.

I performed at the hotel on the Saturday night and have been welcomed into the town by the locals since then. Yesterday the publican took myself and Mum for a flight in his plane to sight see the town of White Cliffs, and to have lunch on one of the many stations out this way, which holds one hundred and eighteen thousand acres.

What an unbelievable view it was! White Cliffs is known for its opal mining so when we were in the air, I felt as though I was on the moon due to all the mines. Houses out this way are also dug into the ground to help keep that cool temperature during the horrendous heat in the summer. Besides the mines and the hotel, there is not much else out this way besides a vast land of red dirt, kangaroos, emus and feral goats. Australia is such a large country so it is very interesting to see how the land changes quite quickly from green grass and crops to red dirt with salt bush.

From growing up in Young and living in Canberra, it is amazing to talk to people and see how they live here. It is usually populated either by holiday miners or workers on stations.

The Australian opals they find here are stunning; usually white with purple and blue opal veins streaming throughout the stone. One miner spoke to me about what they commonly find and what they are aiming for. The usual discovery is a small stone with a coloured opal vein running through it. Once they find that, they continue to dig to attempt to find either a flat opal vein in a larger rock; which they would slice open to find opal throughout, or they would hope to find a pineapple opal. A pineapple opal is a rock the size of a pineapple that is completely made of opal. These are rare to find but once they do, they can sell for prices that start at $3000.

It is all about luck out here though. From the early 1800’s, people have been testing their luck mining so now it’s all about location and depth. I asked another miner about how they know where to start and he simply answered that they don’t know, they just start digging and hope to find something good. People come from all over the country to spend weeks to months testing their luck.

White Cliffs should be one place that’s on your bucket list to visit. It is an extraordinary place that will make you see how wonderful our country is.

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