Nestled in the shadow of the iconic Mt Wollumbin, the subtropical and picturesque Murwillumbah is to play host to the Tweed Valley Country Roots Festival, bought to you by Australia’s most loved country music family, The Chambers.
At the helm is Nash Chambers, who has stepped into the festival director’s boots. Based near Wollumbai in the lower Hunter Valley, Nash is excited about what’s in store.
So the elephant in the room? Well, this is not last year’s country music festival that lost an impressive amount of money. These are the artists who didn’t get paid either, rising out of the flames and deciding that the idea was right but the implementation was all wrong, and so why not create a country music festival that is run by the people who know the industry best: country musicians.
‘Along the way we have all learnt that you have to create your own luck. We saw what happened last year as an opportunity. We all got screwed and we just thought we aren’t going to get paid, do we walk away?’ says Nash Chambers. As it turns out, no. Those country boots have turned back and ‘faced the music’!
‘To be honest we are copping a lot of flack around town from last year’s experience,’ reflects Nash.
So it makes the venture even braver.
‘We love the area. We spend a lot of time around Brunswick. It’s probably our favourite show there at the pub, and Kase loves Byron. We took all our kids and the family and we had a great time, and we all knew it was terribly organised, terribly run, and everything was backwards and it lost more than $250,000. Everyone was annoyed by the mess and the shit, but they genuinely felt it was something the area needs. We can walk away and lose, or create an opportunity!’
And so, the Chambers have set about to create an event that they hope will join the list as one of the big festivals of the region.
‘We have scaled it down this year; we have one stage this time. I do think for the country roots thing, we aren’t trying to compete with anyone who runs events; we are in a different area, we occupy a different niche. Once we have done this event we can get cracking on next year. This is the big one for us though; it’s taken so long to get traction!
‘We are staying in theme for the country roots, with Kasey and the other artists we work with. We try not to use the Americana word, because it has America in it! We go over for the Americana music festival. It’s disappointing coming over here and not being able to promote. It’s a very new genre, but we have all been doing this for years. Lyle Lovett has been doing his music for 40 years. It’s just a new description; now we have a word we can all fit under!’
One of the key strengths of the festival will be the relationships of the artists. Country musicians seem to have developed a strong sense of creative community and, when they come together in a festival, that shows.
‘Most of the people on the bill are friends and are connected in some way. I love the collaboration world, people jumping up, and I love the guesting. We want to show that community.’
While the music industry is a tough place, Nash believes emerging musicians have opportunities their predecessors never had – the technology to create music in the comfort of your home!
‘I love the fact that, as difficult as the business is these days, anything is possible now. It’s definitely harder on the financial side and we are all struggling. But the opportunities are there now, and we do a few workshops and deal with up-and-coming kids and I hear how tough it is out there, but Johnny Cash didn’t have the internet he didn’t have a multitrack studio! There is ten times the opportunity out there now,’ says Chambers.
One of the key projects of the festival is The Essence Music Workshop – an intensive two-day program aimed at 14–18-year-old musicians. Run by Australian Idol winner Wes Carr, music veteran Bill Chambers and up-and-comer folk troubadour, ARIA nominee and international songwriting winner Harry Hookey, this will be all about practical tips and techniques to improve songwriting, performance, and provide professional industry how-to guides.
So why would a bunch of musicians take on something as hard work as running a festival?
‘We love the folklore of it all. We are all hopeless romantics, that’s why we do it, otherwise we’d be sitting making real money in banks. It makes the world a much more colourful place. If we are creating good art – and that’s what we need, we want the festival to be successful – things take time to grow. We need people to take the leap of faith. It will be a great weekend with a great bunch of people.’
That first announcement includes: Kasey Chambers, Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers, John Williamson, Bill Chambers, Wes Carr, Vika & Linda Bull, Sara Storer…
Tweed Valley Country Roots Festival at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds 1 and 2 October.
For ticketing and program information go to tvcrfest.com.