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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Sara Tindley

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This weekend sees the Bangalow Bluegrass & BBQ Festival bring music and meat to the Byron Shire. The Echo spoke with Sara Tindley, one of the many artists performing. on the main stage on Saturday.

What are you looking forward to most about the Bluegrass festival?

I came to love American-style barbecue on my first trip with my family to the USA. Mark, my partner, designed himself a big smoker and the first year of the festival we entered the barbecue comp cooking pork ribs and chicken. We came third in one of the categories. Eating barbecue and listening to some great music sounds like a perfect Saturday to me.

How do you think it reflects the spirit of the region?

It’s a really relaxed, welcoming festival. The food is incredible, the music is fun, and it all happens during the day so it’s a great family day out. I get to catch up with lots of people I have known for years but don’t see so much. And it’s the one day we carnivores get to unite and feel a bit sorry for the vegetarians. There’s a place for us all here in the northern rivers.

How long have you lived here?

I’ve been here since 1994.

Why did you decide to stay?

There’s nowhere else in Australia quite like the northern rivers. I’ve always preferred to live in the country. To be able to live outside a city but still easily access all that a city has to offer is gold. The lush beauty of the land and water here still stops me in my tracks on a regular basis. And then there’s the community. It took a while but I really feel like I belong and I can stop searching for somewhere to call home.

How has living here affected or shaped the kind of musician you are?

It gave me a platform to hone my craft in an incredibly nurturing and encouraging way. I was pretty terrible when I first started out but venues kept giving me a go and musicians kept agreeing to play with me so I was off and running. I was given the chance to find my audience and to become part of the beautiful, talented music community that is here. I don’t know of any other regional community that has live music every night of the week!

When did you find your ‘voice’ and the confidence to sing your songs?

I spent three months as a backup singer on a disastrous tour from Alice Springs across to Western Australia. By the time that tour fell apart I felt like a proper singer.

When I moved up here, I taught myself to play guitar so I could accompany myself and start writing songs. I met Azo Bell and we formed a duo that did pretty well, and over the years I just kept writing and my songs got better. I still struggle with my confidence but I don’t let that stop me from doing anything really.

Who are the people who have really inspired you along the way?

All the musicians I have worked with over the years have been hugely inspiring. Their faith and belief in my work has kept me going. It’s a tough industry and without the support of other musicians who give of their talents wholeheartedly I wouldn’t have been able to keep going. Then there’s the songwriters who keep me striving to write better, from the big guns such as Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Paul Kelly, Guy Clarke (to name a few) to the unsung heroes such as Ash Bell, Jez Mead, Suzannah Espie, The Yearlings, Lucie Thorne, Abbie Cardwell… the list goes on.

What should we expect from your show at Bangalow Bluegrass?

With the help of local legend Phil Levy, we have put together a cracking band including Rod Coe on bass, Steve Gilbert on harmonica and Michel Rose on dobro and, of course, Phil on mandolin, guitar and banjo. It will be a non-traditional take on bluegrass. We can’t wait!

The Bluegrass & BBQ festival kicks off at the A&I Hall on Friday with the now-legendary Old-Time Variety Show. This is a jam-packed night of entertainment with a vaudevillian flavour in a raucous adults-only time slot. Saturday is at the Bangalow Showgrounds with Sara Tindley performing on the main stage sharing the bill with The Morrisons, High Lonesome, Cat & Clint, The Mumblers and The Ben Wilson Band. There will also be a Picker’s Competition with a $250 prize up for grabs.

The Bangalow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival is a not-for-profit community event that has raised over $125,000 since 2014 for regional arts and cultural initiatives, of which the arts-in-schools program is a primary beneficiary. The festival aims to raise another $25,000 for local schools this year.

Two-day passes from $68 adult or $88 family. Booking fees apply. Children under 18 free. Includes one free tasting plate. Additional plates $10. For tickets go to bbqbluegrass.com.au or visit facebook.com/bbqblue.

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