At the beginning of 2020 Melanie Dyer co-hosted the Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth before flying out to Nashville the following day.
Little did she know it would be her last visit to US country music capital for more than two years as the coronavirus pandemic was about to spread, shutting borders, and it was also her last time at the Tamworth festival for more than two years.
But it's all about to change this year.
Not only is Melanie about to return to the Tamworth Country Music Festival next week, she is also working on getting back to Nashville as restrictions ease.
Change is something the country music singer who grew up in Inverell has seen a bit of lately.
Melanie made a seachange in January, moving from Sydney to Port Macquarie, which she said was prompted by the time she spent back home on the family farm west of Inverell during the 2020 lockdown.
"I got a taste of the simpler life when I went back home," Melanie said.
"I realised I'm a country girl and I actually enjoy the slower pace sometimes.
"As much as music keeps you on your toes and you're constantly going, it's nice to go back to a home base that's a little more relaxed.
"Plus a lot of locals from Inverell travel to Port Macquarie. It's a go-to spot because it's not busy and crazy like the Gold Coast or Newcastle. The lifestyle's really nice.
"I'm enjoying meeting halfway between the pace of Inverell and Sydney, it's nice to have that happy medium," she said.
Next week she will be back in the New England region for the rescheduled Tamworth festival, which was postponed from January this year.
Melanie will play with her band on Friday, April 22 at West Diggers, starting at 7pm.
"I'd love locals to get there if they can," she said.
She will also be back at the Toyota Golden Guitar Awards where she will be presenting one of the trophies.
Looking forward, the singer-songwriter has a new album in the works to be released later this year, and spoke about her plans to get back to Nashville, which has been the place where some of her best known songs have been written, including the hit from two years ago, Memphis T-Shirt, as well as her debut single Fresh, before the pandemic halted travel.
"I'll work on keeping those doors open that I've worked on over the last five years. I'm really keen to get back there," she said.
She recently received some great news, winning a $10,000 grant from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).
"It will really help push along my songwriting career," Melanie said. "That's just as important to me as being a performer and an artist."
Having been a finalist for that award a couple of times in recent years, Melanie finally took home the prize, which hands a grant to one artist from individual genres.
The APRA development awards help developing songwriters and Melanie said some of the funds would go towards getting back to Nashville and more songwriting sessions there.
Meanwhile, in Australia some of co-writing efforts are being recorded by other artists, including the most recent Toyota Star Maker winner Sammy White, Bryce Sainty, and Golden Guitar winner Amber Lawrence.
When it comes to her own recordings, Melanie plans to have a new album out later this year, making the most of all the songs she wrote during the pandemic when she was back on the farm, as well as a few earlier ones.
Melanie has road tested Cheap Moscato at gigs over the years and said she noticed the response it got from audiences.
"Especially from the ladies, drinking with their girlfriends," she said.
"They were like 'we love this song'. So I knew the feedback was good before I even released it, and it's had a really good response so far."
The song has been streamed more than 120,000 times.
We will hear more songs from the album ahead of its release in the back half of the year, Melanie promised.
"I've got a couple more that I'll release as singles before the album drops," she said.
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