Looking back over thirty years -
Let's go back and take a look at my career from the very beginning. My highs & lows my triumphs ,my adventures, and the albums I created along the way. My recording career began with the release of (The Boothill Rodeo) way back in the 1980s getting my first airplay ever on 2VM Moree who featured the song and promoted the Boothill Rodeo at that time. With the help of Barry Thornton we launched the album at the Gravesend Pub my backing band was (Cold Beer) and we were performing at Rodeos around northern NSW back then. I remember our show at Boothill Rodeo drew a crowd of over 7000 and the Rodeo committee ran out of everything! It was a roaring sucess in spite of this, and my recording career had begun . All through these early years I was still competing in Camp Drafts and travelling around, all my early inspiration was taken from these years & met some of the great horsemen & women who have inspired me to create Rodeo Queen/Vanishing Horseman both albums reflecting those wonderful years!
1981 - recorded Boothill Rodeo -started performing around Rodeos.
1982- recorded my first album Rodeo Queen at Country Records - Coffs Harbour
1983- Recorded The Bullrider & Today I Started loving you again (Single)
1984- Went to Tamworth Country Music Festival - performed at Longyard.
ME PRESENTING TOM MCCIVOR WITH A TSA AWARD!
1985- recorded Vanishing Horsemen -on Selection Records Tamworth CM Festival -performed at Longyard.
1986- Won first Gold Guitar with (How the Firequeen Crossed the Swamp) off Vanishing Horsemen. Won TSA Award (New Songwriter Award) Stumpy.
1987- Recorded River Gums & Mallee Dust - Selection Records. An autobiographical collection based on my childhood years growing up in the Murray Valley region of Victoria. Also the duet with John Williamson inspired by memories of our childhoods. When we were kids, won the TSA Award for Song Of The Year.
1988- Signed to Festival Records - Performed at Maleny Folk Festival/Tamworth CM Festival. At this time I was part of the Longyard team , always loved performing there. They were special times with after Awards party at Grovelly House which were special too.
MY URALLA YEARS!
1989- Phil went into local Politics and was the Mayor of Uralla 1989-for several years . During this time we enjoyed being wined & dined by an American contingent from Lockheed Martin. Phil & his Council Members at that time secured this contract to build their huge antenna on the big Ridge site near Uralla. It was a huge project back then but continues to be a big asset and keeps Uralla on the global map. Phil is very proud to have been a real player in many projects at that time.
1989- Our home at that time was in new England at Uralla. The Diggings, a picture postcard little place rolling hills ,my gorgeous big garden (all changed now) but these years spent there were very productive. Writing ,producing, creating songs that have defined my career .These years were pretty special and also included Tennis, Horse Breeding, Gardening and looking back some of the best years of my life.
1989- Recorded and Produced my first Festival album (Colours) very much inspired by my Country, the colours of my Country and once again a very exciting time for my music. Sydney or the Bush came out of this collection and some consider this my signature song. Also Colonial Ladies Gary Brown & his magic guitar featuring on this album. Brownie toured with me for over twenty years & i treasure those memories performing together.
1989- Launched Colours at Uralla at the New Colony Restaurant ,what an unforgettable night! My Partner of over Thirty Years Phil ,became my sound Engineer & remained my Soundman for over thirty years!
ONE OF OUR BEAUTIFUL (ROC) BABIES JUST BORN DAISY & FOAL.
1990- Recorded my second Festival album & most significant (I think) Closer Now. Title track inspired by some special outback women I had met on our tours. The title song also I guess is a self portrait of my own (living on the land) experiences. The cover shoot all filmed aroun New England near our Uralla home. This album produced several key songs and won me my second Female Vocal crown. Sarah's Memory, Rose's Cafe, Mr Midnite, some of my best . Closer Now featured some world class players with Tommy Emmanuel, Larry Mahoborac , Senille De Silva, Gary Brown, Pixie Jenkins and so many more great local players.
(Brownie and I in the Festival studio recording )
1991-At the Sydney Opera House I was awarded the (Spirit of Tamworth Award) . It is an Award I'll always treasure as it was carved from an historic Bottle Tree which was removed from Peel Street Tamworth at that time.
1991- I won my second Gold Guitar and my first Female Vocal Award, recieving a record number of nominations that year. Sarah's Memory taking out the top award, My Friends of Norma Club was very strong at this time & we held our gatherings at Country Comfort , I was involved in the big street Parade as well as Performing in BI Centennial Park on Australia DAy Concert Norma & Friends, we presented it as and included many mates.
1991-Recorded new tracks for inclusion on Norma's Best, Mehi River Blues/Take a Cutting /Warwick Gold Cup. The latter two both going on to become final nominations, and Take a Cutting being voted Comedy Song of the Year, in 1992. Warwick Gold Cup did not need a Gold Guitar ,it has been one of my most enduring songs, one bloke told me at Nanango one year (The Best Bush Ballad song ever written) big statement, but always nice to hear what the fans think.
1991- Was a big year when I look back now as Slim had recorded my Paddy William ,and we won Gold Guitars for that! Thank God for Slim or I would not have won those two Bush Ballad Awards! I have no illusions about that at all, his name was Gold! he always added that bit of magic to any song he sang.
MY FESTIVAL YEARS!
1991- My first Female Vocal Award (Sarah's Memory) .I owe so much to Festival & the PR people and everyone who believed in me back then. Unheard of these days to put a Songwriter into the studio ,give them an unlimited budget & say GO MAKE YOUR MUSIC!
Proudly displaying my Gold Guitar for Best Female Vocal in 1991.
1992- Recorded Tamworth (the song) at the Festival Studio possibly the most commercial country song I'd ever written. Festival loved the song, and imported an American Producer for the album? This was the (Winds of CHange) album ,it was okay for that one song, but I was in a very Folky place at that point, did not want that treatment for the rest of it, so that was when we parted ways . I can only say that any Songwriter who hands over creative control to anyone , is going to regret it for the rest of their life! Most likely was a mistake for me commercially, but I do take my special gift, seriously !
1993- So we moved the entire project to Enrec (at Kurri Kurri) back then & Steve Newton where we recorded Winds of Change. Some great things happened from these sessions, and some of the songs are very special to me & to some of you as well. Barbwire & Bamboo, the song written for Phils Dad, JB Buddle -POW during the second world war, and it was a finalist. Old Time Picture Shows, one of my favourites, Face in the Crowd, a co write, recorded by Mary Duff. Mr Midnite was on the charts for weeks, Sleepy Little Town (for Uralla).
1993- My second Female Vocal Award with Tamworth (the song), it was a tongue in cheek dig at our Industry at the time , and a huge triumph for me as a Songwriter because winning the top award with this particular song, with the message it brought gave me such a buzz. The song was HUGE it was used to promote the Festival for several years and really has been my biggest hit song to date. But I do feel sad when I can honestly say the message did not get through! Because the music still sounds more American than ever !
1993- Was surely a big year I rode in the Celebrity Cutting at Tamworth, along with John Farnham,Kerry Ann, Bill Roycroft, and Tim Webster! This is a Mike Kenyon photo, on this little Palomino horse! loved him.
1993- Was headliner on the Tamworth on Parade AUSTRALIAN TOUR. It was a huge adventure & would not have missed it. So many artists were involved as we rolled around the country, even went to Tassie ,WA , and verywhere in between.
1994- Warwick Gold Cup was a finalist in Heritage! and is still a favourite with the fans today! Take a Cutting won TSA Comedy song of the year also toured extensively covering Western Victoria, North Qld and NSW.
1994- Recorded my very first Independent album (Sweet Rain) . An album I'm very proud of stands up so well today Rod McCormack Co produced and played nearly all instruments added so much . The song that really hit the spot was (Melbourne Cup (the song), it was featured by AJC on all their PR that year, and they made a fabulous Clip also we were special guests that following year, I performed the song live on Berty Newtons Good Morning Australia and saw the Cup from the winners circle.
1994- The magic thing about this album was the title , because it rained all through the recording sessions, it rained at the Launch in Uralla, and everywhere I toured with it , including China, the UK it rained! a drought breaking album. Several songs were hits with the fans, Old FJ, Glenrowan, Life is what you make it, and Rain ,ythe title track was featured on BBC and I still get good airplay in the UK.
1995- My International touring began during the next few years, I was invited to China to represent Australia in the International Folk Festival in Nanning. I travelled to the UK/London/Germany and Ireland , where I found more inspiration than I can say. Also we were the guests of Lions Club Japan Phil taking part in a Documentary as the son of a POW. WE attended the peace park ceremony in Nagasaki, where Phil laid a wreath of paper cranes made by Armidale High School students. (photo below)
1995- Back home in Tamworth that year I was Awarded (Songmaker of the year) award, very thrilled to be nominated for this a big honour.
1995- Did include our trip to Japan where I performed at several big concerts the biggest by far -on the biggest stage I've ever seen ,at the American Navel Base at Sasebo- where the American sailors all loved my songs, they totally related to all the Rodeo songs & I got a big buzz out of that! Especially when we followed a 100 piece full on orchestra ! Ben was with me & it was all a bit daunting for him ,but the yanks made us feel so welcome!
PHIL PLACING THE WREATH AT NAGASAKI PEACE PARK.
1996- I was invited back to the International Folk Festival in Nanning for 96 . We were wined & dined by poloticians , Governors, attended some amazing banquets and feasts traditional marriage ceremonies, stage productions, saw fabulous costumes, traditional Festivals and everywhere we went we saw so many unforgettable ceremonies. I was personally fascinated by the drum park, the drum museum, and the general fascination with traditional drum ceremonies.
1998- HANDS OF FAME
1999- Recorded my only (live) album (Live in Bundaberg) at Brothers Club in Bundaberg. An amazing project which I look back on & wonder how we did it all. Mind you I had good help and I attribute the success of the album to Ross Andersen & Sibi Morano and the rest of the band of local musos who really made it all happen. Looking back on it all I am so glad we decided to go for it, it was a pretty daunting project and yet because of my team we pulled it off well and truly. Phil my partner of 30 years played a big part in the (Live in Bundaberg) project and without his support my career would not have survived at all.
MY INDEPENDENT YEARS
2000- This was to be my biggest Tamworth ever , we invited the top UK Band (Colorado) over to perform and we featured our free Peel Street Concerts every day for four days pulling in crowds of more than 10'000 every day into Peel street. We were sponsored by Careys Transport/Hogs Breath & North Power, but Tamworth Council shut us down after that! say no more.
2000 - Also in January I was a finalist with Fresh Horses, and Dave Byrnes (Colorados Manager escorted me to the Awards quite splendid in his kilt)
1999- Recorded Live in Bundaberg , my first Independent album and my only live album & DVD and thank goodness I did because the years fly by and before you realise it is all history! Great to capture those special moments in time and some of the magic from a live concert you can never capture in the studio. This was a time when we toured pretty solidly up north every year, .
2000- After January 2000 I walked away from the music Industry for ten years , no more recording or touring during this time I took a ten year break, however thank goodness for so many young artists and even established artists who kept my music alive during these ten years! Also Slim who began recording my songs and keeping things rolling with keeping my name up there.
2001- Won a Gold Guitar for Paddy William , (Best Bush Ballad) with Slim on his Looking Forward Looking Back album, it was very special to be a part of Slims career during this time. A finalist with (Fresh Horses)
2000 - From 2000 until 2010 I switched off for ten years! After January big Peel Street Concerts I decided I needed a total break (time out) from the music from the Industry and specially touring. I was a bit weary of the travel and I was trying to focus on selling up & moving up to Qld near my family.
2003 - Once again a Gold Guitar win with Slim ,recording Just an old Cattle Dog, Best Bush Ballad ,sadly this was to be Slims last Gold Guitar Award and he passed away in that year.
2004- We moved to Bundarra near INverell where we camped in our big bus and stayed for six months while we found somewhere in Qld , we wanted to be close to the family and all of my kids all live in Qld . Our time in Bundarra was very special a top little town and inspired my song Bundarra Dust ,on my latest country album Solid Gold.
2005 - Moved to Bony Mountain from NSW to begin a whole new chapter .
2006- I commenced my Landcare web site about this time featuring mny plantings , my diary, lots of photo's - www.bonymountainlandcare.com We were busy settling into Bony Mountain our little piece of Qld ,I was madly planting trees ,we were fencing, building our big barn and settling in with the horses. Had our beautiful stallion (Roc Again) plus a young colt (Little Roc) several mares and the breeding program was full on at that time.
My International adventures
During 1995-1996 I went to the UK/Ireland/Germany/China & Japan - I would say to any young artist if you get the opportunity to travel ,then don't hesitate ! take the chance when it comes , and soak it all up because the chance may never come again. I wish I had made more of my trips but easy to say that, when you are travelling, touring, writing, enjoying the music , trying to embrace a new culture, new experience, it is a lot to take in. We do have some great TV footage from China but were unable to access anything from our Japanese trip. I resent the fact that we were not given a copy of what was filmed , but typical of the Japanese I'm afraid , no performance royalties either & APRA tell me this is the way it is. I think the USA are a one sided mob as well, it is all their way? So be aware of all this before you travel and perform in foreign lands. China was amazing though & I fell in love with their (homemade music ) from their Autonumous regions , mesmorising pipes, similar to bagpipes , all instruments hand made! very impressive I thought. Their costuming, stage presentations, Dancing, and the sheer numbers always spectacular!. Loved the real Chinese food as well ,pretty outstanding and far superior to our Chinese cuisine here in Australia. It fascinated me that the language barrier just does not exist , in Germany for instance they all just took it all in, clapped along, loved it all! In CHina we always had an interpretuer who would give the audience the story, then I would sing the song, and they were a beautiful audience ! I got several standing ovations , I think because my voice was so different to the local Singers, my deeper tones really appealed!
Ben and I performing in a theatre in Japan. A lot of Aussie exchange students in the crowd, a lot of them cried , I made them feel very homesick!
Reckon I never set out to try to win awards but along the way they seem to just gather like moss on a stone! I've only gathered a few in my career but I figure I won them on merit ! I have become very dissalusioned over the years and I don't agree with much that happens these days . Thank God I'm at the end of my career ,not the beginning, I would not be in the race! The music has changed so much and seems to be driven totally by Record Companies/TV/and such a huge American influence I do confess I'm very dissapointed. Mind you there are our wonderful Bush Balladeers, and a handful of other original artists, Songwriters but talking about original there is Chad Morgan, old Chad amazes me he just keeps on keeping on & continues to inspire us all. But overall the whole country scene seems so tired and worn (done to death) springs to mind. Mind you we have our very own Aussie Bands the Bushwackers- we have Murphy's Pigs, leaning toward the Celtic thing, some great bluegrass Bands, plus of course some of the best musicians in the world! My one big gripe is that the Australian Country Music Awards - should be strictly for albums & artists all recorded in Oz, okay to have an International section! but otherwise must be totally Australian, otherwise how can it be called the Australian Country Music Awards ???
TODAY & TOMMORROW
Here we are in 2017 and I am struggling to keep pace with my own expectations and plans for the years ahead. No time to sit & think about it, just get on with it. My next project will be the Mothers Day album- (Love & all that Stuff) due for release 2017 mid year. And then to complete (volume three) of the Celtic Connection & release in time for Xmas 2017. The songs are all written some are recorded so hopefully I'll get it done. Then I am planning to help produce my very first Stage Production at the local Schools here in Southern Downs. So excited about that can't wait , we have the sound track completed and up to the School now . I am working on a childrens album , a comedy album & I am writing songs for other artists as well. So I can't see myself slowing down yet!
I have cancelled out of Tamworth this year ! I apologize to anyone who has planned to attend my shows! I decided I could not cope with Tamworth this year! too hot & too hard, hope to see you in September ! Luv Norma XXX