Former city girl Amber Lawrence stumbled across country music by default over ten years ago, and it has grown as a passion from there. She was recently awarded the Telstra Horizon Award at the Golden Guitars and has released a fresh, new album, ‘When it all comes down’. Kim Gould chats with Amber about her album’s inspiration, life lessons and life on the road with fellow artists on the ‘Country’s New Stars’ tour.
> What drew you to country music?
It was a bit of an accident, I suppose. I was actually having singing lessons a bit over ten years ago and my singing teacher said to go out and buy some music I had never really heard before. So I headed to the CD store and went to the country music section. I don’t know why; I just did. I picked up a LeAnne Rhymes album and loved it.
I just kept heading back to the country music section from then. I never really knew why I headed to the country music section but I’m glad I did, because it’s music that I really love now and I’m so glad that I get to sing.
> You’re an accountant by trade. That’s a bit of a career change for you …
I did go to uni, where I studied finance and got my accounting degree. I worked for quite a number of years, but finally, I guess, I gave that away to concentrate on music. I was juggling the two careers for a little while.
When I was at uni I thought singing was just going to be a hobby for me, but it just kept getting more and more full on and juggling the two was very difficult.
I was trying to be a serious accountant while having a website with all my promo shots on it, and people would bring it up in meetings. It was a bit embarrassing.
So finally, I had to make a decision. I guess it was a hard decision in some ways, but I was never going to give up music. So when I knew I had to make a decision, it was a bit like … OK, goodbye accounting!
> What instruments do you play?
I play guitar and just a little bit of piano.
I learned piano when I was young and really loved it, but when you get to about 14 … well, there’s more exciting things to do when you’re 14. I think I gave it up then, but I do regret that and I still play the piano a little.
I didn’t take up the guitar until I was 20, so I was a bit behind the times. A lot of kids these days are playing guitar at 13, 14, 15, and I was about 21. I was given a guitar for Christmas and started learning, and now I’m not bad.
> You recently won the Telstra Horizon Award. Tell us about this award …
Well, it’s the first time it’s ever been given. It was given at the Golden Guitar Awards in January this year. It was a bit of a surprise, actually. I was nominated for three Golden Guitars, and they gave this award at the first point of the night.
Basically, the award is really just to reward someone who is in that stage of their career where they’re touring and having success at their recordings, getting number ones, but obviously just missing out on the Golden Guitars. I guess it is something to bridge the gap for all the hard work that goes on in those years while you’re waiting to win that first Golden Guitar.
It also encompasses being an ambassador for country music, so that’s something I’m really proud of. What they’re saying is I do get out there and get on the road and I always promote myself as a country singer.
I never say I’m anything but that. I don’t pretend to be a pop singer or a crossover; I’m just a country singer and that’s what I want to be. The award has also recognised that I’m helping to spread the good word of country music.
> What is your new album about?
It’s called ‘When It All Comes Down’. The title track is a serious song about walking the ward of a hospital, which I did in 2008, when my dad was battling Leukemia. The song is just a six month diary entry of looking around and thinking, “Is this what it all comes down to?” By the end of the song we realise, “No”, Iife all comes down to love; the love you give and receive and not that last image of a terrible hospital ward.
That’s probably the saddest song on the album. It does sound a little sad, but everything else on album is really about when you lose someone like that, there’s still a lot of positivity in life and still a lot of happiness.
The album came out six months after my dad passed away, but it’s a happy album. I guess that the real overwhelming message is about life. Life goes on and life starts again, and also that you can create the life you want.
The first track really says that, whatever it is you want you can just start that tomorrow. It’s a little bit cheeky, as well. There are a lot of cheeky and fun tracks; it’s actually a very fun and positive album.
> You’re touring at the moment for The Country’s New Stars. Who are the other artists performing with you?
The tour consists of me, Luke Dickens, who was the runner up in Australian Idol in 2008; everyone remembers him as ‘The Shearer’ from Australian Idol. Victoria Baillie, who won the New Talent of the Year Award this year, and Luke Austin, who won the Star Maker award in Tamworth.
Basically, as breakthrough artists we need to offer the audience some value for money and some excitement factor to get people to come out and see the show. It’s really hard to get people out of their houses these days. So we thought, with the four newest award winning artists on the scene, how could people say no?
> You’re stopping in at Port Macquarie as a part of the tour. Have you been to this area before?
I have been there many times, actually. I toured there a couple of times with the McClymonts. It’s a beautiful part of the world; I love it there. I also did some fundraising with Austar for the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Port Macquarie earlier this year, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Port and have done a couple of shows there.
The big show for The Country’s New Stars is on 22 August at Port Macquarie Panthers, so I’m really looking forward to that.
> What are you looking forward to in the not too distant future?
This tour, The Country’s New Stars, is going for the rest of the year. It’s going to be exhausting, but it’s going to be a lot of fun because we actually all really get along and really like each other. Luke Dickens is hilarious, and Victoria and I have been good friends for a while, so I’m really looking forward to that.
I’m also going to be releasing a new DVD in January. So the next few months are about filming that and thinking of fun things I can put in the DVD to get people to buy it, but most importantly, to enjoy it – so that will be a lot of fun.
I’m going to do lots of behind the scenes skits. People know me for my shoes, so there will be a bit on all the shoes I have and where I get them from, just things like that.
> Thanks Amber; good luck with the tour.
The Country’s New Stars will be held at Port Macquarie Panthers on Sunday 22 August 2010.
Tickets are $22 for members or $25 for non members. For more information, contact the club on 6580 2300.