The 2018 Big Sky Girls showcase takes place in Brisbane in early October.
From Cooktown in the Far North, to the beaches of the southern Gold Coast, the Big Sky Girls project (an initiative of Brisbane music company SUGARRUSH Music), has once again discovered some of the incredible musical talent in our communities across Queensland.
Turning the spotlight on musical talent from Queensland's regional and remote communities is the focus of a unique mentoring project.
After receiving applications from all over Queensland, 10 young women aged between 15 and 25 have been selected to be a part of the 2018 Big Sky Girls programme: Ella Hartwig, Madison Thomas, Brianna and Tianna Dennis: The Dennis Sisters, Amber Farnan, Meg Beth, Kayla Conyers, Zoey Mills, Hannah Rosa and Tylah Rose.
Project manager Deb Suckling says the incredible depth of talent in the applications made it very difficult to select the final ten participants. "It was a really difficult process to select the final ten participants – we just wish we could take everyone," she says.
"The talent in our regions is incredible and we are thrilled to have the support of Arts Queensland, APRA:AMCOS and Sony ATV to be able to deliver the programme once again in 2018. And a special thanks to Virgin Australia for helping us get the artists to Brisbane."
The application selection was also assisted by Sony ATV's Craig Hawker – with Sony again assisting in the project providing one of their writers as part of the songwriting sessions.
The ten young songwriters will attend creative and professional development workshops in Brisbane with established artists and industry professionals including Jackie Marshall, Kellie Lloyd, Roz Pappalardo, Sabina Lawrie, Brianna Carpenter, Paula 'Jonesy' Jones, Sarah Howells, Leanne Tennant, Sian Evans, Francesca De Valence, Danny Widdicombe, Craig Hawker, Jeff Lovejoy and Craig Spann.
Aside from workshops and weekly mentoring, the selected participants will also see one of their songs professionally recorded by Jeff Lovejoy (Powderfinger, Resin Dogs, Tex Perkins) and they will be invited to perform at very special showcase in Brisbane this October.
Hannah Rosa - Southport
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? I'm an indie-pop singer-songwriter based on the Gold Coast. Music has always played a huge role in my life, giving me a way to express thoughts and feelings that I would struggle to otherwise.
Over the past few years, I have supported artists including Kate Ceberano, Jack Carty and Kyle Lionhart, and performed at festivals including the Queensland Music Festival, Bluesfest Byron Bay and Brisbane Festival.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? There is always more to learn and new connections to establish.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? Some new songs. The 'I Heart Songwriting' programme has been great for sparking inspiration so far.
What are your long-term career goals? Aside from being a performing artist myself, I would love to write songs for other established artists too. Songwriting is my favourite part of the record cycle.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? This is a toughie, but right now I would have to say Kimbra. Her music is always so fresh and inventive, so the song would probably end up sounding like an alien doing the mambo or something similarly out of this world.
Amber Farnan - Cairns
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? I am a self-taught, 15-year-old indie/ folk/ pop singer-songwriter raised in Cooktown, now based in Cairns. I play the guitar, piano, saxophone and ukulele in my band Legends Of Perhaps. I write songs based on real-life experiences and issues that dawn on today's society.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? To get an in-depth perspective of songwriting and discover the key factors required to succeed in the music industry.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? I hope to encounter experienced individuals within the industry to provide me with inside techniques and practises, and meet other young singer-songwriters who share the same passion for music.
What are your long-term career goals? My long-term career goals are to produce countless songs, collaborate with other artists, successfully release my EP I am currently recording, and go on tour.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? I would love to write a song with Missy Higgins. It would be a haunting ballad with a strong message based on the issues in today's society. We would create an infusion of melodic piano, beautiful harmonies and acoustic guitar.
We would write this song in Broome because I lived there for a few years and like Missy, I find its picturesque beaches and deserts inspiring when writing.
Zoey Mills - Mackay
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? Growing up in a world filled with song and melody, Zoey Mills' love for music started at a very young age. As an only child, Zoey was raised on the music of her parent's generation, travelling Australia for the first few years of her life in a caravan with her Mum and Dad.
These influences, ranging from Fleetwood Mac to The Eagles, and more recently from Angus & Julia Stone to Kasey Chambers, have shaped the sound of Zoey's debut EP 'Gypsy Girl'.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? Because I believe there is always something new to learn. I want to improve my craft in songwriting and broaden my network of amazing like-minded people.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? I hope to work and create friendships with amazing musicians and mentors from the music industry. I want to learn new skills to improve my songwriting and write some killer songs.
What are your long-term career goals? My dream is to be a full-time musician and make a living from my music. I want to get my original music to connect with many people as possible.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? Fleetwood Mac. Being a solo artist, I would want the song to include their awesome harmonies and instrumentation. Favourite band ever.
Ella Hartwig - Cooktown
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? I am a 15-year-old singer-song-writer from Cooktown, Far North Queensland. I play guitar and sing, although I love to experiment with other instruments such as piano, bass guitar, ukulele, mandolin and banjo. I'm not entirely sure what my exclusive genre is, but I feel that indie, folk seems to narrow it down enough.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? I was tagged in the application on Facebook. I am extremely grateful for the comment mention otherwise I don't think I would have been aware of the programme. When I read over the application, it seemed too good to be true, however I applied anyway.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? As an emerging artist I cherish all the advice given to me and I feel as though these amazing influences will help guide, essentially mentor me and give me the push that I need into the wicked world of the overwhelming music industry.
What are your long-term career goals? A career goal for me currently would be to produce an EP. I believe that this extra support and guidance will help me make the best choices for what I want to do.
As a long-term career goal, ultimately becoming a musician is my ideal dream. I believe the way songwriters are gifted with the opportunity to express themselves through songs and music is just amazing. I aspire to create and produce songs, and I also believe it is a gift to be able to share these and learn from others.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? If I had to narrow it down, Ed Sheeran, Jack Johnson, Amy Winehouse and Missy Higgins have always stuck out to me as gifted songwriters. I also love the sound of the indie, alternative rock band Kodaline.
The Dennis Sisters - Tewantin
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? We're folky Sunny Coast sisters who love playing live music. Briannah at 19 grooves it out on the bass while Tiana at 17 jams on her acoustic guitar in either our duo or with our band.
Our sound at the moment is influenced by favourite artists such as Missy Higgins as well as the country and folk original music scene. We have a passion for writing music together, changing up covers and a big focus on sibling harmonies.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? This programme blew us away, as we felt like it had been specifically tailored for us. We're at a point in our career where we need to expand our networks, continue to educate ourselves on the industry and keep honing our songwriting skills.
Being surrounded by industry mentors and eight other incredible regional chicks was also very appealing and empowering and we definitely made some amazing friends. It is obvious there is still a huge gender gap in this industry, but with support and programmes like BSG, change is happening so we are very grateful to be a part of such opportunities.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? We hope to continue growing as artists with guidance and advice as we are developing our sound and careers. We're both looking forward to joining the I Heart Songwriting Club with everyone and creating those consistent songwriting habits, and receive constructive feedback from talented friends and mentors.
What are your long-term career goals? Our long-term career goal would be to authentically develop and share our original songs and stories, and have the connections and knowledge needed to produce and release them so that they can connect with the right audiences. That's the best feeling and to be able to do this full-time would be it for us.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? Such a hard one. Missy Higgins is an incredible Aussie artist; an inspiration for us and our songwriting, so she would definitely be a frontrunner. Writing an epic piano driven song with her would be AMAZING!
Madison Thomas - Roma
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? My name is Maddy and I live in Roma, a small country town in western Queensland. I have been singing all my life and enjoy making other people feel different emotions that I feel when they hear my music.
The genres that I have a passion for is rhythm and blues music and also pop music. I play guitar as an accompaniment to my singing and enjoy progressing my skills with the instrument.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? I applied for Big Sky Girls to gain songwriting, singing and guitar skills to help me progress my future in music. In addition, I hoped to gain an opportunity to build music into a career for the future.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? I hope to gain potential connections with artists, managers, recording companies etc. to help me in pursuing my future in the music industry and to provide me with new experiences and opportunities that are not available in such a rural town. I hope to meet heaps of new people who will help me accomplish my goals and to improve my skills.
What are your long-term career goals? My long-term career goals include working towards releasing an EP and potentially an album. I really just want to continue developing my music, as I truly enjoy growing as an artist every day. It is a way that I express my emotions and help to bring those emotions to other people when they hear my music.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? Ed Sheeran is a big inspiration to my music. If we were to write a song together, it would most likely be an emotional song, as that genre of music really captivated the audience and allows them to feel how you are feeling. It is music that can be so powerful to both yourself and others.
Meg Beth - Toowomba
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? My name is Meg Beth and I'm a 16-year-old singer-songwriter. I've been writing original songs since I was 10 and I recorded my first song in my uncle's studio in Brisbane when I was 13. I've moved schools a lot.
Altogether, I've been to seven schools: three primary schools and four high schools. The hardest move was in grade seven when I moved from my small country town primary school that I went to for five years, to an all-girls school in Toowoomba.
It was really difficult because it was so different and new, and also because I was starting my terrible teenage years and I wasn't fitting in very well at school. Writing songs really helped me through this because it gave me a way to express what I was feeling. That was the year I properly started writing songs and decided that I wanted to be a singer-songwriter.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? My Mum found Big Sky Girls through Facebook and I applied for it because I felt that it would give me an opportunity to learn more about the music industry, and songwriting and music in particular. I also wanted to meet other songwriters with the same goals and passion for music as me.
I have so much to learn and I felt that the Big Sky Girls programme would give me more knowledge about music and the music industry. I also go through writer's block quite a bit and I needed some inspiration and ideas of how to get out of it. Big Sky Girls sounded incredible and super exciting to me so I really wanted to be a part of it.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? Before Big Sky Girls, I didn't know very much about the business side of music at all. But Big Sky Girls really helped me with that by teaching me about it and letting me ask questions to gain a better understanding. And seeing as I'm going to release my EP soon, the mentors at Big Sky Girls helped me to know how to do that and taught me things I had never even heard of before.
The Big Sky Girls programme signed everyone up to iheartradio, which is a network where we have to write one song every week for ten weeks. I am really excited for this because it will help me get rid of my writer's block by teaching me to not fuss too much about the lyrics.
What are your long-term career goals? My long-term career goal is to share my music with people all over the world and to be an inspiration to people. I want to travel the world and meet people who love music like me. To be an inspiration and a role model to others would be an incredible accomplishment that I want to achieve.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? If I could, I would co-write a song with Tori Kelly because she is such an inspirational woman and an amazing writer. I love her style and the way she expresses and explains her emotions through her music and lyrics. She's an awesome guitarist and her vocals are incredible.
She's such a beautiful women and someone I strive to become like. She's also a Christian like me and just such a great role model for me and other people around the world. If we wrote a song together, it would probably be a funky guitar song about something we're both passionate about.
Tylah Rose - Gold Coast
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music? I'm 16, a student in year 11 and live on the Gold Coast. My genre of music is electronic pop. I'm a singer-songwriter and I like playing guitar and love vintage fashion. My biggest love at the moment is everything 1990s and music from the 1950s.
I'd say my music is a combination of dark pop and elements of R&B/ soul combining electronic sounds. My writing ideas come from past experiences and musical influences.
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? To meet like-minded girls in Queensland and be mentored by knowledgable artists in the industry.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? To develop my music and writing skills as an artist, make great friends and have the opportunity to be surrounded by talented Queensland girls in the music industry.
What are your long-term career goals? To be a successful artist/ performer/ singer/ songwriter. To release music that people can enjoy and connect to and to also be a touring artist internationally.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? It would have to be a combination of artists. Amy Winehouse, Jessie J and Billie Eilish. The song would be a mix of dark pop, soul and jazz. The lyrics would be simplistic but poetic with a strong message.
Kayla Conyers - Townsville
Why did you apply for Big Sky Girls? Because I would like to further develop my songwriting ability, to grasp an understanding of how I can achieve my future goals in the music industry.
What do you hope to get out of the mentorship programme? My goal is to enhance and improve my songwriting skills, to pin down my genre of music and to be able to achieve recognition as an artist as well as perhaps releasing a song.
What are your long-term career goals? I would love to be able to sing and share my passion for music all over the world and to become a performing artist. I would also love to teach others about music and how to express themselves through writing music.
If you could write a song with any musician (dead or alive), who would it be and what would the song sound like? I would love to write a song with Sia - it would be a deep, meaningful indie-pop song with a catchy melody with several different ranges.
The 2018 Big Sky Girls showcase takes place at the Green Owl (Brisbane) 5 October.