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  • Tussock Country

Jenny Mitchell reflects on life since bringing home the TUI

I was sitting with my flatmate when an email popped into my inbox from Recorded Music NZ. He wasn’t sure whether I’d received great or devastating news as I tried to explain the situation via happy tears and extremely excited hand signals in the (silent) top floor of the University of Otago Central Library. Creating an album that you love and are proud as punch to release is just about the best feeling any songwriter could have. But being nominated for Recorded Music NZ Country Artist | Te Kaipuoro Tuawhenua Toa Tui for that same album, is a real treat too.

I’ve grown up watching my biggest idols win the Country Tui. From Tami Neilson and Kaylee Bell to the Topp Twins - just to name a few. I particularly remember the 2006 awards that featured my Dad, Ron Mitchell, in the finalist lineup. He didn’t bring home the Tui that night but in my books he was without a doubt the coolest and best Country artist of the evening. I was so excited to tell him and my Mum about the nomination that I couldn’t bring myself to do it over the phone. So I opted to write them a letter, themed in golden-Tui colours, inviting them to be my plus-ones at the event. I think it's fair to say they also felt as thrilled and humbled as I did.

My album Wildfires had been brewing for quite some time before it was released into the world. I started writing it in 2015 and after Crowdfunding half of the project costs, I headed into studio in early 2018 and released it later that year. So the journey of this record truly has been a huge part of my life for years now. So you could imagine that the huge honour of winning that golden Tui and seeing my name engraved on the plaque was one of the the most surreal moments of my life. To top it off, I was so deeply proud to be one of three female finalists. My fellow nominees Tami Neilson and Jamie McDell are artists I adore and supportive friends that I treasure.

Before I knew it I had proudly placed the Tui on my dresser and kicked off my first New Zealand tour, living my dream at 20 years old. A bit weary and a bit broke. But more fulfilled than I’ve ever felt. The tour took me from Invercargill to Tauranga with shows in theatres, bakeries, halls and living rooms. It was a healing and grounding experience to leave the lonely bubble of independently releasing an album and finally connecting with people through the music I’d poured so much energy into.

A huge highlight since the Tui win was my Australian Golden Guitar Nomination for Wildfires. Following in the beautiful Kaylee Bell’s footsteps, it was a goosebump moment to watch a kiwi name appear in the nominee list alongside Australia’s greatest at the 2020 Golden Guitar Awards. I also recently had the pleasure of joining Fanny Lumsden, three time Golden Guitar Winner, for a run of shows in country halls throughout rural Australia.

There’s a countless number of people that have supported me over the past year I want to send a huge virtual hug to anyone who came along to show, shared my music or let me sleep in your spare room. I couldn’t have done it without you.

In between studying and touring, I'm pleased to report I’ve been writing new tunes along the way that I hope to be sharing at Gore’s very own Tussock Country Music Festival this May. Hope to see you and your best hat and mittens combo there. Until then, here’s a playlist of some Country artists that I’ve been inspired by in the past year.

See you soon,

JM x

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