Town boots up for cel­e­bra­tion of coun­try

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - CHE BAKER

Yee­haw, it’s Gold Gui­tars time in the deep south.

Last year, fresh-faced lo­cal 19-year-old Jenny Mitchell took out the top prize in the coun­try mu­sic com­pe­ti­tion.

She’d been putting in the hard graft for 11 years.

‘‘That was my big dream,’’ Mitchell said. ‘‘I waited my en­tire life to play that win­ner’s spot.’’

How­ever, grow­ing up she did not have a choice in terms of the mu­sic she lis­tened to – it was a ‘‘pretty strict coun­try diet’’.

‘‘Dixie Chicks were my lul­la­bies.’’

Since the win, it had been a whirl­wind year of op­por­tu­nity, Mitchell said.

This week she was one of three fi­nal­ists for the APRA Best Coun­try Mu­sic Song at the New Zealand Coun­try Mu­sic Awards, also held in Gore.

This week­end 750 en­trants and 5000 spec­ta­tors from across New Zealand slap on a pair of cow­boy boots, warm up the vo­cal chords for a bit of yo­delling, and un­der­take the an­nual New Zealand coun­try mu­sic pil­grim­age to Gore.

The South­land town, usu­ally known for its res­i­dents rolling r’s and a big statue of a brown trout, be­comes the na­tion’s cap­i­tal of the globe’s most pop­u­lar genre of mu­sic.

Gore, which has hosted the event for 44 years, is booked out months in ad­vance in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the coun­try takeover.

To­day, 30-35 fi­nal­ists will take to the stage, gui­tars in hand, Garth Brooks melodies at the ready, all set to per­form in the most prestigious event – the Se­nior Fi­nals. The one that Mitchell won.

Their in­cen­tive is a $15,000 prize pack­age, which in­cludes a mu­sic video shot in Nashville, Ten­nessee. The win­ner also gets pro­fes­sional pho­tos, and a year’s worth of men­tor­ing from Per­riam Me­dia & En­ter­tain­ment Group, a record­ing con­tract, and $3500 prize­money.

Event con­vener Philip Geary said the fi­nal­ists were whit­tled down from a whop­ping 720 au­di­tions held through­out the week in a range of cat­e­gories.

Along­side Mitchell, who is back to per­form, are some other pre­vi­ous win­ners. Wai­mate’s Kaylee Bell won the com­pe­ti­tion in 2007, and has spring­boarded to open­ing for Car­rie Un­der­wood, per­form­ing with Keith Ur­ban, and had over one mil­lion streams on Spo­tify.

More than 25 events were part of the week’s ac­tiv­i­ties in Gore, the coun­try the mu­sic cap­i­tal of New Zealand.

KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF

Dave Leaf at The Freeze Ya Bits Off busk­ing com­pe­ti­tion in Gore, held as as part of the Gold Gui­tar Awards.

STUFF KAVINDA HERATH/

Jenny Mitchell was last year’s big Golden Gui­tar win­ner.

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