An exciting new trio are turning heads with their debut album, described as the perfect soundtrack for a walk down a dusty country road.
Over the years, multi-instrumentalists Melanie Horsnell, Kate Burke and Robyn Martin have shared homes together, shared the stage together, and now share their creative energies together as The New Graces.
Candelo has played such a big part in our history together. It feels like a family. It's such an alive place, and people are always creating.The New Graces' Kate Burke
"We've been through the thick of it together," Burke said through the static of the phone line as the trio prepare for an online gig, their performing lives put on old by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The trio's debut albumSeasons, which is being distributed by MGM, hit the top of the Australian country music charts earlier this year. It also reached number five on the ARIA country charts, just missed entering the top ten Australian albums, and their new single also called Seasons is getting national radio attention.
Martin calls their sound "guerrilla country", an ode to their independent and impromptu approach to a genre lathered in stereotypes and cliches.
The group spent so much time reworking their songs together on Martin's Kameruka veranda the group almost named themselves after the historic village.
While the three come from diverse musical backgrounds, the three mothers share a love of storytelling.
Martin is an old hand in the country music scene. As a teenager she toured the festival circuit in her family's band Spineffex.
It all began as a shy 13-year-old bass player from Ceduna, who says she relished the adventure her parent's love of touring brought her during her initiation into the country music community and the "beautiful people" it surrounded her with.
So close was the family, along with all her siblings, she was handed her father's nickname "Spin" by her high school teachers.
She has since made Candelo her home, but says she still has a "strong connection" to the flat desert landscape and its long straight roads of her South Australian home.
After all these years, the groundbreaking album is the first opportunity for her to showcase her original songwriting talents with the world.
Burke is a classically trained concert pianist, raised around her parent's turntable as sounds emanating from records by John Denver and The Seekers floating through the family's Sydney home.
"My parents had a great vinyl collection," she said.
"They would sing around the house all the time, always singing us to sleep."
She said it wasn't her parents who pushed her to learn piano, she pushed herself, but quickly fell into the world of folk music as a teenager.
Her song All Our Hearts sits towards the end of the album, and is one close to heart.
"When I was a kid we'd go to my grandparent's farm, and there was always a mix of kids there," she said.
"There were older cousins who were just really nice lads. They treated me with respect, and it really made an impression on me.
"Two cousins, Josh and Dominic, who died quite young made the biggest impression on me."
The group met each other years before all making the tiny musical enclave of the Candelo area their home.
While she says she did feel a "big shift" after moving from Melbourne, she felt at home after walking into the Candelo Cafe one day to find it filled with Martin family members
She said everyone in town "overcomes differences to get along", which is why the small town of 300 has attracted so many artists over recent years.
"Candelo has played such a big part in our history together," Burke said.
"It feels like a family. It's such an alive place, and people are always creating."
Horsnell began busking on the streets of Sydney at the age of ten, regularly tours Europe, and has had her music featured on popular Canadian series Flashpoint.
The cancellation of a string of gigs due to the pandemic have forced the group to focus on the release of the new project, but Martin says she hopes they will be able to hit the stage as part of January's Tamworth Country Music Festival.
A one time regular, it will be her first trip to the nation's largest music festival in a decade.
"I'm excited to go back because it's a really unique festival," she said.
"There's all these subcultures of country, and there's music everywhere.
"It's amazing, and a lot of free music, and a lot of new music."
Burke and Martin said while the pandemic has strangled the arts industry, people have gone out of their way to support he group through the difficult times.
"The main issue is there's not much money out there," Burke said.
"But we've been so surprised. The people who support you - it's a relationship.
"One thing that has come out if it all is that music can be a pretty hard path to choose, and there is a bit of room for change.
"We are thinking about ways we can tweak it to make it a bit less competitive.
"As a band we're thinking about how we can contribute to that process, and ways we can make it sustainable."
- As the pandemic continues to prevent mass gatherings, the group will live stream a performance as part of The Global Foundation's roundtable, involving Governor-General David Hurley, in Bega on August 10.