A Gore country music songbird is the first from the area to win a Tui music award.
Jenny Mitchell was named Recorded Music New Zealand Best Country Music Artist of the Year at the New Zealand Country Music Awards last night.
Her album beat albums from fellow finalists Jamie McDell and Tami Neilson at the event held at the St James Theatre in Gore.
New Zealand Songwriters Trust chairman Jeff Rea said it was fantastic for someone from the region to win.
“She’s a young lady with exceptional ability and a rare talent,” Mr Rea said.
Mitchell won the MLT Songwriting Award in 2016.
“It’s very special for us.
“One of our own has risen to the top after coming through the ranks. It’s a huge boost for here.”
In the past 18 months, Mitchell’s sophomore album Wildfires entered the Official New Zealand Music Chart at No4 and she toured in Sweden, Ireland, Australia and throughout New Zealand.
The night came full circle when Rea, Mitchell and her father, Ron Mitchell, performed a song in memory of pioneer songwriting country music artist Dusty Spittle, who died in December.
“We did a tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the country music industry who came from here.
“At the same time, we have a young lady who comes from here as well who is winning the top award – it’s really cool,” he said.
Holly Arrowsmith, formerly of Colac Bay, now of Christchurch, won the Australasian Performing Right Association (Apra) Best Country Song for Slow Train Creek
Arrowsmith also previously came through the MLT Songwriting Award ranks, Rea said.
“It’s been a stepping stone, which is really cool to see that progression.
“We [the songwriters trust] encourage and support writers to get better and I think we are seeing some of the fruits of that labour with some of the people that come through the ranks over the years.”
Kerryn Fields won the MLT Songwriting Award with her song Mamma, out of 108 entries.
“The standard is getting pretty high each year,” Rea said.
It indicated the award was becoming an important event in the songwriting community, he said.
RMNZ chief executive officer Damian Vaughan said the evolution of the New Zealand country music scene testified to the raw talent in the country.
Apra head of New Zealand operations Anthony Healey said country music in New Zealand continued to diversify and strengthen every year.
“Many local artists are being recognised in Australia and the USA and more artists heading to Nashville and beyond to collaborate with the world’s best,” he said.