Two women from Wollongong will grace the stage on the opening night of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, thanks to the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA).
East Corrimal singer-songwriter Mem Davis and Mangerton’s Tania Nichamin will join students from across Australia, NZ and the US for the CMAA Academy of Country Music senior course.
The CMAA Academy unearths and mentors Australia’s future country music jewels, and is the only course of its kind in the world, connecting aspiring musicians with industry veterans.
This year, Kasey Chambers, Kevin Bennett, Mickey Pye, Melody Moko and Liam Kennedy-Clark mentored students in the areas of business, songwriting and instrumental masterclasses.
Tania is no stranger to music royalty – her dad was nominated for a Golden Guitar in the ’90s and frequently played the Tamworth Country Music Festival – but even she was overwhelmed by the talent on offer to students at the academy.
“Kasey Chambers has just arrived and we’re all a bit freaked out,” she laughed.
“My brain is exploding, I’m so excited to be here. We’ve had big days, from 8:30 am to 9 pm, working with phenomenal songwriters, and four days in I already have two new songs.
“By the time I leave, I might have an album!”
Tania has always been around music, but her career took off last year after her son uploaded a song she recorded for her husband on their wedding day.
In a few days, This Is Our Love Song skyrocketed to No. 5 on the iTunes charts. The song featured three generations of the Nichamin family, with Tania’s aunts, cousins, son and father all contributing their talents.
The success was bittersweet, as Tania’s dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer just weeks before. Off the success of the song, she was able to write and produce another one dedicated to him before he died, Biggest Heart.
“It was a year of the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Tania said.
“I took a few months off after Dad passed before I went in to record my third single, Lorraine.
“I produced and directed the music video, I’d had it in my head for years. It was a real passion project.”
After that rollercoaster year, at 48, Tania decided to throw herself into her music career for 2024, and when she was selected for the academy, it seemed meant to be.
Mem was 19 and overseas with a bit of money in her pocket when she spied a guitar sitting in a shop window and thought, ”Why not?”.
She’s now the lead singer for pub rock band Supergroup and swing blues band El Gato, and has performed at the Illawarra Folk Festival, the Jamberoo Music Festival and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
“I’m self-taught so I know I can only get better and there are so many people here I can learn and grow from,” she said.
“Country music is so welcoming. People just wrap their arms around you, there’s nothing pretentious, and everybody has been so generous with their time and knowledge.”
Mem released her first solo single, Young Love, in September 2023 and hopes to launch an album this year.
A partial scholarship from the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society to attend the academy has helped her towards that dream.
The prestigious educational program designed to nurture and develop aspiring music artists runs for 12 days ahead of the Tamworth Country Music Festival from 8-19 January.
Both women, along with all this year’s academy students, will perform at a student concert on Thursday at the Moonshiners Bar before the festival, and then take to the main stage on the Friday and Saturday nights as part of the festival opening.
The academy is in the capable hands of Golden Guitar winners, director Lyn Bowtell and general manager Roger Corbett.
Find Tania and Mem’s work on their respective websites, Facebook pages, YouTube and Spotify.