LIVE: Country meets city

SHE grew up as a city girl listening to Spice Girls and R’n’B but all it took was a little bit of Dolly Parton and Jasmine Rae was hooked.

The singer-songwriter, who has released two albums and topped the charts since winning Telstra Road To Tamworth 2008, has carved out a career in country music despite being a city kid through and through. So how did she become a country artist?

‘‘It was mostly that I listened to Dolly Parton when I was eight years old, when my dad put on a Dolly record. I loved the music, I loved the stories and the meanings behind the songs and the instrumentation,’’ Rae told LIVE. 

‘‘I loved singing it and the way it makes you feel. When you sing it, it feels like it comes from a place that no other music comes from. So I decided that was my favourite type of music from then.’’

But it’s country music on her terms. The pint-sized singer’s tunes aren’t about hay sheds, milking cows or heading down to the paddocks, they’re about more common human experiences.

‘‘People understand I’m not from the country, I’m not going to sing about life on the farm. I love music about all that kind of stuff... but I don’t sing it because [my music] is about more general things like relationships,’’ she explained.

Her songs, like Hunky Country Boys, I Faked It and Can’t A Girl Change Her Mind, only reinforce Rae’s approach to country music,  which is one that has had her labelled as different, sometimes even edgy.

‘‘It’s always flattering as long as they’re not saying I’m crap,’’ she laughed. 

‘‘I didn’t grow up in the country. I didn’t grow up going to Tamworth, I didn’t grow up in the country music scene, so I’m really lucky to be able to do it now.

‘‘I do have different types of music that influenced me because I studied jazz and contemporary. [Growing up] I was obsessed with the Spice Girls, R’n’B was a big thing at my school, no one else really liked country music. So those kinds of music come out in my writing – not on purpose, it’s just something that happens.’’

Her live set also reflected her diverse training and taste in music, featuring – alongside her own hits – Top Of The World, by Patty Griffin. Rae first performed the song, which has also been covered by the Dixie Chicks, at more intimate, indoor events but has been blown away by the response at bigger gigs.

‘‘I tried it at a couple of festivals last year and it was so fun. Normally everyone is partying and in a party vibe but Top Of The World is really stripped back and a really vulnerable song so I didn’t know how it was going to go. I love singing it,’’ she said.

Her CMC Rocks The Hunter set will also feature new songs from her forthcoming album. Rae admits to a few nerves about playing the newbies in front of a live audience, but can’t wait to hit the festival with her ‘‘amazing’’ band, which even features her best friend on backing vocals.

When it comes to a set list, Rae lets the crowd decide – whether it’s via social media or the crowd’s response on the day.

‘‘What’s great about country music fans is that they don’t get upset if you can’t sing all the songs they ask you to do on Facebook, but I do try to accommodate when people ask for a specific song I haven’t played in a while,’’ Rae said. 

‘‘But we kind of just go by what has the best response live... we just see which ones people enjoy live because when they’re enjoying it you have a lot more fun because it’s going off. It’s a great energy.’’

Jasmine Rae performs at CMC Rocks The Hunter 2013 alongside Jack Ingram, Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Big & Rich, Love and Theft, Adam Harvey, Adam Brand, The Perry Band and more. The Hunter’s own Bob Corbett, Morgan Evans and Catherine Britt also perform at the festival at Pokolbin’s Hope Estate, March 15 to 17. Visit cmcrocks.com.

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