Felicity Urquhart and Josh Cunningham posing in a promotional photo
Felicity Urquhart and Josh Cunningham have been nominated for six Golden Guitar Awards. Image by HANDOUT/WILD HEART PUBLICITY
  • arts, culture and entertainment

Birdsong to soar over Australia’s country music capital

Stephanie Gardiner January 14, 2024

Singer-songwriter Josh Cunningham says working with Felicity Urquhart gives music a deeper meaning.

Urquhart says Cunningham possesses a special skill that turns her songs into poetry.

The musicians’ palpable connection only strengthens their artistic partnership, having released two acclaimed albums in as many years.

“Making music is a really deep thing on a personal level and when you get to share that with the person you love, then it has a whole other layer of meaning,” Cunningham told AAP.

“We don’t have to miss each other when we’re on tour and you get to do the thing you love together.

“It is a joy.”

The two are nominated for six Golden Guitar Awards for their sun-drenched single Size Up and the album Birdsong, which hit number two on the ARIA Australian country chart.

The offering delicately navigates light and darkness, from sweet ballads to mournful laments, which Cunningham says reflect some difficult years before they found each other.

Felicity Urquhart performs at Tamworth (file)
 Making music is deeply personal, says Felicity Urquhart. Image by Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS 

Urquhart lost her husband to suicide in 2019, while Cunningham endured a marriage breakdown.

Then, like many artists, their livelihoods became suddenly fraught during COVID-19 lockdown.

Music connected Urquhart and Cunningham, the guitarist for The Waifs, and they released their first award-winning album The Song Club in 2021.

Their second release opens on a hopeful note, with the lyrics: “I’ve always been a sucker for a birdsong. I’ve always kept a green branch in my heart.”

The line comes from a proverb that resonated with both musicians, who have always found solace in song.

“Music keeps you youthful, it keeps your friendships alive, it keeps creativity happening,” Urquhart said.

“Every time you play, there’s a new experience, whether it’s a big festival stage or an intimate show.

 “There’s always something that just keeps the spark burning in you.”

The Wolfe Brothers - Nick (left) and Tom (right) - with Lee Kernaghan
 Tamworth 2024 will feature performances from multi-Golden Guitar winners The Wolfe Brothers. Image by HANDOUT/TAMWORTH COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL 

The duo is among the main acts at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which kicks off on Friday, playing a headline gig at the Capitol Theatre and a new festival show, Orchestral Country. 

Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole and Fanny Lumsden are among the acts on the Orchestral Country line-up, playing their own songs backed by a 30-piece orchestra.

The show has been years in the making, driven by a desire to explore the many layers of country music.

“A lot of these songs are great, iconic songs that have helped forge some of these artists’ careers,” according to producer Peter Ross.

“So there’s not only the depth of that history but also hearing them in this new dimension.”

The festival features performances from hundreds of artists, including multi-Golden Guitar winners The Wolfe Brothers, rocker Ian Moss and Daryl Braithwaite.

Crowds at Tamworth in 2020 (file)
 Tamworth is this year staging the 52nd version of its famous festival. Image by Peter Lorimer/AAP PHOTOS 

As many as 300,000 people are expected to visit the Tamworth region during the 10-day event, which is marking its 52nd year.

Urquhart, a Tamworth local, said the festival means something different to her each year.

Her young daughters will be among the hundreds of hopeful buskers on Peel Street, while Urquhart and Cunningham act as roadies between their own shows.

“It reminds me a bit of my sister and I because busking is how it all started off with me,” she said.

“So there’s a bit of nostalgia playing in my head but also this exciting mother hen thing.

“Tamworth has changed for me now, not just being the performer but also being mum.”

* The Tamworth Country Music Festival runs from Friday, January 19 to Sunday, January 28.

* Orchestral Country will be held at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre on Wednesday, January 24.

* Urquhart and Cunningham’s Birdsong show is at the Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, January 24.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636