There's a song in Sara Storer's heart that she hopes will take centre stage at Tamworth later this month. She talks to JODIE O'SULLIVAN about music, motherhood and all those Golden Guitar awards.
Turning into the gateway of Sara Storer’s property at Bowna, I’m rather grateful to be behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive..
As I navigate the winding, corrugated gravel road that leads to the homestead, I can’t help but think how appropriate it is that one of Australia’s most successful country music stars calls this place home.
And, much like the celebrated songstress herself, the rambling home she shares with her husband Dave and four boisterous sons is welcoming, gorgeously rustic and refreshingly real.
I meet her youngest, Joe, as I pull into the shed; he’s barefoot and playing happily in the dirt with a deceptively cherubic grin, bright blue eyes and curly blonde hair.
I sense mischief is never far from his mind.
A never-ending stream of clothes hangs along the backyard fence; Sara grins ruefully when i remark on the makeshift washing line.
Over a cup of coffee and a corned beef sandwich, we talk about music, motherhood and what it means exactly to be an award-winning artist.
It’s probably the most pertinent question ahead of the 2017 Tamworth Country Music Festival, starting on January 20, where Sara is nominated for a staggering six awards.
It’s nothing new to the popular singer with 19 Golden Guitars already to her credit and now a much-coveted ARIA Award for Best Country Album in 2016.
But what’s abundantly clear, once you spend even five minutes with this down-to-earth gal, is none of it is about the accolades.
So when she says one nomination this year is particularly close to her heart, you know there’s a story in it … well, in this case, a song.
My Diamond is nominated for Song of the Year and Vocal Collaboration of the Year and was co-written with her five siblings as a tribute to their father Lindsay, 75.
Sara performs the song as a duet with older brother Greg on Silos (also up for Album of the Year) and it’s the one she’s proudest of.
“Of all the times I have been up for nomination, this is a song that truly represents what I do and why I write,” Sara says.
It was during a visit to her parents’ farm at Warren that Sara spotted some of her farmer brother’s lyrics lying on a table.
“They were about Dad and they were just beautiful,” Sara recalls.
“I asked Greg if I could add to them and then asked all our siblings to contribute random lines capturing the things they treasured most about Dad.
“I wanted to keep it as raw as possible with quotes and memories.
“But I think the song also encourages the listener to think about their relationship with their own father.”
Sara credits her dad with teaching her to really listen to music.
Growing up she recalls the stomp, stomp, stomp in the morning as her dad made his way to the kitchen where he always sang.
“He’d sing and play the piano accordion and he’d often say, ‘Listen to this line, isn’t it bloody beautiful?’” Sara recalls.
“He unconsciously taught me big lessons.”
Sara, who is self-taught and plays by ear, grew up on a small farm in the Mallee.
When she was 18, her father and mother Fay sold up and bought a 17,000-acre property at Warren so the three boys could be farmers – “they still get along”, Sara quips.
Her connection to the land and its people threads its way through Sara’s writing; a pulsing vein that brings her songs to life.
“The easiest way for me to write a song is if I can hear the rain on the tin roof, see the characters in front of me and smell the smells of the land,” she explains.
It may explain why inspiration for a song is not something she can force.
A “normal day” sees Sara juggling the boys off to school or pre-school, hanging out a mountain of washing on the back fence and contemplating the horrors of housework.
But if she senses “a song lurking in my mind”, the dishes stay dirty while she pours her energy into the magic of creativity.
“It’s exciting and spontaneous and you have to capture it,” Sara explains.
“When I didn’t have kids, I’d slog away at a song and it could be frustrating.
“Now if the boys are playing quietly, I might quickly run back and see if I can get another line down. It keeps me fresh.”
There was a time when, behind closed doors, Sara pulled the pin.
“I thought I just couldn’t do it all and my priorities had to be my kids,” she says.
“But Dave looked at my sadness and my bad mood and said, ‘What do we need to do to make it work for you?’”
They employed a nanny and Sara wrote another album.
“If I don’t write and sing I’m denying who I am - my kids (and my husband) enjoy me more when I’m doing my music.”
These days, though, Sara is very selective about when and where she performs.
Tamworth is a staple on the calendar and she will perform two shows this year, including one with Greg at the Longyard Hotel on January 28. Closer to home she will join the Kickin’ Country line-up at the Commerical Club Albury on February 11.
Right now her sights are set on one award that would hold a special place in her family’s heart.
Her dad is unlikely to make the long trip for country music’s night of nights – 10 years of kidney dialysis “is wearing him out”.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if all my brothers and sisters won a Golden Guitar for a song about our dad?” Sara asks.
You can’t help but hope there’s a string of statues lining the mantelpiece at Warren come Sunday morning.