Bella's Final Celebration of Friendship and Song
Multi-award winning Country Vocal sensation Bella will play their final homeown show of their She Still Believes Tour (launched last year to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their fist Golden Guitar successes) at Belmont 16s on Saturday, 19th September.
These world-class shows have been one of the few occasions in many years that Country Music fans have had the opportunity to hear this unique vocal super-group perform live. But now the tour, and Bella itself are coming to an end.
We sat down with one-third of the Bella Trio, Lyn Bowtell, to reminisce about her time with Bella, the unique challenges of being part of an all-girl band and find out what she will missmost when Bella sing their final note at Tamworth in January and hang up the guitars for good.
Lyn, thanks so much for fitting time ino your busy schedule to chat with us. We’d love to know a little about your childhood. Did you come from a musical family? At what age did you discover you could sing? Both my parents were musical. My Dad played accordion with his father and brother for the ‘old time dances’, he also sang, played piano, organ and drums. Mum sings and can play the piano accordion, autoharp and bag-pipes. I grew up listening to them both playing music around the house. I think I could sing as soon as I could talk… I was always making up melodies and humming a song. It was around the age of 12 that I started performing in front of people.
What was “little Lyn” like? ‘Little Lyn’ was a happy go lucky little Tomboy - I grew up on a small property in Kleinton, Queensland. I have two older brothers so I spent most of my time as a child with them, riding four-wheelers and helping out on the farm.
How many years have Bella been playing together? 13 years give or take! How did you meet? Was there an instant bond/friendship? I fist met Karen O’Shea in 1997 at the CMAA Academy of Country Music and Kate Ballantyne at the Gympie Muster that same year. We were all involved in the Toyota Star Maker Competition; I won in 1997, Kate in 1998 and Karen was a Grand Finalist in 2000. Our bonds as a band were formed when I introduced the girls to each other and we sang some impromptu harmonies at one of Kate’s shows in Tamworth in 1999. It was unrehearsed and raw, but there was a unique blend of voices… it was obvious we were meant to sing together. And we made each other laugh, a lot!
You were all soloists and achieving accolades and awards individually – what made you decide to come together? Our close friendship and a love of harmony. Singing together was always something special, and I’ll never forget how happy I felt and how musically rewarding it was to work together. The decision was an obvious one, for us and for those who heard us together!
How did Bella get their fist big break? We were playing at ‘The Brewery’ in Newcastle on Sunday afternoons once a month under the name ‘Anam Cara’ (Celtic for ‘Soul Friend’). Star Maker organisers, Barry Harley and Kate Nugent heard we were singing together and decided to take a trip down from Tamworth to see us. They were so impressed that they offered to help us finance therecording of an EP. Our fist Golden Guitar Award in 2004 was for that EP (Tumblin’ Down, which was released through their label AgSongs). We then went on to record and release our album Gravity through BMG 12 months later.
There are positives and negatives to all collaborations – does being part of an all-girl collaboration have unique challenges? Yes of course! Kate has had my blush brush for nearly 10 years now, and I suspect she plans on keeping it! Karen has great taste in boots but extremely small feet - it’s that kind of selfishness that can cause conflict in y all-girl collaboration! I’m somewhat accident prone and am always breaking Kate’s sunglasses (which is partly why I’m hesitant to raise the blush brush issue…)
How have you managed to juggle three families over the years and keep touring/performing? What keeps you all sane? It’s challenging when you are each other’s babysitters that’s for sure! I think that we all have wonderful friends around us so that keeps us as sane and as grounded as one can be in this industry!
What has been your most memorable moment while touring? There have been so many, I remember the electricity of performing on the main stage at Gympie Muster on the Saturday night with a massive crowd and bright lights – truly adrenaline pumping. Then there was the beautiful people and iconic scenery of our Tour of Italy, and the ancient landscape and Aboriginal art of Katherine Gorge and Far North Queensland. Our most recent performances at Tamworth were also very powerful. We’re singing better than ever, I guess we’ve come of age, and have a much stronger sense of self than earlier in our careers.
What changes have you seen in the Country Music industry over the years? There’s been a lot of influence fom other genres, and the sub-genres of Americana and Alt-Country have really taken off. I’ve seen an influx of Bo-Country and Pop-Country, even the likes of Guy Sebastian getting in on the scene. The biggest changes have been in the recording industry generally and how our music is consumed by the public through downloading and streaming as opposed to the purchase of a physical CD. This signals challenging times ahead for artist income. I think the message is the same, though, real music, real people and songs with a story to tell.
What do you love/hate the most about touring? I love travelling around this beautiful country. I love packing my suitcase for a purpose and heading off to sing my songs. I love sound check and I love the show! I hate fast food and mediocre coffee… so I’m always pleased to come home to a nice cup of Merlo and a home-cooked meal.
When Bella plays its final show this month and you leave the stage for the last time as a trio - what will you miss most? September 19th will mark our last Newcastle show… Our final ever show will be at Tamworth Country Music Festival 2016 in January. I will miss the people who love our music. I will miss the faces of our Fans as they sing along. I will miss my girl’s voices ringing in my ears. We are and always will be friends fist so I won’t miss Karen and Kate, I will just enjoy more barbecues and campfire sing-alongs with y beautiful Bella girls. I’m proud of every moment, every song, every note we’ve ever sung together…and we’ll have that forever.
Join Bella at Belmont 16s for their final ver Newcastle show, and a beautiful celebration of friendship and song from one of the country’s finest emale vocal groups. For tickets and more information about Bella’s last hometown show visit www.proticket.com.au