ANOTHER WIN FOR MICHAEL PYE
Exceptionally talented and inspiringly driven second year Popular Music and Performance student, and inaugural scholarship winner, Michael Pye (‘Mickey Pye’) has claimed a prize at two of Australia’s most renowned country music festivals – the Gympie Muster and the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Before launching into second year studies at the JMC Academy, 2009 kicked off for Mickey with a two week session in January studying at the CMAA College of Country Music in Tamworth. Here, Mickey spent his time working with artists Travis Collins, Jim Haynes and Merylen Carter, Adam Harvey, Troy Cassar Daley and the Sunny Cowgirls. Mickey says [of his time at the college], “I most enjoyed working with producer and former Ted Mulry Gang drummer, Herm Kovak, who helped me work on one of my original compositions.”
This opportunity was closely followed that same month by Mickey Pye’s title win of the coveted Aristocrat Country Entertainer of the Year at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival. After winning his heat, Mickey joined 15 other finalists to play in the Grand Final where he finally won with an original composition entitled Hey John and Brooks and Dunn’s Play Something Country.
Most recently, in August, Mickey also won the Maton Talent Search at the Gympie Muster, ahead of more than 120 competitors who battled for the title and the enviable prizes that come with it. An entrant in the modern country section, Mickey won his heat making it through to the semi finals, where he was judged by Sony Music and Maton Guitar representatives.
In the finals, Mickey competed against two others, only to be crowned winner with the three songs he performed – an original composition entitled Keeps Me Alive, Brad Paisley’s Easy Money and Brooks and Dunn’s Play Something Country.
Mickey attributes his success to his ability to write his own songs, play guitar and sing. “I guess the judges were looking for a complete package as well as for general appeal and marketability”.
Mickey’s most recent prizes include a Maton guitar valued at almost $3,000, a gig at the West Tamworth Leagues Club at the 2010 Tamworth Country Music Festival, an Akubra Hat and a centre stage opening at next year’s Gympie Muster.
By far Mickey’s biggest prize is an all expenses trip to Canada to represent Australia and perform at the 2010 Merritt Mountain Festival. “I am excited about contributing to putting Australia’s Country Music talent on the map. This is a genre of music that is growing in both size and popularity and I believe we have the talent to compete on the world stage”, says Mickey.
Mickey adds, “Given Australia’s friendly, open and authentic culture, and our connection with ‘the land’, I think Country Music is an appropriate music style to represent the people and life in Australia.”
When asked about how Mickey describes his own style, he laughs and says definitively that his music is “country with a good touch of rock”. Inspired by artists such as Brad Paisley, Keith Urban Bryan Adams, Elvis Presley, and singer-songwriter, record producer, and actor Toby Keith. Michael says Country Music is evolving to reflect the developing taste and lifestyle of a new generation of music enthusiasts.
“Today’s music lovers want it all, good rhythm, a beat they can dance to and lyrics they can relate to. Most of all, they want to listen to something fun. Country music has to encompass broader concepts; beyond messages about lost love and landscapes for broader appeal and acceptance”, says Mickey.
Growing up in rural Oberon, Mickey explains where his love for country music came from. “I grew up on the land with horses, trucks, rodeo and a lot of Slim Dusty. I guess I’ve lived the country life so I can relate to the music and it excites me. I learnt to play the guitar around the campfire when I was nine years old. By the time I was thirteen I was playing in pubs, I think every band needs to do their time on the pub circuit, it toughens you up.”
As JMC Academy’s 2008 inaugural Popular Music and Performance scholarship winner for 2008, Mickey moved to Sydney with the intention of broadening his music repertoire and exploring other music genres. “It wasn’t until I actually moved away from home and away from Oberon, that I in fact realised how deep my connection to Country Music and my rural upbringing was”, Mickey says.
“It reinforced my decision to stay on the Country Music path. I guess the ‘big city’ influence and everything I have learnt to date at the JMC Academy has enabled me to skilfully intertwine this traditional genre with a rock influence.”
As the Gympie Muster dust settles, Mickey now has his sights set on the Toyota Star Maker competition. This annual competition is a search for the nation’s most significant, most successful and influential new talent event in country music. The competition has been responsible for giving Australia many of today’s major country stars. Previous winners include Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole, Gina Jeffreys, Darren Coggan and James Blundell.
“Winning a competition of that calibre would give me an enormous career boost.” Prizes for the competition include an album recording contract with Compass Brothers Records, distribution and promotion of tracks to radio and other media, production of a professional video clip of one of the tracks by an award winning director and extensive media promotion.
Beyond that, the sky’s the limit for Mickey who plans to tour Nashville next year when he travels to Canada for the Merritt Mountain Festival. Five years ago Mickey graduated from St. Joseph’s Oberon listing his career goal as “to win a golden guitar.” What probably wasn’t taken very seriously back then suddenly doesn’t sound so funny anymore.