If anyone can lay claim to a lifelong connection with Australia's country musical capital it has to be Sally-Anne Whitten.
Born and bred in Tamworth in NSW's north east, she's the daughter of country music guitarist, pianist and bass player Barry Whitten.
Whitten senior was involved in the early days of the Australian Country Music Association and the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
He also lays claim to owning the first electric guitar in Tamworth.
"Thanks to dad, I've been exposed to all different types of country music. But I think these days my style is more leaning towards the blues, a little bit funky country, we call it."
Whitten cut her teeth in the music industry at age 15, working as a session guitarist alongside her father.
In 2004 she won the TIARA Awards (Tamworth Independent Artists Recognition Awards) with The Love He Wants Most, co-written with her husband/guitarist/producer Alwyn Aurisch. The track also won a British singing contest judged by Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder.
Whitten collaborated with fellow Tamworth resident and singer-songwriter Allison Forbes for her second single, My Place in the World, then, following a four-year break from the industry, she returned with a bang with her single, The Life You Left Behind.
Her music is known across the world, including in Belgium, France, Germany and the USA.
Her most recent album, Burgundy Street, was inspired by a trip to New Orleans in 2015. The album won Whitten awards for Most Popular Female Artist and Most Popular Independent Album at the 2019 Indie Country Music Australia awards, held in conjunction with the Tamworth Country Music Festival..
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"It was a wonderful surprise," she says. "I made this album completely my own way by my own rules so it felt amazing to be recognised for following my own path."
On the album, Whitten does a moody rendition of Take My Love, written by blues legend Little Willy John.
These days, Tamworth residents also know Whitten as the presenter of 2TM's Our Country podcast series, where she interviews prominent country music stars and artists about music and what it means to them.
She had been planning to return to the stage for this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival, until it was postponed due to surging coronavirus cases. The festival has been rescheduled for April 18-24.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Tamworth Country Music Festival, ACM (publisher of this website) created a new podcast, Celebrating Aussie Country.
The podcast was recorded and released before the recent surge in coronavirus cases that forced the festival's postponement. We are sure you'll still enjoy the interviews and the music. Just bear in mind any references to performance dates are no longer current.
In the 10-part series, available only on Spotify, you'll hear from established and emerging artists and their music.
To listen, you'll need to download the Spotify app on to your mobile phone and search for Celebrating Aussie Country. If you already have Spotify - and you're reading this story on your mobile - click on the banner below and your phone will take you direct to the podcast.
Each podcast episode includes an interview with the artist and some of their music. People with free Spotify subscriptions will hear a 30-second snippet of the song, while those with premium Spotify subscriptions can enjoy the full version.
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