Last year Telstra Road to Tamworth became Telstra Road to Discovery and as I’m about to experience the live final at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, it makes sense why! A mishmash of music genres, undiscovered talent, and headline acts are about to perform to an audience of more than one thousand people. The production is of epic proportions and I’m biting my nails alongside the ten finalists about to step onto the stage, as it becomes clear just how big a deal the night is.

James interviewing AndrewTelstra’s commitment to developing independent artists is bold. The final marks the pinnacle of a six-month search to every state and territory in the country and, for two overall winners, the journey starts now. The prize: a twelve-month music mentorship package, tailored to the individual needs of one performer and one songwriter, designed to give you everything you need to make it in the music industry.

Back to the final… music legend James Blundell is hosting and each of the finalists delivers, alongside performances from last year’s winners Harry Hookey & Dave Garnham, both reminding the crowd why they won. Telstra Road ambassadors The McClymonts follow and a surprise visit from Kasey Chambers and dad Bill (okay… so maybe there is still a little country). Being relatively new to Australia and very new to Australian country music, I’m not ashamed to admit my foot was tapping and my head shaking along with the best of them.

But there can only be two winners and tonight belongs to Kelly Menhennett, 30, from Barmera in South Australia crowned as the songwriter winner and Andrew Redford, 19, from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, who takes out the performer category.

Kelly’s performance is soulful and honest and for me encapsulates the broadening of music genres Telstra Road now includes. Kelly wows the audience with a maturity which is both original and timeless. It’s beyond exciting when you think about where the next twelve 12 months may take her.

Equally Andrew’s potential is clear to see. Already a professional musician, Andrew leans more on indie, pop & folk and his performance of two original songs sees Andrew praised for his vocal ability and stage presence.

I got to spend some time with Andrew and Kelly. Check out the interview here: