Born and raised in Mooroopna, Central Victoria, Tamara grew up loving poetry and music. From around seven years old, Tamara was often the entertainment for guests in their small town weatherboard home, reciting verse of Pam Ayres, or singing songs from old Marilyn Monroe or Judy Garland movies.
Her passion for Country Music came around the age of ten, as did first guitar. A Christmas gift that saw young Tamara, anticipating it’s arrival and wide awake long before the sun was up. By the time her parents had risen, she was playing “Oh my darling Clementine.” Her newfound passion well alight!
The following years saw her music develop rapidly. School Choirs, guitar and vocal lessons, an obsession with song lyrics, writing down words to all the songs she could “pause and play” on her cassette player, along with vinyl and the local radio was a constant stream of inspiration.
From Dolly Parton, Dr Hook Billy Thorpe, John Farnham all the way to Meatloaf ! Relying heavily on her parent’s record collection, in the early days Tamara developed a healthy variety of influences. However Country Music was always the genre that kept her attention and motivation to pursue as a career on the stage.
By the time she was 13 she had her first paid gig as a country singer and had written about 20 songs. Then at 14, hadher own band “1st Edition”. Performing Rock n Roll Country and some of her original songs. High School years were awash with band rehearsals at nights, gigs on the weekend, choir and music lessons during the week. Completing her Year 12 studies, (Successful Year 12 graduation certificate the only proviso by her parents) her future was a blank musical book, she was now free to write.
Doing her last gig with her Country band by 18, she embarked on a solo career, slogging it out, with a drum machine and an acoustic guitar in Pubs and Clubs throughout NSW, doing four and five hour gigs to a variety of audiences. Cutting her teeth as an entertainer, holding her own.
These were the nights where Tamara really learned to take control of the stage. “When you’re an 18 year old chick with a perm, entertaining a rural pub of beer infused blokes, you need to take control of that microphone and keep them entertained!” Tamara laughs. Reflection no doubt is the safest place to observe those days. “I’ve loaded many, many PA’s and speaker boxes into the back of my 1980 Mazda 929 and been pushed away from the microphone and replaced by a sweaty beer wielding chisel fan” Tamara laughs. “I really earned my 200 bucks those nights!”
Cutting her teeth on these solo gigs is where Tamara really honed her skills, as a guitar player singer and entertainer. Loading the gear, transporting herself setting up and packing up, this ‘Girl Singer’ learnt early that a career in music meant more than bright lights and an adoring audience.
These early realistic impressions, served her well in 1997 on her first major tour at age 22. Tamara Stewart was invited to be a member of the infamous “Brian Young Show” Tour. Three and Half months across Australia, 77 shows, 27,00 km’stravelled in the back of Toyota Troupe Carriers, performing at Clubs, Pubs and the most valuable of experiences, doing shows and staying within many Aboriginal Communities.
“I will be forever grateful for that time with Youngie on that tour,” Tamara says, “Those kinds of opportunities are very hard to come by, and I have photographs and a diary that I kept during that time, that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Sleeping in a swag on dirt floors, schoolhouses and tin sheds, Tamara got to meet and interact with the local people. Not only entertaining them during the shows at night, but also sitting cross-legged and doing art and crafts with the local elders, learning about the culture and playing AFL footy with the kids. “These are the kind of experiences I may not have ever had if not for the musical connection. “ But the gigs themselves were hard work. Often in challenging conditions, setting up and pulling down for each show, amongst the dust and the heat, it was still a remarkably positive and no doubtunique, experience.
After the Brian Young Tour, Tamara returned to release a CD EP, her first independent release that surprised her with a Nomination in New Talent of The Year at the Golden Guitar Awards. Sherrie Austin, a Nashville based Aussie took out the gong, but Tamara was well on her way of being a regular at the prestigious event.
She spent the next few years knocking on doors, until finally one opened. Producer Rod Mc Cormack became an instrumental part of getting Tamara Stewart signed to ABC Music, and her publishing with Universal Publishing for her songwriting. Her first album ‘The Way The World Is” (ABC/EMI 2001) received rave reviews and she gained her second nomination at the Golden Guitar Awards in 2002 for Vocal Collaboration of the Year with “Here Comes The Rain”, a very well received country rock duet with music legend Rick Price. She was also asked to perform on the awards and remembers that moment very well.
“I was terrified!” Tamara laughs. “Seriously… terrified.. I remember the moment I was about to walk onstage and I felt sick to my stomach.” Tamara says her performance may not have happened if not for the simple kindness of another of Country Music’s great entertainers and Host for the evening Colin Buchanan. “ I felt so out of my depth, but then quite innocently, Col came over and just started to chat to me, calmly, openly, friendly, but I felt instantly relaxed and he handed me the mic and off I went. But it was touch and go there for a moment!”
The album catapulted Tamara to the forefront of young talent to watch, and she received many awards and honors during this time, including singing for President Bill Clinton. She also won the first APRA Professional Development Awardfor Country Writer. Multiple #1’s on CMT and Radio across Australia and Europe. Touring the UK in 2001, and making her first trip to Nashville as a writer on Music Row, Tamara performed a few shows around Nashville including the infamous Bluebird Cafe and felt an instant connection with the Nashville Scene. She has returned on a few occasions and Tamara continues to have a presence on Music Row and writing with some of Nashville’s’ hit makers such as Jim Mc Bride (Alan Jackson) Georgia Middleman (Keith Urban) and Rebecca Lynn Howard (Tricia Yearwood)
Tamara Stewart was also starting to make a name for herself as a writer of Hits for other artists. Scoring much chart success for Beccy Cole, Adam Brand, Melinda Schneider and many others, Tamara’s now well established career as a hit maker for other Country Music Artists, evolved throughout the early 2000’s.
Scoring her 3rd Golden Guitar Nomination, this time in 2003 for APRA Song Of The Year for a co-write with artistBeccy Cole’s chart topper, “Little Victories”, the title track form an album where Tamara had co-written 8 of the 12 songs.
However, the Rick Price/Tamara Stewart connection was a valuable and powerful one, with Rick co-writing 4 songs with Tamara on her first record “The Way The World Is” and this connection served them very well. Tamara’s second record released through ABC “Self Titled” was co produced by the musical pair.
“Working so closely with Rick over the course of 18 months, on a daily/weekly basis, was and will remain one of my biggest musical education experiences.” Renowned for his own hits such as “Not a Day Goes By” and “Heaven Knows” his passion for Tamara’s music was evident and continues today.
“I’m so thankful for Rick’s input in my career, we’re mates as well as musical collaborators, and I think that can be felt when we co-create, it’s quite a powerful thing.. ”
That second “Self Titled” record is a beautiful collection of Tamara’s well-penned songs, and the production and presentation crossed the country line quite dramatically, but still remains a very special part of Tamara’s Musical history. A victim of the ever-feared “slipping through the cracks, both musically and on the business side of the music, Record Company ABC had invested greatly in the record, film clips, but it just wasn’t enough to bring massive sales.
“That album really is an incredible piece of work. I’m very proud of it. Knowing the passion that went into it, it can be felt and heard in that record, and we had some great success with it.” Tamara said.
But it wasn’t enough to hold Tamara to the label, frustrated with the lack of results with that second record, Tamara requested to be released from her contract, and after little debate, she was once again a free agent.
The beautiful song “Miracles” featured on her Self Titled record made it’s way to Aussie Hit Drama “Packed To The Rafters” in 2009. The song selected by producers and featured on the soundtrack behind an integral part of the storyline, bought Tamara to a whole new audience. Tamara gained great response from an otherwise inaccessible audience.
Spending a few years re establishing her passion for the music, which had been muffled by the ‘business’, Tamara took toher own studio and was the sole producer on her third record “Love-Laughter-Lessons”. (Independent 2008) Having spent most of her adult career discussing her creative outlet and product with a “Boardroom” of Record Companies, Agents, Producers, and Publishers, Love-Laughter-Lessons was a chance for Tamara to re-connect with her own ‘source’ of creativity.
Choosing to be completely independent, the album was released with little expectations from Tamara and was a great way for her to re-establish her own opinions, passion and goals. “It felt like such an indulgence to make this record” Tamara says, “I got to choose my own songs, my own instrumentation as sole producer, and my own performances and musicians, it was a beautiful thing!” The album delivered some chart success of Country Music Television with her film-clips for “Drive” and “Lessons” and various Top 20 charts showings across the country.
The album bought Tamara into the forefront as a producer. A skill and reputation well reinforced with her next project “Tangerine Sky” (Australian Country Music Unites) A brainchild born from the tragic Bushfires that ravaged Tamara’s home state of Victoria.
Calling on friends and co-workers to perform the song she created the banner “Australian Country Music Unites” and featured Troy Cassar-Daley, Tommy Emmanuel, Anne Kirkpatrick, James Blundell and a host of others. The song raised much-needed funds for The Salvation Army Bushfire Appeal, and Tamara was honored as the writer of the Patriotic Anthem for the song “Tangerine Sky” in Heritage Song Of The Year at the 2009 Golden Guitar Awards. The Group Tamara bought together from the cream of the industry “Australian Country Music Unites” was honored with a Nomination for “Vocal Collaboration of the Year”. “Tangerine Sky” also won Video Clip of The Year at thePeople’s Choice Awards 2009.
Still regarded as a mammoth task by Tamara, it is something she is very proud of. “It was certainly an incredibly big job, and recorded in 5 different studios here in Australia and the US, it was seeing and feeling that generosity and willingness to help and make it happen by those involved, the restored my faith in the power of good intention. I will always look back with great pride at Tangerine Sky. Felt good to help those who really needed it.
During the time between Love Laughter Lessons and current day, Tamara Stewart struggled to stay positive and focus forward, dealing with her personal challenges, saw Tamara gain weight and slow down creatively. “The light of projects likeTangerine Sky were a real beacon of encouragement for me on a musical side of things, but I was very unsure of what my next step would be.” Tamara reflects. “Now, I feel so happy and free and ready to move forward, and I am continually amazed at this new chapter and what the future holds.”
That’s why BUTTERFLY is a song of celebration, but marks those triumphs of overcoming life. After losing over 40 kilo’s,Tamara took control of her life and, although it took some hard lessons, BUTTERFLY is by far Tamara’s most personal song.
“It took a long time for me to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to write a song like BUTTERFLY.” Tamara beams. “It’s not about being trim and fit, it’s about being happy. I just wasn’t happy with that weight on, I wasn’t happy feeling so unsure of what I truly wanted in my heart of hearts. Now I know. Now I’m going to chase that dream harder and faster than ever!”
In 2011, The Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA) appointed Tamara Stewart Songwriter in Residence at the prestigious Academy of Country Music. Tamara was responsible for writing the entire curriculum for the Senior and the Junior Courses, and delivering the content over 3 weeks in July.
“It’s so rewarding to see the future of our industry hungry to learn. Talking about rhyming schemes, meters and all things songwriting is pure heaven for me!” Tamara says. “All the other parts of the industry are also important, Image, performance, business.. But without the song there is no music! It’s so important we as an industry open our horizons and write the very best songs we can, so we can grow and gain momentum into the future of Australian Country Music. Honor the past, carry it proudly forward.”