It’s the day of the 2019 Federal election and voters are making their way to polling booths in Bungendore. A voice in the crowd stands out among those handing out ballot papers.
The voice is that of Jess Ferris, a 14-year-old singer from Bywong, near Lake George. Jess is busking a few songs about the surrounding land she grew up on.
That moment has helped Jess get a spot on stage with some of the biggest names and voices in the country music scene when she performs at The Girls of Country Rock at Rose Cottage on Saturday, 7 September.
Jess will perform alongside some of her country music idols, including former Canberra singer-songwriter Hayley Jensen who will headline the event with award-winning Australian country stars Kirsty Lee Akers and Tori Darke.
Jess and Hayley are two voices from the Canberra region at very different stages in their careers.
Step forward to Saturday night, August 17 at the Lake George Hotel in Bungendore where Hayley Jensen is about to take to the available floor space with her band. It’s standing room only.
Just prior to singing her heart out, Hayley tells Region Media that one of her first jobs was at the supermarket across the road. The night before, Hayley sang to an equally enthusiastic crowd at the Brisbane showgrounds.
Hayley, who now lives in Sydney with her husband, said quitting her job last year as a change manager at the Department of Family and Community Services was just the change she needed.
“When I left, I thought, if you’re just dipping your toes in the water, it’s too easy to not give it everything you’ve got.
“I was good at my job but I just wasn’t passionate about it. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday I was taking off to do a gig somewhere, so I just had to take the leap otherwise I knew I was going to regret it.
“I’ve been singing my entire life and professionally for 15 years now. The road has taken some windy turns. It’s been full-on at some points and backed off at others, but I couldn’t be happier now.
“The stars are aligning and everything’s falling into place,” Hayley said.
For Jess Ferris, music is something that runs in her family.
In her first media interview, Jess told Region Media that she found her voice with storytelling and a love of the land.
The money she made from busking helped pay for her course at the Country Music Association of Australia’s (CMAA) Junior Academy of Country Music where she was mentored by some of the best country music artists in Australia.
“My mum has always had music in her life and I’ve had music in mine so it’s something that brings our family together,” Jess said.
“I love connecting with people through music and seeing people enjoying my music is the best feeling.”
Jess said the CMAA course really helped develop her songwriting skills and she was able to write her third song with renowned country music artist Allan Caswell, who has more than 1200 songs in a career spanning 40 years.
“The country music community is just so close and tight-knit. Everyone is so supportive and really love the songs and their meanings.
Jess said performing with the likes of Hayley Jensen will be a massive experience, but one she is not shying away from.
“This will be my first proper gig with others in the industry, so I’m really excited. I really want to make it a career. It’s my passion, so I’ll try to get my name out there as much as possible and just see what happens.”
Hayley Jensen has some great advice for the younger version of herself.
“I’d say to Jess, don’t try and copy anyone else, just be yourself,” Hayley says.
“Look and learn, but be true to yourself and don’t give up. There’s going to be people that tell you you’re not good enough or that the path is too hard. But if you’ve got the talent and you’ve got the stories and the heart and passion, you’ve just got to keep going and eventually it will happen.”
Organisers of The Girls of Country Rock are giving away two double passes to the event next Saturday. To be in the running, tag a friend in this post who wants to go and we will choose the lucky winners. If people buy their tickets by Thursday 6 August at midnight, they will be in the draw to win a VIP upgrade. More information is on the Girls of Country Rock event on Facebook.