Keynote Speakers

Featuring genius songwriters and superstars from the USA and the Australian country music industry as keynote speakers, panelists, group leaders and mentors.


22 – 23 May 2021

Joy McKean

Joy McKean

Joy McKean is a country music pioneer.  Together with her husband, Slim Dusty, Joy helped create Australia’s own unique brand of country music that is still as popular today as it ever was.  She was composing hit country songs and touring regional and remote Australia at a time when the perceived role of women was that of home-maker and mother, with little expectations of an independent career or artistic expression.  Joy McKean has had a stellar career both as a performer and as a songwriter, spanning more than 70 years.  She is a Roll of Renown and ARIA Hall of Fame inductee, and won the first ever Golden Guitar in 1973 for writing LIGHTS ON THE HILL.  Never one to rest on her laurels, Joy went on to compose some of country music’s most celebrated songs including THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, RINGER FROM THE TOP END, WALK A COUNTRY MILE and INDIAN PACIFIC.  In recent years, Joy has been active with The Slim Dusty Foundation and the newly established Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey NSW, and is the subject of the full length documentary ‘Slim and I’.  Joy turned 90 in January 2020 and the industry celebrated this amazing milestone with an all-star event, THE CONCERT FOR JOY, held in Tamworth during the annual country music festival.

Saturday @ 2:15 pm – The Australian icon and her incredible ‘stickability’

Jerry Salley –  USA

Referred to by Billboard Magazine as “One of Music Row’s greatest veteran tunesmiths”, Jerry Salley has had an incredibly successful, multi-award winning songwriting career.  Nominated in 2019 for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Salley is the 2018 & 2019 IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Songwriter of the Year and was named the 2003 SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year.  Salley has had over 500 different songs recorded and his songs have sold in excess of 18 million records worldwide.  As an artist, Jerry has performed worldwide.  As well as having the honor of performing as a soloist many times on the world famous Grand Ole Opry, he has appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, Regis and Kathy Lee, and NBC’S Today Show, where he was honored to sing as backing vocalist for the legendary Linda Ronstadt.   

Internationally, he has penned no less than nine #1 Country hits in Australia.  

Multi-Grammy award winning producer, musician and songwriter, Carl Jackson says of Jerry: “Jerry is not only a friend, in the truest sense of the word, he is also a songwriter’s songwriter – an artist that completely understands the idea of “painting a picture” using the marriage of lyric and rhyme; someone that fully grasps the art of crafting a song, rather than throwing words against the page.  His paintbrush is a pen, his canvas a legal pad, and his goal always another masterpiece.” 

Sunday @ 11:30 am  Writing Grammy award-winning songs


Kim Richey – USA

Two-time Grammy-nominated Kim Richey is a storyteller.  Kim has released ten critically acclaimed albums, been listed in the ‘Top 10 Albums of 1999’ in Time Magazine for her album ‘Glimmer’, received 4-stars in Rolling Stone Magazine and named ‘Alt-Country Album of the Year’ in People Magazine for her album ‘Rise’.  She has written two #1 singles and had four others hit Top 10.  Her songs have been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Mary Chapin Carpenter, James Morrison, Brooks and Dunn and many others.  Kim has contributed backing vocals on albums by Trisha Yearwood, Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin and Jason Isbell to name a few.  In 2020 Kim won a Golden Guitar award naming ‘Chain of Joy’ (which she wrote with Felicity Urquhart) as Song of the Year.  Kim’s songs have been featured in films and television series over the years inclucing NASHVILLE (three songs) and Bones, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek and many more.

Saturday @ 9:30 am  Getting songs cut, and cutting through as an artist


Sara Storer

One of Australia’s most-loved singer-songwriters and a multiple Golden Guitar winner, whose crisp observations of the Australian landscape and its people provide the solid foundation stone for her music.  Living for a time in western Queensland where she wrote her first song, and working as a schoolteacher in Katherine in the Northern Territory, Sara Storer writes from the heart.  “I think I write at my best when I say it as I see it, or feel it.  And I have to write that because it is the truth for me.  Of course I love to sing about the rain because it draws so much emotion out of me.  I have a soft spot for people who work on the land.  I grew up with that, my family still do it, I see all the struggles and the triumphs.  I love writing about those people because they are such colourful characters.  But how lucky are they to get to live out in the bush?’’ Sara Storer was born to sing about real people, honest emotions, and the land she loves.

Saturday @ 3:15 pm  The art of telling a good yarn in song


O’Shea – USA

Multi-award winning husband and wife duo O’Shea, are one of Australia’s most exciting musical exports.  Based in Nashville for the last nine years, O’Shea have graced some of the world’s most famed stages, from the Grand Ole Opry to the Sydney Opera House, since beginning their musical together journey together in 2007.  

Mark and Jay come from different musical backgrounds. Mark’s country rock roots provide an edgy contrast to Jay’s soulful, powerful voice – making them a dynamic and unique combination of singer/songwriters. 

The influences of their two homes are all over their latest record, appropriately titled  61-615  in homage to both Australia and Nashville.  The resulting album is deeply personal, deeply felt and is the duo’s most powerful release to date.  It’s one that will send listeners on a poignant journey, regardless of where they call home. 

O’Shea have already had an impressive run in their ten years playing together: there are seven Golden Guitars on the mantle; they serve as ambassadors for charitable organisations like World Vision and Heart Kids and; they host the QANTAS in-flight radio show ‘Big Country’.  On top of that, they’ve clocked up more than 11 #1’s on the Aussie Country charts.  Their Australian hit TV show O’SHEA USA has just been renewed for its sixth season. 

Sunday @ 9:30 am  From the bush to music city and about a thousand songs inbetween

Felicity urqahart

Felicity Urquhart


With 13 Golden Guitars and 2 ARIA nominations, Felicity Urquhart has long been one of the best-loved and most decorated singer-songwriters in Australian song.  In a career encompassing seven studio albums, two EPs, and countless soldout headlining shows and capacity festival appearances, Felicity definitely knows a thing or two about the art of song.  Her seventh solo studio album ‘Frozen Rabbit’, collected five Golden Guitars at the 2020 CMAA’s and was also nominated for a 2019 ARIA Award in the Best Country Album category.  These accolades acknowledge the strength of the album, Felicity’s first stand-alone album release in over a decade, and her first since signing a new record deal with ABC Music.

Saturday @ 10:30 am  Zoom co-writing 101 – if we can do it, anyone can


Kevin Bennett

Kevin Bennett, well respected singer/songwriter with Sydney roots band The Flood, mulitiple CMAA Golden Guitar winner and ARIA nominee in 2006 (with The Flood for Best Group) and 2011 (with Kasey Chambers for Vocal Collaboration), writes relevant, contemporary Australian music containing elements of blues, rock and country-telling stories of where he’s from and where he might be going.  He sings his life.

Saturday @ 11:30 am Chords and Melodies – Using your voice for good


Brad Cox

Brad Cox

Ripped feet first from the belly of the Kosciuszko Mountains, stubby in hand.  Baptised in the freezing head waters of the Snowy River, this is Brad Cox!  Brace yourself.  Songs full of heart and maturity well beyond his years.  A sound which can induce hypnosis and coma.  You may require medical attention after hearing Brad’s music, but no rehab will ever cure you of the addiction.

Sunday @ 3:15 pm From chasing cows, to sell out shows… it’s all in the songs.

Catilyn Shadbolt

A finalist in the sixth season of The ‘X Factor’ Australia, Caitlyn went on to secure a recording deal with ABC Music and release her debut album, ‘Songs On My Sleeve’ (May 2017).  Upon release, the album hit #1 on the ARIA Country Album chart.  The first single, ‘My Break Up Anthem’, held the #1 National Country Airplay Chart for over eight consecutive weeks and became the 2nd most played song on Country Radio (held out of the top spot by Sam Hunt’s monster hit ‘Body Like A Backroad’).  Caitlyn was recognised for her achievements by winning the CMC Award for Best New Artist, along with a nomination for Female Artist of the Year.

Sunday @ 2:15 pm Hit Singles and how to make them

Melanie Dyer

Australian artist/songwriter Melanie Dyer burst onto the country-pop scene in 2015 with startling vibrancy.  Her EP ‘Lifetime’ was both a stunning artistic blueprint and a tearaway chart success. The title track and video spent several weeks in the CMC Top 50 with singles ‘Busy Doing Nothing’ and ‘My Stupid Mouth’ cracking the Australian Country Music Airplay Chart Top 10.

n 2017 Melanie released her debut album ‘Fresh’ with the title track (co-written in Nashville with Morgan Evans) an established #1 hit on The Australian Official Country Hot 50 chart for 5 consecutive weeks and the accompanying video #1 on CMC Australia.  Follow up single ‘Save My Cents’, a song Melanie penned alone, also shot to the top of both radio and CMC charts and was a Top 10 finalist in the International Songwriting Competition in 2018.

More recently Melanie enjoyed breakout success with her single ‘Memphis T-Shirt’.  Released in Nov 2019, the song was added to playlists on HIT & Nova Networks and over 100 Regional stations around Australia, enjoying 6 weeks at #1 on The Music Network’s Country Hot 50 Chart and #1 on CMC.  The song went on to receive an APRA nomination for ‘The Most Performed Country Work’ in 2021.

An equal love for Country and Pop genres, Dyer wraps conversational stories in undeniably pop hooks and attracts a fan-base that borders the two worlds.

Sunday @ 2:15 pm Hit Singles and how to make them

Allan Caswell

Allan Caswell

At the 2020 Golden Guitars, Allan Caswell won an 8th Golden Guitar (with Manfred Vijars for Bush Ballad of the Year).  He has been a Golden Guitar finalist now a total of 44 times!  During the 2018 Tamworth Country Music Festival, Allan was inducted into the prestigious Galaxy Of Stars.  Caswell is one of Australia’s most recorded songwriters with well over 750 of his songs having been released around the world by artists of the calibre of Cilla Black, Patti Page, The Irish Rovers, The Living End, Slim Dusty, Barry Humphries, Ricki May, James Blundell, Jasmine Rae, McAlister Kemp, Graeme Connors, The Wolfe Brothers, Anne Kirkpatrick, Chad Morgan, Lynne Hamilton, The Delltones, Beccy Cole, Amber Lawrence, Aleyce Simmonds, Jade Hurley and Ella Hooper among dozens of others.  In 1979 Caswell wrote the theme for the Australian television series ‘Prisoner’ (Cell Block H in England).  ‘On The Inside’ was a #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand in 1979 and later reached #3 in the UK.

Sunday @ 1:15 pm Writing from a Title with the man himself


Mike Carr

Mike Carr is one of Australia’s most celebrated songwriters and performers, a two-time ARIA Award winner and two-time Golden Guitar winner.  He has written many of Australian country music’s biggest hits including songs for Adam Brand, McAlister Kemp, Adam Harvey, Drew McAlister, Aleyce Simmonds, Kaylee Bell, Kaylens Rain, and Melinda Schneider.  As a songwriter, he is right up there with the best, having written and cowritten some of the most popular Australian country songs of the past ten years.  These include ‘The ANZAC’, ‘New England Highway’ and ‘Get Loud’ (Adam Brand), ‘Real People’ (Melinda Schneider) and ‘It Don’t Buy You Love’ (McAlister Kemp) just to name a few.  In 2008, Mike created the comedy character Buddy Goode and was signed to ABC/Universal Music.  His 2nd album ‘The One and Only Buddy Goode’ was nominated for Best Comedy Album at the 2011 ARIA Awards.

Sunday @ 10:30 am Comedy songs are no laughing matter

Pete Denahy

Pete Denahy

When Pete Denahy talks about his his own show, he says “It not rocket science; I’m not the best singer, fiddle player or guitar picker in the world, but as far as I know, no one else is doing my show.”  Which is true; there isn’t another show like it!  He takes you on a journey that travels from the gold rush days of the mid 19th century to buying toilet paper at your local supermarket.  It’s perhaps not a show formula many managers would suggest their acts follow, but it seems to work for Pete.  He blends fiddle tunes, bluegrass style original songs and madcap comedy to provide the audience with an escape from reality most of them feel is worth their while.  In addition to touring Australia-wide throughout the year, Pete also hosts twice-yearly music tours to Japan to explore the bluegrass scene from Hiroshima to Tokyo.

Sunday @ 10:30 am Comedy songs are no laughing matter

Group Leaders & Moderators

Catherine Britt

Catherine Britt’s recording career commenced in 1999 at the age of 14.  Since that time she has collected a host of accolades, a legion of fans and a mantel of awards including the country industry’s highest honours, 2009 CMAA Female Artist of the Year, 2012 CMAA Single of the Year, 2013 CMAA Female Artist of the Year, 2016 Female Artist of the Year, 2017 Vocal Collaboration of The Year for her celebrated single “F U Cancer”, as well as APRA Award and CMC Artist of the Year nominations.  Six of Catherine’s albums released to date have been nominated for the ARIA Award for the Best Country Album release, which is a first for any Australian country artist.  In 2010, Catherine was also presented with the CMA Global Artist of the Year award.

Group Leader 

Kevin Bennett

Kevin Bennett, well respected singer/songwriter with Sydney roots band The Flood, mulitiple CMAA Golden Guitar winner and ARIA nominee in 2006 (with The Flood for Best Group) and 2011 (with Kasey Chambers for Vocal Collaboration), writes relevant, contemporary Australian music containing elements of blues, rock and country-telling stories of where he’s from and where he might be going.  He sings his life.

Group Leader 


Amber Lawrence

Amber Lawrence is a multi-Golden Guitar winning Australian singer-songwriter.  In 2019 Amber launched her 6th studio album, ‘Spark’, which was nominated for CMAA Album of the Year, Female Artist of the Year and Contemporary Album of the Year.  It was also the second highest selling country album for 2019 (behind Lee Kernaghan).  In 2018 she took home three CMAA Golden Guitar awards; APRA Song of the Year, Single of the Year and Vocal Collaboration of the Year, for the song ‘Our Backyard’, a collaboration with Travis Collins.  In 2015 Amber was awarded the iconic and prestigious CMAA Female Artist of the Year award for her song ‘Superhero’ and this was quickly followed up with the Country Music Channel 2015 ‘Female Artist of the Year’ Award.  Amber has also released three children’s albums in the past few years.  The first, ‘The Kid’s Gone Country’, was quickly followed up by her acclaimed Christmas release ‘Aussie Aussie Christmas’.  ‘The Kid’s Gone Country II: Fun For All The Family’ was released in November 2020.

Group Leader

Lachlan Bryan

Lachlan Bryan is an artist, songwriter and record producer from Melbourne.  He and his band ‘The Wildes’ have trail-blazed the Americana and Alt Country scenes over the past decade, headlining festivals all over the world and building a loyal cult following.  His songs are heard on all sorts of stations from Triple J to Kix FM and, during normal times, he spends almost all of his life on the road and in the studio.  During these past twelve months it’s been much more the latter.

Group Leader

David Carter

David Carter is one half of the highly successful duo Carter & Carter and the director of Crestway Productions, a production company providing media and career solutions for artists.  With thirteen #1 National radio hits, a Golden Guitar, an APRA award, 14 Independent Country Music Awards, and many more accolades, Carter & Carter have created a blueprint for independent artists to not only achieve a successful career but a sustainable one as well.  David has been part of the CMAA Academy for over ten years, having been a Group Leader in both Junior and Senior courses and more recently, Academy X. 

Group Leader

Ashleigh Dallas

Born in Australia’s Country Music Capital, Tamworth NSW, Ashleigh Dallas has two Golden Guitar Awards to her name in the categories of New Talent Of The Year in 2014, and Traditional Country Album of The Year in 2018.  She has also seen top 5 nominations with every album she has released!  Ashleigh being awarded the inaugural Traditional Country Album of The Year Golden Guitar, which also saw her father and producer Brett Dallas recognised with a Golden Guitar Award, made Australian Country Music history as the first family to have shared three generations of Golden Guitar Awards.

Group Leader


Melody Moko

Melody Moko is a Golden Guitar winning artist.  Her songs reside under the wide umbrella of Americana yet they inhabit all its intriguing corners.  Her first record ‘The Wreckage’ saw her tour both the US and Australia with artists like Tim Rogers, Catherine Britt & The McClymonts, and perform at high profile festivals such as the Gympie Muster, Groundwater and Spunk’s Thirroul Music Festival.  Released in September 2020, Melody’s second album, ‘Two Kids & A Radio’ reached #1 on the ARIA Australian Country Charts in its debut week and has clocked up a swag of acclaim since its release.  The first single ‘Last Cigarette’ debuted at #20 on the Music Network Radio chart, with the album garnering 3 Golden Guitar nominations and winning the coveted Golden Guitar for Best New Talent 2021, a category with a record number of entries that year.

Group Leader


Mickey Pye

Mickey Pye is the 2015 winner of Toyota Star Maker.  He released his debut album ‘Unleashed’ at the Gympie Muster in 2015 which peaked at #2 on the Australian Country ARIA Charts, with the first single ‘When She’s Drinkin’’ debuting at #1 on the iTunes country charts.  The album scored two Golden Guitar Nominations for Instrumental of the Year and Best New Talent.  Mickey was again nominated for a Golden Guitar in the 2017 awards for Instrumental of the Year with ‘Buckle Up’.  He was a Golden Guitar finalist again in 2018 with ‘Porch Pickin’’ and 2020 with ‘Bridle Track’.

Group Leader 

Lyn Bowtell

Lyn Bowtell has been involved with The Academy as a student since its inception in 1997, but has been in the role of Artistic Director of The Academy since 2016.  Since winning Toyota Starmaker in 1997, Lyn has honed her skills as a songwriter and singer which were subsequently recognised when her Country Pop trio Bella was awarded the Golden Guitar (the Australian country music industry’s highest accolade) for Best Group in 2004 and again in 2005.  Since then, Lyn has released critically acclaimed albums, winning CMAA Golden Guitars for Alternative Album of the Year in 2015 and for Vocal Collaboration of the Year in 2017, 2019 and 2020, taking her Golden Guitar tally to nine.

Moderator Saturday and Sunday

Roger Corbett

Multi-award-winning songwriter Roger Corbett, is a long time member of the iconic Australian band The Bushwackers and the principal songwriter for the band’s rich song diversity.  He has produced ten of the classic Bushwackers albums, three of which are Golden Guitar winners.  The Bushwackers are in their 50th year of performance and in 2021 were elevated to The Australasian Country Music Roll Of Renown in Tamworth.  They have over 20 Golden Guitar nominations, have won three Golden Guitars, three ‘Mo’ Awards, four gold records and recorded 25 studio albums. 2021 sees The Bushwackers back into the studio to record another classic Bushwackers album, with Roger at the helm.  Roger’s songwriting credits included songs written or co-written with hundreds of Australian country music artists and Academy of County Music students.  Roger is  the General Manager of The CMAA Academy of Country Music and has been in several roles within the organisation since 1998.  Roger, along with Director Lyn Bowtell, run two face-to-face residential courses in Tamworth for Junior and Senior students annually, as well as the recent online course Academy X.  The Academy goes from strength to strength training elite singer/songwriter/performers and musicians.  Roger also runs The Valley Studio, a boutique recording studio for independent artists in the Hunter Valley.  Roger remains a committed songwriter/musician/performer and loves cowriting, teaching and sharing his many years of experience with new and more seasoned artists.

Moderator Saturday and Sunday



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