Growing up in Armidale, Ilona Harker discovered her love of music as a teenager in the 1990s.
“There was a program a couple of students had on 2ARM-FM called Lunatics Fringe, and these uni students would bring all this music in that I’d never heard of, so I got really inspired by music at a young age,” Ilona told Talkin’ Country.
The alt country recording artist is returning to the city on March 17 for a one-night show at the St Kilda Hotel.
Looking back on her youth in Armidale, Ilona recalled that she got to experience quite a few of the high schools around the city.
“I was a bit of a ratbag, so I went to quite a few different schools in my high school years.
“I went to O’Connor, I went to Armidale High, I went to Duval, and I went back to O’Connor, because they always took the naughty kids back in, which was very nice of them.
“I didn’t have a very conventional education in Armidale, just because I was too busy trying to be very creative.”
I didn’t have a very conventional education in Armidale, just because I was too busy trying to be very creative.
She never studied music at high school though, and it was after hearing the music on Lunatics Fringe that she started writing songs with friends, but it the visual arts she pursued after leaving Armidale to study in Wollongong. Then, aged in her mid 20s, her mother died, which was the point in Ilona’s life when she said she started playing music.
“She was quite sick and I ended up looking after her, then I moved her to Brisbane where I was living and looked after her there.
“We ended up going back to Armidale and burying mum, her grave’s there so I always pass through and sit and play music to my mum.
“After she passed away, I picked up the guitar because I actually always wanted to be a musician, so I picked up the guitar and I started writing songs.” She recorded an album, and describes what happened next as an amazing trajectory.
“I put an album out that got picked up by Vitamin Records, I went to France and I toured over there, I got offered a record deal in France, but I declined it because I really like Australia and I didn’t really want to move over there.”
While home these days is Brunswick Heads on the north coast, she said she spends a lot of time travelling, and playing music. The current tour, which brings her back to Armidale is called The West Tour, with Ilona and another artist, Jimmy Dowling, performing together in a string of concerts through north west NSW.
The Armdale concert, which is the second last of the tour, falls on St Patrick’s Day.
“As we both have Irish heritage it means we'll be busting out some 'green green grass of home' favourites.”