When Hats Off to Tamworth kicks off, Ashleigh Dallas will be there to cheer on her team of aspiring artists.
In the week leading up to the festival, the CMAA Junior Academy of Country Music will be underway, with emerging artists learning about the industry.
On Friday, July 6, the Junior Academy Graduation Concert will be held at Calrossy auditorium from 7pm.
Dallas went through the junior program herself eight years ago. She is still young enough to be a similar age to some of the graduates as she becomes a group leader for the first time.
While she has been a guest speaker at the academy before, this is her first year as a group leader, where she will take eight students (known as Team Dallas) through what’s involved to become a professional country artist.
“I’m quite excited, and taking it very seriously,” Dallas told Talkin’ Country. Even though she did chuckle after that comment.
“We delve into songwriting, different techniques with that, stage performance and the industry in general.
“There’s the recording side of it, and all the different processes.”
The eight days of tuition has become a rite of passage for most young artists.
“I’m close to their age, which in one way scares me a little bit. In one way I think this is a full-on role, but I also think I’m quite connected with what’s going on now in the industry and how things are a bit different to when I first started out with the academy.”
I’m close to their age, which in one way scares me a little bit.Ashleigh Dallas
Dallas looked back on her time in the academy as the beginning of her professional career.
After leaving the academy, she went straight onto the road, playing fiddle in Kasey Chambers’ band, which took her all around Australia, as well as to the USA twice over the following five and a half years.
Dallas was the support act for Chambers’ gigs as well as her fiddle player and she became recognised over this time for both her own music, and as a musician.
She backed other artists, such as Troy Cassar-Daley and Shane Nicholson, then in 2013 released her debut album Dancing With A Ghost, which scored her the Golden Guitar for New Talent of the Year in January 2104.
At the start of this year Dallas released her latest album, Lighthouse. Dallas has her own gig at Hats Off, playing Saturday night in the Legends Bar of West Tamworth Leagues Club.
Looking back she said she had many fond memories from both Hats Off and the January festival.
“Dad has his band, Brett Dallas and Dirtwater, and obviously my granddad Rex. They were always involved with the music industry here and I’d be sitting and listening, thinking when can I take over all this,” she laughed.
Now with her role at the academy, Dallas is helping develop the next generation. Go Team Dallas.