A simple 'thank you' could never be enough for singer/songwriter Emma Dykes, recently returned from a Nashville recording trip partly funded by the Inverell community.
"I would not have even considered going to Nashville had it not been for Inverell and STAFM encouraging me and pushing me in that direction and giving me the opportunity," she said.
"A very big thank you for having that faith in me."
Emma was surprised by the community radio station with two return tickets to the world country music capital in place of her usual performance fee just over 12 months ago.
The station has been a constant supporter of the former Inverell nurse from the early days of her career, and despite moving to Port Macquarie due to a severe horse allergy, she remains deeply connected to the local community.
Reveling in the unique opportunity, Emma absorbed everything she could from the Nashville music scene.
"All the session musicians we had in the studio were just amazing. They do that all day every day, so it's pretty incredible to watch them work," she said.
Emma recorded almost half of her second album in Nashville, and took the opportunity to co-write with American artists.
"It's the first time that I've actually seen all the musicians in the studio creating all the tracks. My first album, I went to the studio and laid down my vocal, and the guitarist would have been in a different studio and then just sent the file over," she said.
"It means you don't have to co-ordinate everyone being in one place at one time, but it meant also that I didn't get that experience of seeing it all unfold in front of me, and then having the ability to redo it, change different parts, have my say over it as well. So having that experience for the first time was pretty amazing"
Emma was thrilled to have the opportunity to transform one of her older songs Borrowed Gear with new instrumentals. Although she performed it with a band as part of the Joeys Oz Music Tour in Germany, those familiar with the song will discover a completely new version of it on the upcoming album. "(It) turned out totally different to anything I had in mind, but it's awesome," she said.
Emma performed her music by joining forces with duo Mare Wakefield and Nomad. She valued getting an inside look at the local music scene. The couple connected with Emma after meeting her aunt and uncle on a ferry to Alaska.
Emma also enjoyed visiting Graceland and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
She will record the rest of her second album in Sydney in July, with a string of singles set to be released in June.
"I'm really excited," she said.
"A lot of the songwriting, the stories, the underlying meaning behind it is very similar to my other album, it's probably just evolved a little bit. The sound is probably quite different though, in that it's not quite so pigeon-holed country."
Fans can look forward to a new twist on a few familiar favourites as well as some completely new tunes that haven't reached the stage yet, including one song written in the midst of Emma's wedding planning early in the year.
"My first concert on the tour after the album's release will be in Inverell," she said. Emma hopes to use the visit to run a local songwriting workshop, in appreciation of the town's unwavering support.