The finalists have been announced for the 2018 Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Artist and APRA Best Country Music Song. Winners will be presented at the New Zealand Country Music Awards in Gore on Thursday 31 May 2018.
The finalists for Best Country Music Artist are Lana Doublet for her album Beautiful Human, Reb Fountain for her EP Hopeful and Hopeless, and Phil Doublet for his third album Strength, Love, Music & Light.
The top country songs recognised by APRA this year are Kaylee Bell and Brooke McClymont's ‘Next Somebody', ‘Let Me Be' by Jenny Mitchell, and ‘Hopeful and Hopeless' by Reb Fountain.
Lana Doublet has been a presence in the music scene for a few years now. She won the New Zealand Country Music Award for Songwriter of the Year three years running (2015 - 2017) and is now nominated for her debut EP Beautiful Human.
Released in June last year, Reb Fountain's EP Hopeful and Hopeless was recorded live at The Wine Cellar in 2014. It was during her time touring with The Eastern and the last time she would share the stage with the late Sam Prebble (Bond St Bridge, Mermaid & Mariner, The Broken Heartbreakers).
After his passing, Reb knew that the only way forward was to complete the unfinished projects she worked on with Sam. First, she finished Little Arrows, which was nominated for the 2017 Best Folk Artist. Then she completed the EP Hopeful and Hopeless which led to her finalist nod for Best Country Music Artist today.
Since the tender age of 11, Phil Doublet has been playing in bands. Fast forward over three decades and he stands nominated for the 2018 Best Country Music Artist Tui for his record Strength, Love, Music & Light.
No stranger to the music world, his accolades include 2014 New Zealand Country Music Association Male Artist of the Year, and he was nominated for 2017's Country Music Album Tui for his album Endless Highway.
The finalists for the APRA Best Country Music Song will also be recognised for their contribution to country music over the past year.
Hailing from Gore, Jenny Mitchell is an up-and-comer in the country music scene and one to watch. When she was 14, she placed 3rd on New Zealand's Got Talent and has since released her debut album, which reached #3 on the Official New Zealand Music Charts.
She's back in the spotlight as a nominee for APRA's Best Country Music Song ‘Let Me Be'. Released in January 2018, the song serves as the perfect prelude to her sophomore album Wildfires - expected to be released later in the year.
Kaylee Bell is no stranger to the Country Music Awards having won Best Country Music Album (2014) and Best Country Music Song (2015). The country pop singer-songwriter and guitarist hailing from Waimate in the South Island is a 2018 finalist for her latest single ‘Next Somebody' which was penned with Brooke McClymont while touring with The McClymonts in Australia.
Bell has played with a variety of country stars, including supporting Keith Urban on two tours ('Light The Fuse Tour' of Australia in 2014 and again on his 2016 'Ripcord World Tour') and opening for The Dixie Chicks on their 2017 New Zealand tour.
Not only is she nominated for Best Country Music Artist this year, Reb Fountain is in the running for APRA's Best Country Music Song as well. The single ‘Hopeful and Hopeless' from the EP of the same name is a strong reminder of the Californian-born singer songwriter's talents.
Recorded Music CEO Damian Vaughan says the wealth of talent in New Zealand's country music scene is fantastic to see.
"There's a sweeping beauty to the country music coming out at the moment. The old, experienced musicians and newcomers to the awards circuit alike all capture something special in their recordings."
APRA Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healy says: "The songs produced by the finalists are true gems, crafted in the great traditions of country music, full of heart, soul and hard work. They are all worthy of our celebration."
Also presented on the night are the MLT songwriting awards. Judged by a panel of four accomplished music industry representatives, 10 finalists are chosen to perform their song live at the Awards evening. The finalists are Joanna Buchanan (‘Into Your Arms'), Shulam Van Osenbrugeen (‘Worth the Ride'), Bruce Clark (‘Beyond the Sun'), Olivia Sutherland (‘Sincerely'), Chanelle Davis (‘I Love You'), Kaylee Bell & Sinead Burgess (‘Call You From Vegas'), Jenny Mitchell (‘Travelling Bones', ‘Troubadour'), Lisa Cruickshank (‘Let You Go') and Mia Sohnge (‘Drive').
This year's Country Music Award winners will be announced during the NZ Country Music Awards in Gore on Thursday 31 May. The awards are open to the public, and tickets are available through iticket.co.nz.
Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Album
• Lana Doublet - Beautiful Human
• Reb Fountain - Hopeful and Hopeless
• Phil Doublet - Strength, Love, Music & Light
Finalists for APRA Best Country Music Song
• Jenny Mitchell - ‘Let Me Be'
• Kaylee Bell and Brooke McClymont - ‘Next Somebody'
• Reb Fountain - ‘Hopeful and Hopeless'