Aminah Hughes

ON THE CUSP

It’s easy to get locked into the boundaries of Perth.  We’re a small city on the far edge of a very distant land.  Most of the time, that’s just fine.  Why ever would we want to share something so unique and beautiful?  Fragile, even, because of our remoteness.  Until, of course, we come hard up against our lack of size.

The music industry is a case in point.  We have world-class musicians making some of the finest music you’d ever want to hear in Perth, every day of the week.  Brilliant!  Until you start doing the maths and realise that we don’t have the population to make it commercially viable.  That’s when artists have to look over the horizon and try to find audiences across the Nullarbor. Over the water, too.

This nomination sees Hughes on the cusp of the big time.

It’s bloody hard work.  Talent is one thing, but making it takes dogged determination, superhuman quantities of self-belief and the ability to endure the passive aggressive silence that is the most common response artists receive when they reach out to bookers, agents, managers, and other industry types to try to connect with new audiences and opportunities.

That’s one of the reasons why, when one of our own manages to create a chink in the defensive armour of the music industry and begins to break through, there’s reason for all of us to celebrate.

Perth artist, Aminah Hughes’ nomination as a fan-voted finalist in the Blues category of the 17th Annual Independent Music Awards (IMA) for her song ‘Tell Me It’s Over’, is one such occasion.  The IMA’s honour the year’s most exceptional and artistically daring projects from self-released and indie label artists from around the globe.

Winning projects will be selected by a judging panel that includes Tom Waits, Robert Smith, Gloria Gaynor, Lee Ann Womack, David Rosenthal, Ben Lovett and influential press and talent buyers from the Americas, Europe and Pacific Rim. More than 400 artists will be honored at the awards ceremony on 22 June at the Symphony Space Performing Arts Centre in New York City.

This nomination sees Hughes on the cusp of the big time.

In Hughes’ own words, “They call it the ‘coveted’ fan-nominated spot, and everyone I’ve spoken to about it in the industry has said, ‘Even better,’ because it shows that people are really connecting to the music.

“I’m really surprised.  I put it (‘Tell Me It’s Over’) out to my supporters who are around the world and lots of industry people had the chance to vote as well.  I don’t think I have a massive fanbase, so I’m not sure where they’re hiding, but it’s great to know they’re out there.

“The only way I can make sense of me getting the nomination is that what I’m writing about is connecting with people.  I don’t write happy songs.  I don’t need to write when I’m happy.  I write about all the hard stuff.  When I’m writing about something, it’s something that I’ve been through, or an issue that’s important to me, it could be a political issue or a feminist issue.  I used to be worried that I was writing songs that were going to depress people, but then I started getting feedback and reviews that were quite the opposite.  I realised that the experience I had when I was younger, watching artists telling the truth up on stage, I was now doing that for other people.

“I think that’s why people are connecting with my music, when they get a chance to hear it.  This kind of platform through these awards really helps when it comes to people hearing my music.”

The IMAs nomination hasn’t just dropped out of nowhere for Hughes.  Putting herself in the running for opportunities to play festivals, radio airplay and award nominations, among other things, is pretty much a full-time job for Hughes.  That’s alongside songwriting, recording and performing, writing for film, film making, photography and poetry.  And, her day job, the one that currently pays the bills.

'Tell Me It’s Over’ was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition in 2017.  Of this, Hughes said, “Tom Waits has been on a panel before when I was a finalist in that competition.  He may have heard this song before!”

Let’s hope that familiarity gets Hughes over the line this time.  But, regardless of the outcome, the awards ceremony and the associated music industry networking that takes place around the IMAs gives Hughes the opportunity to meet with the people who will be instrumental to the next stage of her success.  Hughes is already planning her trip to New York in June, making connections and scheduling meetings.

Keep watch on what happens next, as Hughes could well be the next name propelled from Perth’s relative obscurity into the international spotlight.  And, if not this time, it will be the next, or the next.  One thing is for certain, Hughes will never give up.

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