WAM’s major focus area in regional WA over the past few years has been the Wheatbelt. This is primarily due to the region’s proximity to Perth, the large number of artists in this region, and the community’s appetite for the gigs we are able to deliver. Through our engagement and activities, WAM has amassed a sizeable network of artists and other related connections across the region.
RAC have helped WAM to deliver the Wheatbelt Touring Circuit program since the pilot project in 2012. A focal point of the program and RAC’s involvement has been the integration of road safety messaging into the tours, talking to people about the choices they make before getting behind the wheel or into a vehicle at a critical time – when they are enjoying music in licensed premises. We have seen first hand how effective the direct road safety messages from artists on the tours has been.
WAM has taken this idea one step further in 2016-17 by engaging a team of Wheatbelt WAMbassadors from across the region to be advocates for WAM in the Wheatbelt, and actively talk about road safety at gigs, and at other appropriate opportunities. Six local Wheatbelt musicians from different Wheatbelt sub-regions are engaging with their communities and peers, drawing attention to the consequences of poor choices behind the wheel, all the while delivering quality local musical entertainment. We believe that by fusing together creative local music with road safety messages, we can break through the invisible wall and get people thinking and talking about road safety, therefore delivering a real benefit to the community.
The six WAMbassadors each have their own reasons for taking up their roles, but all share the common experience of having their communities impacted by the devastation of road trauma.
Erin Pope began singing and song writing during seeding time on the family farm in the Eastern Wheatbelt when the tractor radio gave out. She soon decided that learning to play the guitar would complete the picture.
Two and a half years later, in between university studies and traveling, she now plays at events in the Wheatbelt and local venues in Fremantle. Tales of Erin’s backpacking adventures through Vietnam, Nepal and Ethiopia come out in her music, which is a blend of acoustic, folk and blues. What Erin loves most about gigs where she grew up is that it’s a full-blown family affair with relatives and neighbours rallied up to gather a crowd. She says having the opportunity to play for people who have been a major part of her life is pretty special.
Erin is passionate about sharing stories from home, both the good and the bad, with mates in the city to offer insight into the rural way of life. She says, sadly, car crashes seem to be a big part of that. She chose to become a WAMbassador because she wanted to share a road safety message with her community that even if you’re not directly involved in a car crash, it doesn’t mean you don’t feel the impact. Writing songs helps her process those feelings and it’s something she can share with her family, mates and community.Hayden Sprigg
Country musician Hayden Sprigg is a singer and songwriter hailing from Mukinbudin in the Central East Wheatbelt region. Hayden’s folk and country music is influenced by the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Steve Earle and Brad Paisley. He was featured on the 2014 Sounds of the Wheatbelt album and was part of the Wheatbelt Touring Circuit in 2015. Raised in the Wheatbelt, Hayden now farms in the region and says the Wheatbelt is a unique place. He says it’s worth watching a local football match if you’re in town or visiting during Mukinbudin’s Spring Festival which brings the community together and features the best of local produce, music and art.
Hayden enjoyed sharing his music and promoting road safety messages as part of the Wheatbelt Touring Circuit which is why he decided to become a WAMbassador. Hayden has lost several mates in car crashes; one straight after school and another just last year. In the most recent instance, his friend left behind a wife and two children. Having recently become a father himself, Hayden says it’s heartbreaking to think of the hole which must be left in the family’s life.Pete Byfield
Alternative country musician Pete Byfield has lived in the Wheatbelt for most of his life and much of his music is inspired by the region. Pete’s song Wialki featured on the 2014 WAM Sounds of the Wheatbelt album and in 2015, Pete released his first album, One, which took home the Album of the Year at the 2016 WA Country Music Awards. His song Ashes from the same album received a nomination for WAM Song of the Year in 2016.
Pete says the Wheatbelt music scene contains a large number of families with a historical connection to the land, which bleeds into the song writing. Choosing to become a WAMbassador was a logical flow on from Pete’s involvement with RAC and the It’s My Elephant campaign. He has lost a number of very close friends in road crashes over the years. Alcohol, speed and inexperience were factors.
Pete believes education and cultural change can make a difference so he wrote a song called Country Wave. It encourages drivers to keep their heads up, out of their phones, and to raise one finger off the steering wheel in a country wave.Ash Nardini
Guitarist and bass player, Ash Nardini, has been on the local music scene for 20 years. During this time he’s played in a number of cover bands, been appointed president of the Narrogin Musicians Association and started his own PA and production business, supplying sound reinforcement to events on a local scale.
Born in Narrogin, Ash spent some time in Perth and Busselton before the relaxed, bush scene drew him back to his home town to raise a family.
As president of the Narrogin Musicians Association, Ash and his committee put together the Big Bash Music Festival which saw 18 local acts perform throughout the day at the Narrogin Agricultural Show. Ash became involved with WAM in 2015 and helped find local artists for its Wheatbelt Touring Circuit.
Ash loves the Wheatbelt region for its people and their attitudes. Having seen the pain that road trauma brings families, Ash has embraced the opportunity to become a WAMbassador to raise awareness about this serious issue and the impact it has on small communities.Polly Medlen
The Polly Medlen Band has plenty of experience on the live music circuit in Perth and throughout regional WA, lining up with favourites Abbe May and Ruby Boots and supporting acts like Kasey Chambers and Troy Cassar-Daley.
The Polly Medlen Band has also enjoyed multiple wins in the WAM Song of the Year awards in the Country category and a WAMi nomination for Country Artist of the Year.
Polly says live gigs in regional areas can be few and far between but recommends The Quindanning Inne, a must-do if you’re in the area. ‘The Quinny’ is a regional institution which she says has always supported original music and touring artists.
For Polly, becoming a WAMbassador was a natural choice given her passionate belief in the importance of the Wheatbelt Touring Circuit and RAC’s road safety messages.
She believes it’s hard to talk about openly because it asks communities to look at their own road safety culture and reassess their behaviour, but it needs to be spoken about more.
Losing friends and family to road trauma is a nightmare that Polly has lived through. She says the loss to families and the community causes hurt for years after the event but it’s something that should, and can, be avoided.Jayden Crook
Three years later, he has played at the Guildford Heritage Festival, at venues throughout the Wheatbelt and opened for country musician Adam Brand. All the while, Jayden was quietly writing his own music which he was encouraged to share through WAM’s regional programs. Jayden has called the Wheatbelt home almost his entire life; not only is his farm there but his community is too. He says they are really receptive to original live music and appreciate artists putting themselves out there. He is confident there are lots of talented musicians in the region and believes the scene can be built up to engage local audiences even more.
Jayden is passionate about live gigs and the work WAM is doing to develop regional music scenes and it was for that reason Jayden jumped at the opportunity to become a WAMbassador. As a new dad himself, Jayden has spent a lot of time thinking about what families go through when their lives are changed so dramatically by road trauma.