Amber Lawrence On Making A Difference By Telling Her Story At Groundwater Country Music Festival

29 September 2023 | 7:40 am | Noel Mengel

"You feel really lucky to be there. That’s how I always feel every time I play Groundwater."

Amber Lawrence

Amber Lawrence (Source: Supplied)

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Amber Lawrence has special memories of the Gold Coast’s annual celebration of country music, the Groundwater Country Music Festival.

In 2013, Lawrence was a headliner at the first edition of the event, then known as the Broadbeach Country Music Festival.

Now, the six-time Golden Guitar winner returns to the festival for the first time since the release of her smash 2022 album Living For The Highlights and this year’s stand-alone hit single, Live A Country Song.

“There is always that excitement and anticipation when you play a new festival,’’ Lawrence says.

“You don’t know if it will go off or not, what the crowd will be like. I always remember getting there the first time and seeing the awesome location, a beautiful sunny spot right near the beach. 

“You are staying right near the gig; there are people everywhere, and the vibe is fantastic. You feel really lucky to be there. That’s how I always feel every time I play Groundwater.”

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That first festival was a breakout success, with 20,000 people soaking up the atmosphere at the free, family-friendly event. It has grown to attract fans from around the country and moved to a prime spot in the calendar in late October.

This year, Groundwater, from 20-22 October, is a family affair for Lawrence too, returning with husband Martin for the first time with their five-year-old son Ike.

“I was eight months pregnant with Ike when I last played the festival,’’ Lawrence says. 

“I was feeling really fit and healthy through the pregnancy, so I wasn’t worried at all, doing all the dance moves I would normally do. I have some great photos from that gig, and it is a really beautiful memory to lock in.”

After all, it’s those kind of experiences that are just as cherished as the awards and #1 records.

Lawrence’s latest single, Live A Country Song, written with Wolfe Brothers Nick and Tom, is all about celebrating life’s simple pleasures and finding strength in hard times through a country song.

The infectious energy of the sure-fire festival anthem hit the spot with fans from the first time it was played on stage.

“It’s fun to have a song like that in the set where people are dancing as soon as you start playing it, and it’s an easy song for people to sing along with,” Lawrence says.

“The song is all about the joy and simplicity of country music. Sometimes people pay out on that or say, ‘You always sing about the same things in country songs’. But this is about the reason we do it, how it makes you feel.

“As I say in the chorus, it’s about the Friday nights with your friends, it’s about the campfire, it’s about singing along when you have a heartache because it makes you feel better. It is a song for everyone.”

The Living For The Highlights album, released in July last year, was a triumph, packed with messages musicians and their fans were thinking about after a tough couple of years through the pandemic.

It topped the Australian music chart and country charts and shot to #5 nationally. 

The first single, Bring It Back, found Lawrence singing about all that had been lost during COVID-19 and imploring everyone to get back to how things were before 2020. Songs like I’m Coming Home, Fill It Up (“That was a hard year, but we made it”) and Making Up for Lost Wine summed up the frustrations most people felt at putting their lives on hold.

“That time taught us resilience, to take the time to enjoy simple pleasures with our friends and family,” Lawrence says.

“The hard thing is we can forget those lessons when we get back to the normal busyness of life. My friends just had a picnic in the park, and we all said, ‘Remember this, we did this all the time during Covid.’ We made a pact to get back to that simple stuff, and Live A Country Song is about that same feeling.”

At the emotional heart of the album is the raw honesty of You Were Mine, one of the greatest and most personal songs Lawrence has ever written, describing the pain the family went through when their second child, Woody, was stillborn in 2020. 

“That’s not just our story. It was such a traumatic time, but I realised maybe I need to be open about this because I might be able to help someone else. It affects you so deeply that other people wonder why you aren’t the same person that you were, so I had to share it for that reason, too. 

“I am blown away by the number of messages I get saying how the music helped them through a difficult time and gave them strength.

“My husband doesn’t work in the music business, and whenever I read these messages to him, he says, ‘You don’t realise the difference you are making in people’s lives by telling a story.’ That is so humbling and another reason why I feel so lucky to do what I do.”

With seven studio albums and three children’s albums behind her, Amber enjoys sharing what she has learnt along the way, mentoring the next generation of musical artists with her You Be The Superhero program.

“I always tell them it’s hard to build a career from your living room. I grew up in suburbia in Sydney; I didn’t know the bush. You have to go on the road; you have to do the gigs; in country music, you have to go to the regions. 

“That’s what I have been doing in the 20 years since I started. If I am having a conversation with anyone in Australia now, generally, I can say, ‘I’ve been there!’ ”

Amber Lawrence will headline Groundwater Country Music Festival, Gold Coast, from 20-22 October alongside Lee Kernaghan, Adam Harvey & Beccy Cole, Asleep At The Wheel, Georgia State Line and more. You can find tickets here.