My Countrytown: Melanie Dyer

17 May 2024 | 1:49 pm | Ellie Robinson

Melanie Dyer takes us for a tour through Inverell, Copeton Dam, Mount Russell and more.

Melanie Dyer

Melanie Dyer (Supplied)

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We’re not even five months into it, but 2024 has already been cemented as the year of Melanie Dyer. The country-pop stalwart kicked things off with the infectious single Honeymoonin’ – which proved to be an immediate hit as it soared to #4 on the Countrytown Hot 50 chart.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Dyer is keeping the hype alive with her second track for the year, Had To Be There – another bright and buoyant gem that’ll get stuck in your head from the moment that chorus hits. Upon releasing it at the start of May, Dyer said she aimed to capture “the nostalgia and magic of a moment that when you try to explain it to someone, words can't do it right”.

She added: “We debuted this at CMC Rocks with the band and the crowd were whistling and singing along from the second it started. I think it's going to be a festival favourite and it’s now definitely one of our favourites to play live. I wrote Had To Be There in Nashville last year with my long-time collaborators and friends Phil Barton and Karen Kosowski, who also produced the track”.

The song has already become a highlight in Dyer’s catalogue, and just today (May 17) it debuted in the Countrytown Hot 50 at #26. To celebrate, we caught up with the luminous singer-songwriter to learn all about the unique part of rural NSW she grew up in.


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“Inverell is known as the Sapphire City. Precious gems were discovered in the 19th century and the town once had more than 100 operating mines. People still visit town to fossick along the creek in the hopes they’ll take home their own little treasure. The annual Sapphire City Festival is an event enjoyed by locals and out-of-towners with live music, local stalls and a duck race along the Macintyre River. This year I’ll be coming home to headline the festival on October 26, and I can’t wait to play again in my hometown!”


“Copeton Dam is one of the largest inland dams in NSW with a capacity of 1,364,000 megalitres (almost three times the size of Sydney Harbour)! Driving over the impressive Copeton Dam wall is a core memory of my childhood. So many of my favourite holidays growing up are camping with family and friends year ‘round at the dam. Dad had a speed boat called Mischief, which my sisters and I learned how to ski and kneeboard behind from about four-years-old. We’d go out for weekends or several weeks over Easter and Christmas, exploring bush tracks on our bikes, making jaffles around the campfire, fishing and playing cricket with everyone.”


“The Pioneer Village is like walking through a portal and finding yourself back in the 1850s. The village is full of original buildings from our early settlement that showcases the proud heritage of Inverell and surrounding districts. From the Grove Homestead to Paddy’s Pub, it’s full of nostalgia. I remember visiting on school trips and I even attended a wedding there and performed at a Christmas party in the old hall. You can pack a picnic and wander around at your own pace.”


“I grew up on a sheep and cropping farm 35 kilometres out of Inverell, on the outskirts of a village called Mount Russell. Though it’s not a place you’d typically find on a tourist attraction map, it’s a special place to me and my family, who have spent over 100 years on the generational property. I grew up with my sisters chasing sheep, riding motorbikes and racing around the go-kart track after school. My favourite sunsets are the ones looking out over the verandah at home. I wouldn’t trade that upbringing for anything!”


“There’s something so relaxing about walking into a shop in a small town and feeling like you have time to enjoy the experience, compared to the big city shopping centres that, I don’t know about you, but make me want to leave immediately. Inverell has some of the best boutique shopping in the New England region. The Welder’s Dog is a great local hang with craft beer and cocktails, and it’s where I played a fun hometown show recently. There are several great coffee and brunch spots in town and along the Macintyre River, too. Spoilt for choice!”