Country queen Amber Lawrence: Her rocky road to stardom

Writing music became a way to beat the blues for the singer.

Left with a guitar and a broken heart after a bad break-up, Amber Lawrence wrote her first real song.

Amazingly, the boyfriend who walked away turned out to be the start of something big – Amber’s career as the reigning queen of Aussie country music.

“I didn’t write songs back then, but luckily for me I got dumped,” laughs the 45-year-old star, who used to be a number-crunching accountant for Qantas.

“I was devastated but not long afterwards I wrote a song. All the emotions of that broken heart were able to come out and I started to fall in love with song writing.”

‘It’s a privilege to be a musician and a mother.’


Music saved her

Much later, when Amber and her husband Martin Newman, 45, suffered the agony of stillbirth, losing baby son Woody halfway through her pregnancy, country music came to the rescue again.

“It’s the best way to get those tears out when you’re sad,” explains the six-time Golden Guitar Award winner. “It’s the story told through song, that’s what really got to me early on.”

Growing up in the Sydney suburb of Mascot, Amber never imagined she would one day become a successful full-time performer and recording artist. Although she knew she could sing, her demanding day job took priority.

But busking at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2003 – and coming second to Jessica Mauboy in the 2004 Road to Tamworth talent quest – set her on a very different path from balancing company books.

“It’s hot, it’s sweaty but it’s great fun,” she says of the Aussie boot scooting extravaganza, which kicks off for its 52nd year on January 19.

“It’s like that mecca you head for to start your career. You just get excited and inspired.”

She has released a kids’ country music album too!


Tamworth Trailblazers

“It’s the one festival that’s not exclusive. Any artist can go, whether you just pull up on the street and start busking or discover a little hall no one else is using. So many artists have found their audience that way.

“Through Tamworth I met a lot of country trailblazers I looked up to. People like Joy McKean, Beccy Cole and Melinda Schneider, who I’m proud to call friends. And I hope that happens to me too. I hope young artists see me as an example of someone who’s working really hard, doing as many shows now as I did before I was a mum.”

Today, Amber regularly criss-crosses Australia on tour, often with her five-year-old son Ike in tow.

“He makes it his mission to just ruin every show – in a nice way! ‘I’m going to pull that lead out of that guitar…’ but it’s one of the few industries where that’s OK,” smiles the hardworking star, who has performed for US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, entertained troops in East Timor and Sinai and mentored hundreds of students during her 20-year career.

“I feel really lucky,” she says. “It’s such a privilege to be a musician and a mother, because Ike can come on all these adventures with me. It’s really cool.”

Truth be told, it’s all the sweeter since Amber once despaired of discovering love. “It’s funny because everyone thinks you must meet so many people when you’re on the road. But it’s really difficult because you’re never in the same spot for longer than a day or two.”

Amber and her husband Martin fell pregnant with Ike when she was 39.


In the end, Amber connected with Martin, who works in marketing, through a dating app.

“Quite a few country singers met their partners that way,” she chuckles. “It took less than six months to find Marty and it was great. We’re very happy.”

Her beloved popped the question at Sydney’s Coogee Beach on Christmas Day 2017. The couple married at Port Douglas in May 2019, after welcoming Ike to the family in August 2018.

It’s “happy ever after”, just like the title of Amber’s sixth studio album.

“It wasn’t really a conscious decision for me to become a country singer. It was kind of accidental,” she readily admits.

“A lot of people wondered what the hell I was doing. They thought it was really brave to take that leap.

“But I had a safety net. I knew that if I failed, I had accountancy to fall back on. But a career in music wasn’t always going to be there. I didn’t want to die wondering whether I could make it as a singer and songwriter.”

The Toyota Country Music Festival Tamworth runs from January 19 to 28.

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