Oamaru still holds a very special place in Kerryn Fields’ heart.
It was where she forged her career in broadcasting, where she wrote her first song and where she played her first open mic night.
Last week, the former Waitaki Classic Hits announcer won the MLT Songwriting Award at the 2019 New Zealand Country Music Awards.
Fields, an alt-country/folk singer songwriter, is now based in Melbourne and has become a key player in Australia’s folk and country music scene.
Winning the award for her song Mamma, up against writers including Tami Neilson, Jenny Mitchell and Kaylee Bell, was a “wonderful homecoming”.
“It’s been so wonderful to be recognised .. it’s been really cool, really lovely.”
Mamma is about a mother and son Fields met on tour.
“They’d just been through a really, really tough time and the tag line of the song is ‘Mamma’s going to see you right’ and it’s about the love a mother has for her child, the unbreakable bond,” she said.
Another of Fields’ songs, Until You, was also in the top 10 at the awards. Fields wrote the love song on the back of a ute, parked next to the river in her hometown of Te Kuiti.
She grew up among the storytellers of the shearing sheds, a talent she now brings to the stage, along with her own style of alt-country song writing.
“Telling stories is what I do. I grew up on country music, my mum’s also a country singer, my dad’s a storyteller, a small-town hero with a big heart and big sense of humour,” she said.
“I took the storytelling from my dad and the country music from my mum and created a career out of it.”
On Tuesday, Fields was back in Oamaru, visiting friends and showing her partner around her “South Island home” before returning to Australia.
“I love being here .. my favourite view in the whole world is from [Cape Wanbrow],” she said.
“I still have a photo of that in my house, it’s my view – whenever I come to Oamaru you can always find me with a coffee at the top of the hill, looking down and loving life.”
From 2004 to 2006, Fields, then known as Kerryn Maree Benefield, worked as a host on Waitaki’s Classic Hits 98.4. In her first year, she won best new broadcaster at the New Zealand Radio Awards.
“Oamaru played a really big part in that part of my life and I was really championed by the community here .. really well supported in my early career here, which was really lovely.”
Fields no longer works in radio – she is now a fulltime singer-songwriter, and works her way around the folk circuits of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
“I was doing radio and really enjoyed that, but the seed was planted here [in Oamaru] to write songs and then I just kept going,” she said.
“I knew [Melbourne] was where I needed to go as a country and folk artist to get where I needed to be, as a songwriter, performer and entertainer – Melbourne is the live music capital of the world.”
Fields is putting the finishing touches on a new album, a follow up to her highly acclaimed debut album Rascal, released in 2015.