"You are why I'm always working late just to keep a job I hate/ you are why the boy inside of me has become the man you see/ you are why I used to drink too much and why I haven't touched a drop for years/ you are why I'm still here." - Still Here - Melinda Schneider-Jay Knowles.

Melinda Schneider believes in the healing power of water.

The celebrated chanteuse flew across the Pacific Ocean to Nashville to write most of her acclaimed fifth CD Be Yourself.

The disc, written and recorded in the slipstream of her post divorce disc Stronger, was sweet solace.

And she found a duet partner sitting on a rock when she emerged from snorkelling at Coogee in Sydney.

"In February this year I was snorkelling in a rock pool at Coogee beach," Schneider, 35, told Nu Country TV.

"I came up out of the water and there was Paul Kelly sitting on a rock - sort of like a mermaid. I got out of the water and said how are you - would you like to do a duet?

It was a bit of a long-shot as he doesn't usually do songs he hasn't written. He heard it and he like it and agreed to do it at his house in Melbourne. It was a great connection we had on the day and I think that comes across on the track. I hadn't known him that long - we had met a at a few country music festivals and exchanged emails."

Previous duet partners included Michael Carr and the late Billy Thorpe.

Schneider enlisted high profile Nashville songwriter Gordon Kennedy as co-producer of her album and soapie star Tammy McIntosh as the female lead in her video clip.


"Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman/ standing up to the test while you're wearing a party dress/ sometimes looks can be deceiving when you're quietly over-achieving."
Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman - Melinda Schneider-Elizabeth Cook.

Schneider also expanded her talent pool by continuing successful trips to Nashville for songwriting sojourns with major Music City songsmiths.

This time she included seven tunes penned with Kennedy and several others with new partners.

"I wrote three with Gordon on Stronger," Schneider recalled.

"I have a very strong connection with him."

Kennedy is a multi-Grammy Award winning writer and producer and son of Jerry Kennedy whose mentor was the late Chet Atkins.

More Kennedy details at the tail of this tale.

Schneider's peer recognition peaked when a co-write with stone country Alabama born songbird Elizabeth Cook made the finals of the prestigious Americana Awards.

Their song Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman was a highlight of Schneider's previous album Stronger that included two other collaborations with Cook.

"That was a big thrill to be in the same awards category as Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin," Schneider conceded.

"It was a big thrill to be in the audience on the night and see Ricky Skaggs and Lyle Lovett perform live. It was amazing. I think Americana is more like our version of country music in Australia. It felt very comfortable for me."


But there was a sad note for the singer shortly after the interview when news broke of the death of Cook's mother Joyce from pneumonia at 77.

Schneider had filmed Joyce and husband Tom, 83, who performed as The Medicare Duo, singing with her mother Mary backstage at the Grand Ole Opry on her mobile phone on a previous visit.

Joyce and Tom often opened for Elizabeth at the famed Station Inn in Nashville.

She was an inspiration for Elizabeth to go into music in the first place.

"I'm so sorry to hear this very sad news," Melinda said in response to an email from me.

"I spent some wonderful time with Joyce and she was such a beautiful, strong and inspiring woman."

Although Melinda and Elizabeth collaborated on three songs for Stronger they didn't land a song on Be Yourself.

"Elizabeth was away touring a lot so we didn't get a chance," Schneider said.

"She'll make an appearance later."


"Looking at the twilight/ our life in review/ I'll gently kiss you good night/ I'll take care of you." - I'll Take Care Of You - Melinda Schneider-Gordon Kennedy.

But Schneider was reunited with her mother Mary when she won her seventh Mo Award in Sydney.

"We did I'll Take Care Of You as a duet on the Mo Awards," Schneider said.

"It's also on my new album."

Schneider was bemused when she learned four times wed country icon Carlene Carter chose Stronger as the title of her 10th album, released here this year.

"That's funny, I just saw that recently," Schneider quipped.

"I'm glad there's some strong women out there."

Schneider is keen to join Carter and Cook on the U.S. touring circuit.

That will require U.S. release of Be Yourself.

"I love touring, I'm a bit of a gypsy," Schneider revealed.

"I love living out of suitcase. We're hoping for U.S release. I want to go for release everywhere but at the moment I want to make it a success here. I have very loyal fans here. We'll focus on Australia and see what happens in the rest of the world. But I would love to go to Ireland and tour there."

Well Kev Bloody Wilson, Adam Harvey, Shane and Marcia Howard have invaded the Emerald Isle.


"Every step is the same/ whether in the sunshine or the rain/ if you can hold on even through the pain/ show up tomorrow, do it all again/ show up tomorrow, do it all again you'll have better luck/ better luck" - Courageous - Melinda Schneider-Gordon Kennedy.

One is Olivia Newton-John with whom Melinda recorded a duet on Courageous after her stint on her Great Walk To Beijing.

"I wrote Courageous with a young guy called Ben Cooper," Schneider revealed.

"He's just 21 and gorgeous. He's a graduate from Belmont University in Nashville and a wonderful writer. We wrote it in a couple of days - it was the first song we wrote together. I'm looking forward to working with him again in the future. It's about the courage you have to find in life each day. I think a lot of people will relate to it as we all have our crosses to bear, we have to overcome at certain times in our life. You need courage to be yourself - a lot of people struggling against adversity will relate. I wrote it about the tough stuff we have to overcome. I'm really excited about it. I sent this song to Olivia and she loved it.

She did it as a duet with me so I'm thrilled that Olivia decided to put it on her Great Walk album. It was a big thrill to sing with her in the studio."

Schneider had strong inspiration for her role in Newton-John's Great Walk - her dad, a former policeman.

"I lost my dad to lung cancer four years ago and fight against cancer is very close to my heart," Schneider revealed.

"The walk was to raise funds for cancer research. It was an amazing experience, life changing, really positive to be walking alongside cancer survivors, doctors, celebrities and other artists. It was amazing - something I'll always carry with me. It was very challenging. That walk was so tough. I don't know how Olivia did it for 21 days. I only did it for the last three days but it was great, such a good thing to do. Cancer research is so needed. We've all been touched by cancer in one-way or another. There were a lot of survivors on the walk I was surrounded by so many people working for the same cause. It was a good thing to be part of - there to help Olivia build a wellness centre - something she believes in. So far they have raised over $2 million - they want to get to over $5 million. I had a singalong with James Reyne on the bus - it was great fun."


"Be yourself, everybody else is taken/ and no-one else can do the things you do/ let your heart write the music that you're making/ you be yourself, everybody else is taken." - Be Yourself - Melinda Schneider-Gordon Kennedy

Schneider lived up to the sentiments of the title track of her new disc.

"I'm a bit of a perfectionist," she said.

"I really enjoyed having creative control over your career - let your dreams come true.

Compass Brothers did a great job - my four albums with them very successful. I'm grateful for that but it was time to move and it was liberating. It was time to take stock of what I wanted to do in my life and achieve. So it's great to shake things up a bit - nothing lasts forever."

Well, the music does - especially the depth of emotions and mood swings in these 13 songs.

Check out fiddle fuelled Cry A Little, the swampy stomp of Grassy, escapist retreat of Safe, historically reality driven People Don't Change, challenged male intuitiveness in Understanding, mixed emotions of Thank You and jubilation of Outside.

It's fairly amusing to read Schneider interviews and reviews by rock writers - one chappie who praised Be Yourself said "it's rewarding as a roots fan to come across a cluster of country records that don't suck."

Such a myopic confession is more damning of the writer and precious peers than the genre that is so broad it leaves other in the shade.

It's reminiscent of another faux fellow whose penchant for reviewing rock refugees as country is belied by his magazine's sales charts that echo buyer demand, not fads.

Schneider has long been proud to be country - and her eclectic music from her career birth vindicates that.


"I'm just having a bad day baby/ don't try to figure me out/ the girl you love will soon come back around/ I'm just having a tough one baby." - Bad Day - Melinda Schneider -Marcia Ramirez.

Schneider found a sympathetic soul mate when they wrote evocative tune Bad Day.

"I hooked up with Marcia Ramirez," Schneider recalled.

"She's an amazing session singer in Nashville - she's had a really fascinating and interesting life. She's into the same stuff I am and we became instant best friends.

She's also an amazing songwriter. Bad Day was the first song we wrote together. I was over at her house and we belted it out. I knew it would make the record. A lot of women can relate to it - a lot of men too. When a woman has a bad day all you guys want to do it fix it, which is a very male thing to do. Sometimes we don't want it fixed - we just need a hug. I know I'll be working with her for many years to come."

Schneider and video director Ross Wood chose All Saints star Tammy MacIntosh as the femme fatale in Be Yourself.

Tammy joined All Saints in May 2002 to play Dr Charlotte Beaumont after roles in shows diverse as Something In The Air, Police Rescue, Grass Roots, Stingers, Good Guys Bad Guys, Wildside, McLeod's Daughters, G.P., The Feds and Chances.

She also appeared in State Coroner that featured Nu Country TV creator and executive producer Peter Hosking as the Chief Commissioner of Police.


Schneider co-producer and co-writer Gordon Kennedy has a rich musical pedigree.

His father, Jerry Glenn Kennedy, recorded a Chet Atkins-produced disc for RCA /Victor at the age of ten.

He was also a session player for Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Tammy Wynette.
Jerry was also produced Roger Miller, Statler Brothers, Reba McEntire and many more.

Son Gordon performed with award-winning Christian band Whiteheart, as well as his critically acclaimed project, Speak, as a member of Sparrow recording artist Dogs of Peace.

He has penned songs for Christian and mainstream artists such as Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Wynonna, Patty Loveless, Susan Ashton and PFR.

Change the World, his Grammy-winning hit for Clapton was co-written with Tommy Sims and Wayne Kirkpatrick.

The song was cut first by country superstar Wynonna before Clapton and Babyface, who performed and produced the song for the movie soundtrack of the John Travolta hit Phenomenon.

The single spent 13 weeks at #1 on both the Billboard and R&R charts and won three 1996 Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year.

His song You Move Me was on Garth Brooks huge disc Sevens - nine times platinum with over 9,000,000 copies sold.

Kennedy's song Never Let You Go Again on was on Brooks singing spouse Trisha Yearwood's platinum album Where Your Road Leads.

He also landed his song It Will Be Me on Faith Hill's Breathe disc that was eight times platinum and Remember the Alamo on George Strait's Platinum album One Step At A Time.

Click here for a review Be Yourself

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