When roots country singer Melinda Schneider's indie record label Compass Bros sent a package of her CDS and press kit to country superstars the Dixie Chicks she feared they might be lost.

Or ignored.

So when the singer received the call to announce she was the Australian support on their prestige Australian tour she was shocked.

"We heard they were going to use a male pop act," Melinda told Nu Country TV on the eve of her Victorian tour which climaxes with the two Dixie Chicks gigs.

"It was a real thrill and a shock to be on the same bill for six shows with The Dixie Chicks and The Thorns. It proves that major artists and their management read their mail. I guess they really wanted an Australian country artist on the bill."

This is good news for country fans who have long suffered mediocre pop ponces as supports on some international country tours. But not a complete shock.

Schneider has written with Jim Lauderdale whose songs have been recorded by the Dixie Chicks and David Lee Murphy who has shared bills with them in the U.S.

But it's a testament to the fighting spirit of Schneider, 32, who missed out on their support role at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney early in the year.


"I tried to get that support as well but it didn't happen," Schneider revealed after also being surprised that 70,000 fans sang along to her songs at the recent Gympie Muster in Queensland.

"They had either bought my albums or heard them on regional, ABC and community radio or the pay TV channel CMC. It was a big thrill for me to hear them singing the lyrics to my songs. It was really shocking. I had a ball on the Saturday night."

Schneider, who duets with Jimmy Little on her song Reach Out on his 30th album Down The Road, has already written for her third album scheduled for 2004.

"I have written some on my own and others with Michael Carr who is touring with me through Victoria," says Schneider who also performs at the closing day of the Royal Agricultural Show on Sunday September 28.

"I also plan to go back to Nashville to write in November and after Tamworth in January. When you're touring a lot it's hard to get into song writing mode. You're tired all the time and it's hard to relax. I've probably got six songs close to definite for new album, including a couple on my own and some with Michael Carr."


Carr, son of veteran rock and Play School pianist Warren Carr, is also promoting his self titled Compass Bros disc when he joins Schneider, Brendon Walmsley and Jim Haynes on Schneider's Victorian tour.

Walmsley is promoting two Compass Bros albums Never Say Never and A Little Time and Haynes has a brace of albums, a poetry book and some new jokes.

Melinda's first two albums My Oxygen and Happy Tears won wide acclaim and sold thousands of units despite being ignored by commercial radio.

The singer will be filmed and interviewed for Nu Country TV on Monday September 29.
Can You Hear Me Down The Hillside, penned with Jim Lauderdale, is among the hot videos on Nu Country TV which debuts on C 31 at 8 p m on Saturday October 4.
The song was injected with a yodel born in the historic 'Mule Skinner Blues.'


"We came up with the chords and melody in Sydney and Jim went home," Melinda says, "I went over to Nashville few weeks later, we only had an hour. He said 'I want something really innocent and child like.' We just nutted out these lyrics in an hour. Later on I thought that was my mum's story, she used to practise her yodelling in a mango tree in Rockhampton. Her elder sister Rita said 'get up there and practice, you are not coming down till you get it right.' We wanted to do it as a really traditional yodelling song, a tribute to Mule Skinner Blues."

Also autobiographical is 'The Story Of My Life.'

"I was born in 1971/ policeman dad and a yodelling mum/ got no brother sister ties/ I'm an only child."

So when she wrote 'Story Of My Life' she didn't have to borrow from her clothing designer teen years to frock it up.

She grew up in public from three as the daughter of internationally known yodelling icon Mary.

But she chose a pair of co-writers for the videogenic vignette which spawned the first film clip from her second Compass Bros album 'Happy Tears.'

Unsung Australian duo Vanessa Corish and Paul Begaud had penned a swag of hits including 'Now, That I've Found You' - a U S chart topper for Canadian chanteuse Terri Clark.

"I had written the ideas in my book but I think I needed them to finish the song as it was quite emotional," Melinda said.

"It effected all of us. We wrote it in a couple of hours, it came together like a jigsaw puzzle."

'Story Of My Life' won Melinda the prestige Gold Guitar for best female vocalist.
In the literate genre, marketed through TV and print media and ABC and community radio, artists have to work extra hard to skin the me-too corporate cats.

For artists diverse as Schneider, Felicity, Catherine Britt, Git and Audrey Auld, the answer is to move offshore - even for short bursts - to build on the success of Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers.


Melinda began with writing sojourns in Nashville with tunesmiths whose songs are chart magnets.

Ms Schneider wrote 14 songs with Music City veterans on her latest foray and four of them - with Aussie tourists David Lee Murphy and Jim Lauderdale - survived a studio cull.

So did two penned with Bob Regan and Jimmy Melton, enabling her to be author of nine of 13 tunes on Happy Tears.

Ironically, one of the most evocative, radio friendly songs was penned with veteran rocker Billy Thorpe whose years in L.A. found him soaked in country.

"I sang on 'I Got My Mojo Working' with Thorpie at the Emerald festival," Melinda revealed, "I got up on stage to wail, did all this bluesy gospel stuff. He gave me his phone number and said we should write. It was our first attempt. I got the song idea in the car on my way over. Children leaving home is such a big thing in people's lives. The title just came to mind in the car. He could relate as both his daughters left home when they were living in L A. He said the house as so empty. That's what made him move back to Australia. He used to do 'She Taught Me To Yodel' in his set as a rock act in the sixties."


Equally memorable 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change' - written with Regan.
"It was my idea, I was working on it for quite a while on my own, I even tried to write it with an Australian writer," Ms Schneider confided, "it didn't quite happen, didn't click, didn't go where I wanted to go. I took it to Nashville. Bob has a fantastic sense of humour - bit like mine, sick. We sat there and had a lot of laughs. It's probably my favourite song on the album but not directed at my husband. At the Sydney launch people were saying which one's her husband."

Schneider's husband - bassist producer Graham Thompson - may not have changed her as a person but helped shape one of the best Australian country discs of the new millenium.

It veers from the bluegrass on 'Can You Hear Me Down The Hillside' to the gospel of 'God's Time,' written with Melton, and hook heavy raunch of the Melinda-Murphy collaboration on 'Small Stuff.'

Ms Schneider wrote 'He Still Calls Her Angel' with her 'Wearing White' duet partner Michael Carr.

"Warren had his own recordings in 60's, he also played with JOK," Melinda said, "so Michael had a similar upbringing to me in musical family. I introduced him to Adam Brand and he co-wrote three songs on his new album."


Schneider also wrote two tunes 'Superwoman' and 'No Tears To Cry' with Rick Price.
Harley Allen - prolific hit writer for expatriate Australasians Barry and Jewel Coburn - provided 'Living It Down.'

Allen, son of bluegrass legend Red Allen, also wrote 'She's Still Got It,' with John Wiggins - son of late Ernest Tubb's singing bus driver Johnny.

Schneider's songs are in ABC TV series 'Something In The Air' - a show blessed with the acting talents of Nu Country TV director Peter Hosking.

Melinda is hoping to score international release for her albums in Nashville.
"I'm free to go over and look for my own deal," says the singer whose partners on unreleased tunes are Dean Miller - son of the late Roger - and former Boy Howdy singer and solo artist Jeffrey Steele.

Her extensive national touring, which included stints at the Melbourne International Blues And Music Festival and Frankston Guitar Festival, have expanded her fan base.
Schneider, Carr, Walmsley and Haynes perform Hallam Hotel on September 23, Bairnsdale on September 24, Wonthaggi - September 25, Churchill - September 26, Colac - September 27.

The quartet also perform Sunday September 28 - final day of The Royal Melbourne Show - with Tania Kernaghan, Jacqui Clune and Southbound.

Melinda then performs that night at the Rod Laver Arena with the Dixie Chicks and The Thorns and again on Monday September 29.

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