Songwriting with a rural heart

Mental health and rural life are just some of the issues that the community of Grenfell have written songs about as of a program aimed at increasing contentedness between generations.

Singer-songwriter Abby Smith, of the band Smith & Jones, has been helping the Grenfell community write songs. Photo: Contributed

Singer-songwriter Abby Smith, of the band Smith & Jones, has been helping the Grenfell community write songs. Photo: Contributed

The Song-Writing for Wellbeing program saw members of the Grenfell Men’s Shed, the Henry Lawson High School and the general community, write lyrics and music over four weeks as part of the free program. Between that period in July and August, singer-songwriter Abby Smith, of the band Smith and Jones, helped the participants write and fine tune the songs for recording.

Ms Smith said it had been a great learning curve for her and she was very proud of those involved, especially writing a song about mental health.

“For the Grenfell Men’s Shed to do something about this and include me and the students is a huge step in the right direction (of talking about mental health),” she said.

“It should be no different talking about mental health… it’s a valid conversation topic.”

Ms Smith said she was looking forward to getting back out to Grenfell to record the song, Sunlight on the Peaks’, later this month.

According to lifeline deaths by suicide in Australia occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females, with six Australian men taking their own lives every day.

“I think having this song will give them a sense of pride. It’s important, especially in isolated areas because often don’t feel pride in themselves. So to have that product together and know we did it, is just awesome,” she said.

After the first workshop in July local project organiser and Grenfell Men’s Shed treasurer Phillip Diprose said he was excited by the prospect of many spin-off benefits to the community, including local songwriting skills development and increased connectedness between men of all ages throughout the Weddin Shire.

“Maybe we’ll even get a song or two that can become something of a local anthem, but most important will be the teamwork and camaraderie that comes from working and learning together on a common activity,” Mr Diprose said.

On September 22, the singers will record their brand new song ‘Sunlight on the Peaks.’ Participants from the workshop, the Grenfell Men’s Shed, 10 students and their music teacher from the high school along with John from the Grenfell Music Club will all be a part of the process. Bathurst-based musician and audio engineer Kris Schubert will work alongside Ms Smith and the participants to record the tracks and councillors Carly Brown and Jan Parlett.

A team of dedicated people were able to make the project happen, and included Arts OutWest, Grenfell Men’s Shed, The Henry Lawson High School, THLHS P&C and Grenfell Community, NSW Health with the support of three local Councillors.

Funding comes from House With No Steps’ Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services.