NZ Country Music Awards Nominees revealed

Finalists for the 2016 Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Album and APRA Best Country Music Song have been announced with the line-up showcasing New Zealand’s top country musicians.

Finalists in the Best Country Album category are Wellington’s Eb & Sparrow for Sun/Son, Wanaka’s Jody Direen for Breaks Out and Wellington group The Warratahs for Runaway Days.

Ebony Lamb from Eb & Sparrow is also recognised as a finalist for the APRA Best Country Music Song category for ‘Hungry Little Town’. She is joined by Mel Parsons for ‘Alberta Sun’, and siblings Tami Neilson & Joshua Neilson for ‘First Man’.

This year’s line-up of finalists are all well-established musicians who have been honing their skills in the country music genre for some time.

Jody Direen, previous winner of the NZCMA Horizon Award, has spent the year touring and performing both in sold-out solo shows across New Zealand and as supporting act for some country music’s biggest stars. Jody continues to self-promote and self-fund many of her own ticketed shows.

Runaway Days is The Warratahs seventh studio album and a true testament to group’s 25 years of acclaim. The group’s latest offering is again a collection of Barry Saunders songs and was primarily recorded as if live with no rehearsals in the lead in to studio time. The result is a fresh feeling album that exemplifies the group’s stripped back brand of country/folk with a burst of ‘50s style rock and roll.

Ebony Lamb has led Eb & Sparrow to create an album that swings into folk, soul and rockabilly while maintaining a distinctly country edge. Eb & Sparrow supported fellow finalists Tami Neilson and The Warratahs on their tours, as well as touring Sun/Son nationally. The third track off Sun/Son, ‘Hungry Little Town’ is a finalist for APRA Best Country Music Song.

‘Hungry Little Town’ is up against ‘Alberta Sun’ written by one of New Zealand’s most established song writers, Mel Parsons. Mel’s emotive voice and stirring lyrics have seen her as a finalist for Folk Album of the Year Award twice, as well as a finalist for the APRA Silver Scroll award in 2015.

Rounding out the APRA Best Country Music Song finalist list is sibling duo Tami and Joshua Neilson for ‘First Man’. Tami’s powerful voice and lyrical skills are well recognised having been a four-time winner of the Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Album. Tami and Joshua were the 2014 recipients of the APRA Silver Scroll Award for their ballad ‘Walk (Back To Your Arms)’.

The exceptional quality of this year’s finalist list is evidence of a country music scene that is continuing to blossom, says Recorded Music CEO Damian Vaughan.

“Yet again we see three albums that are each outstanding in their own right. The albums are varied with nods to folk, rock and other genres but each holds an undeniable country sound. These albums and the artists who made them certainly make me excited for the future of country music in Aotearoa.”

APRA AMCOS’ Head of NZ Operations Anthony Healey is equally impressed by the finalists this year for the APRA Best Country Music Song. “The songs are of a world class quality and are reflective of the immense talent that these country musicians possess. My most sincere congratulations to them all.”

This year’s winners will be announced at the New Zealand Country Music Awards on Thursday 2 June at the St James Theatre in Gore. The awards are open to the public, and tickets are available through

The New Zealand Country Music Awards take place during Gold Guitar Week. The Gold Guitar Week is in its 42nd year and attracts more than 5,000 country music fans to Gore annually. For more information visit

Finalists for Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Album

·       Eb & Sparrow Sun/Son

·       Jody Direen Breaks Out

·       The Warratahs Runaway Days

Finalists for APRA Best Country Music Song

·       Ebony Lamb Hungry Little Town’

·       Mel Parsons ‘Alberta Sun’

·       Tami Neilson and Joshua Neilson ‘First Man’