Katrina Burgoyne moved from Australia to Nashville with $15,000 and a dream. Restricted by her visa to making an income solely from playing music, she hit the ground running in the most competitive music city in the world. Her newest single, 25 Cents In The Ashtray, sees her keep that promise to herself.
The two-time Golden Guitar nominated singer-songwriter’s impressive career in the Australia country music industry includes an Australian Country Music People’s Choice Award, Australian Songwriters Association Country Song of the Year, and APRA Professional Development Award.
She previously tasted success with two Top 10 CMC singles Ghost and I Wasn’t Gonna Cry. Her song White Flag also peaked at #7 on CMR, while the album of the same name went Top 10 on the ARIA Country Albums chart in 2011. She’s also written for many artists, including a track for Lisa McHugh that was the most Shazammed song in all of Ireland.
Furthermore, she has toured with Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Catherine Britt and opened for The McClymonts, Troy Cassar-Daley and American country music group, Lonestar.
In the press release, it says your newest single, 25 Cents In The Ashtray “perfectly captures your memories of loading up your beat-up car with fuel and praying it would get you to your next show.” Is the song directly related to moving from Australia to Nashville?
Yeah. When I moved to Nashville, it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. You think you’re brave enough to do it. You could go on vacation overseas and come home like, “I wish I was back there.” But when you’re in another country, even things like to buy my first car over here, I had to figure it out all by myself. I remember the day I went and got my driver’s licence – they do it so different over here – I remember asking the woman at the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles], “What do I do here? How do I do this?” I was asking a lot of questions. She looked at me like I was stupid and talked to me so condescendingly. I started crying at the DMV going, “I don’t have anyone to ask.” It was one of those things where if I could come home, I would have – it was horrible.
I remember driving to writing sessions, feeling heartbroken, and I would see this homeless man standing on the corner selling newspapers. I remember driving past him one day. It was like -3 degrees and he had the my biggest, beautiful, vibrant smile on his face. He was not just selling newspapers, but he’s giving light to people as they drive past. I’m thinking, “Here I am living my dream, feeling down and sorry for myself, and here’s this man outside in the freezing cold with a big smile on his face.” He gave so much light and hope into my life, that we eventually became friends. He was a real sweetheart, like a beautiful ray of light. I think people come into your life when you need them. I look back now so romantically, but at the time I was so terrified, alone and very broke.
How long into living in Nashville did things get better for you to the point where you felt like you could do it and would be okay?
I slipped into this world over here, financially, pretty easy. Within the first seven months, I had moved into my own studio apartment downtown in Nashville, started furnishing things, and built my little life here. But I’ve always had problems with my sinuses, and I fell sick with a sinus infection in November 2017 [after living in Nashville for 11 months]. Throughout 2018, I was constantly sick. I got to the point where I was in such a panic, by June I would have to take half the month off. And you can’t take that much time off work, pay bills and get ahead. I had two choices – I found a doctor that would look down my throat for $150 or I could spend [that $150] on food or whatever I needed to get through the week.
I ended up going to a doctor and he did extra scans and allergy tests for free, because I looked like a stray dog and obviously needed someone to help me. He said, “I want to donate an operation to you because you really need to be operated on.” I ended up walking out of the office and called my Mum crying, “He’s gonna help me!” So, I had a great start here, then a year of financial loss, and it’s funny, now, as crazy as this year has been financially and not being able to work, I’ve saved a lot because I never want to be that broke again. To be honest, this year has been a blessing for me. It’s been that tripper where I can’t do anything else so let’s make a record and find ways we could do this on a 25-cent budget. You always end up where you’re meant to be, and it’s always in times of defeat where something comes through and tells you you can’t give up.
You made the video for 25 Cents In The Ashtray on a 25-cent budget with your boyfriend Stephen Kinney, who studied under multi Grammy Award winning engineer Steve Bishir, the mixer behind over 100 #1 Billboard-charting singles. In the Behind The Scenes documentary, it shows that just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong – but you still came out with an amazing video and should be proud of that. What advice would you give to any artists who may make excuses for not making a music video or recording, moving to Nashville etc.?
It’s so easy to make excuses – I’ve done it – but in those times, there is no excuse. When you can’t afford to record [or] can’t afford to make a music video, they’re the times where you put in and learn how to do it [yourself]. They’re the times when you learn how to market yourself, because you can’t afford to pay someone. I released this thing called The Demo Sessions on Spotify – I’ve now taken those down – but it was just me recording an acoustic song in my bedroom once a month that I would release. And, even though it might not be to the highest levels you want to achieve, it’s a stepping stone to get to that high level of achievement. I’ve made other music videos where I’ve filmed for other people – I’m not proud of that work – but you’ve got to get through the crap to get to the good.
If there’s any excuse, think, “if I don’t start today, it means I’m a day further behind than what I would be if I did.” Whatever it is. If you feel like you’re sitting on your hands and you can’t do anything, get in and learn something that’s gonna go towards your career. You should always be learning and growing.
They say music has healing qualities or can be a form of therapy, especially for songwriters. Do you also listen or write music when you’re feeling sad, depressed or even home sick?
I don’t listen to a lot of music anymore because I don’t want to replicate what other people write. I used to love like singer-songwriters. I love Travis Meadows and Donovan Woods – singer-songwriters in Nashville that have had major cuts, but no one knows of them. I used to love finding those little gems and listening to them. Now, I spend so many hours with music that I listen to podcasts or audiobooks [laughs]. I draw inspiration from life experience. Personal growth is a big theme in my life. I’m such a self-help junkie. I’ve read every single self-help and spiritual book you can find! [However,] I normally will turn on a Spotify playlist and make sure I’m keeping in touch with what’s coming out, because I think it’s important to make sure you’re aware of the market and so you’re fitting into the market.
What’s the best thing about Nashville that Australia doesn’t have and what’s the best thing about Australia that Nashville doesn’t have?
Nashville has an incredibly supportive and collaborative community. It’s like a hub and everyone lives here – like, if you want to be someone or do something in country music, you move to Nashville. It’s like Tamworth Country Music Festival on steroids all the time. It never stops. I love the fact that it’s so centralised and there’s so much more opportunity. I feel like it’s not as cutthroat as everyone can find their own fanbase because there’s more people. I think Australia is a tougher market to crack because it’s a smaller market and there’s limited spots. It’s harder to make a living [from music].
Australian country music has a family feel to it. I grew up with everyone. I met Molly McClymont and possibly Amber Lawrence too at 14 and Travis Collins at 16. So, we all grew up together and familiarity breeds trust. I’m sure Nashville will probably feel like that in time, but Australia feels like family.
You’ve written songs for Amber and Travis and many others – most notably a track for Lisa McHugh that was the most Shazammed song in all of Ireland. How does it feel hearing the finished track for the first time of a song you wrote that was recorded by different artists?
It’s interesting when you hear someone else record [a song you wrote as] sometimes you get songs they recorded, and you like it, but it’s not interpreted the way you envisioned it or “that song sounds too countryfied or too pop!” Every now and then, I’m absolutely blown away with it and go, “Holy shit! They did this way better than what I ever imagined it to be!”
An example of that would be Travis Collins with a song called Better Than You Found Em’ [from his most recent album, Wreck Me]. The demo of that song, I never cut it myself because I didn’t like it. It had a different feel to it than what Travis did. I love listening to it again and again and again and again and again. Another one was Amber Lawrence – she did a song called Princess on her album, Three – I thought she did an amazing job. Taylor Moss did too. Sometimes songs surprise you. So, it’s a different experience per recording.
Lastly, what other music do you have to come?
I have quite a few songs lined up. We’ve just started the pre-production process for more songs to come after this next batch. But I went through this phase of writing about my journey in Nashville. I’ve got more songs to come out related to that. We might mix it up with a few love songs in between. It’s like trial and error – you’re constantly pivoting and trying to figure out what works.
I wrote a song with Matt Scullion called 2020 Vision. I also have a song called The Next Big Thing. When you go out in Nashville, it’s part of the banter, everyone thinks they’re the next big thing. But I think people can resonate with it as everyone has their own journey to get to where they’ve got to go – whether their daddy paid for it, whether they sleep with the right people to get there, whether they’re spending their time dreaming about it, or whether it’s just like slogging away working towards it. I think that’s an element in whatever industry – people skip ahead, skip the lines, skip the queue and cheat their way to the top or never get to the starting point because they’re too afraid to take a risk.
Stream Katrina Burgoyne’s new single 25 Cents In The Ashtray below.