Shania Twain might have been her idol, but it was all down to her grandmother that New Zealand’s reigning Queen of Country, Jody Direen, is where she is today.
“Grandma was very musical. She’d bring her guitar whenever she came to visit; I’d try to wrap my hands around it to strum a few notes. She taught me my first song – Pistol Packin’ Mama. The sensation of being able to play guitar and sing at the same time was amazing! Hats off to Grandma – she was my inspiration.”
When Jody was five, the family moved from Mosgiel to Wanaka; it’s still her base, but she’s seldom home for long periods of time. “Music’s been my fulltime career for around six years now. I’m very lucky to be making a living doing something I love.”
Jody has travelled to Nashville to write and record her songs, and has also performed there. “Nashville’s considered the mecca of country music. There’s nothing like it, but it’s also extremely competitive. I remember going into this bar along Broadway, this woman was singing – an amazing voice… think Tina Turner on steroids – and she was singing for tips!”
In 2014 Jody performed at Nashville’s Country Music Association Festival (CMA), in the Global Artists Showcase category. “The CMA Festival is one of the biggest country music festivals in the world; to be selected to perform there is the opportunity of a lifetime!”
Jody has already released three albums; next year she will release her fourth.
Signed to Australian labels ABC Music and Universal Music, Jody spends much of her time between New Zealand and Australia. “I’ve come to think of it as one big country now. One night I might be performing in Christchurch, the next it will be Sydney. It gets hard sometimes, but I’ve got a great core band; we’re there for each other. I couldn’t do it without them.”
When not writing, recording or on the road, Jody’s overseeing iHeartRadio Top Paddock Music Festival, a yearly New Year’s Eve event held at Wanaka’s Lake Hawea that was created by Jody. “Top Paddock gives me the chance to pay it forward to my artist friends by giving them a stage, a venue and a hugely appreciative audience.”
Jody reflects on what would be the pinnacle of her career. “To have bigger shows and venues would be fantastic, and perhaps a collaboration with a pop group, because the lines between pop/rock/hip-hop and country are becoming increasingly blurred – Nelly and Tim McGraw’s Over and Over, for instance. I’d love to do something like that!”
For a woman of such drive, passion and massive talent as Jody Direen, it can only be a matter of time.