Cream of the Crop: Gold Coast Music Award Finalists under the spotlight

We’re so thrilled to announce finalists for the 2016 Gold Coast Music Awards. And with tickets to the awards ceremony close to selling out, this year’s celebration of local music has already been a ripping success. We’ve highlighted the talents of musicians spanning genres from opera to heavy rock and thrown a light on the locals who work behind the scenes to keep the industry ticking along.


Artist of the Year

Our finalists for Artist of the Year, sponsored by Southport Sharks, Cabana Bar + Lounge show the success of local bands. When we announced finalists none of them were available because they were all out of the country – most of them working. Amy Shark – recognised with a Queensland Music Award this year, Ella Fence – in Germany as we speak, Evol Walks – headed by the enigmatic Leah Martin-Brown and kicking goals all over the world, Hanlon Brothers – fresh from supporting The Cat Empire and Woodford Folk Festival sets and Hussy Hicks – teasing us with posts from their European summer festival tour. They’re all finalists for Artist of the Year and collectively show the strength of the local scene.

Dean Bowtell, CEO Southport Sharks said the awards are important in recognising the unique music scene on the Gold Coast and building its strength and diversity.

“Here at Southport Sharks we are proud to support local artists and have an ever growing line-up of acts set to perform within the club,” Dean said. “The 2016 finalists truly epitomise the incredible depth of talent on the Gold Coast, some of which have played live sets at Southport Sharks.”

“The Gold Coast Music Awards has helped forge connections between Gold Coast musicians and local supporting businesses including Southport Sharks and Cabana Bar & Lounge.”


Emerging Artist of the Year

If there’s a category which shows the diversity, talent and SIZE of the local music scene, this one is it. No joke. Opera, soul, jazz, blues, metal, hard-core, math rock, indie, folk and psych all get a guernsey when you start to unearth the emerging talent here on the Gold Coast.

Sponsored by Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, the Emerging Artist of the Year category attracted 34 nominations. The University’s Donna Weston said the Gold Coast has a lot to offer in the way of musical talent.

“We want to do whatever we can to support that and help our local music industry to grow,” Donna said.

“As an international leader in the education of popular musicians at Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium, we are passionate about supporting emerging artists as they forge their way into their musical futures.”

“This is why we fully support the GCMA, and specifically, the emerging artist category.”

Finalists for Emerging Artist of the Year include current and past Griffith University Bachelor Popular Music and Music Theatre students Benny D Williams, Ella Fence, Jenna Dearness-Dark and Aquila Young.

Aquila Young last year released debut EP Distance Echoes and received support from Griffith University to travel to Nashville and LA. She collaborated with a heap of artists locally and received both strong reviews for her live shows and airplay on Triple J and USA college radio for her studio work.

We don’t need to go into detail about Benny D Williams, because we‘ve featured him here. He’s also playing the Awards’ after-party hosted by Hard Rock Cafe.

Electrik Lemonade smashed it with their EP Funklore last year, mixed and mastered by Brad Hosking at Blind Boy Studios. It got picked up by radio stations here as well as Japan, South America and Europe and they’ve already shared the stage with The Black Sorroes, Toni Childs and 10CC.

Ella Fence came out of the blocks firing in 2015 with debut EP Wanderlust recorded at Brighton Electric UK with Dan Swift and in Paris with Ken Stringfellow. Her debut video for the same song was produced by Double Deuce. The EP spiked interest in the Radio world, making the top 20 on New York’s Breakthru Radio and top 10 on 4ZZZ Brisbane and was also added to several community, college and independent radio stations in the USA and Australia – including triple j unearthed, 2SER, ABC Gold Coast, SYN Melbourne and was also spun on triple j. She’s also just been cast as Snow White in a collaboration between opera Queensland and La Boite Theatre Company for Brisbane Festival.

IVEY are pretty new to the scene but released breakthrough single Smell Of Smoke and intrigued the local and National music scenes in a big way for such a young band. They’ve already attracted media attention from The Guardian, Triple J Unearthed, RAGE, Channel V, Pilerats and The Music.

Jenna Dearness Dark is an 18 year old opera singer with incredible international performances under her belt as well as the release of her own music. She’s performed at a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York as well as at the famous St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and has performed for British royalty in Queensland’s Duke of Edinburgh awards as well as a stack of local events.

And finally, Leopold’s treat. After releasing their 2011 EP, they sold EPs and saved for three years to be able to record, master, press and release their first full length album. With their grass-roots and intimate approach, the band launched their first full length album, Cold at the Dust Temple, Currumbin, in October 2015 with some 150 people attended the sold-out launch.



Song of the Year

It’s an all-girl assault for this year’s Song of the Year finalists. The category, sponsored by NightQuarter received the largest number of nominations across the seven categories opened in this year’s awards.

But the girls have it. Amy Shark’s song Golden Fleece won a Queensland Music Award this year and it was named a finalist alongside Unknown Water by Ella Fence, which Bleach* Festival used for their promotional video. Jelly by Jesswar (with guest vocals by Sarah Frank) made the cut, pleasing the judges as well as the folk at Triple J who’ve had the song on rotation for the past 12 months and Blank favourites Hussy Hicks’ song That Old Heartache and Leopold’s Treat’s song Hounddogs and Bullfrogs were also included.

Listen to four of the five Song of the Year finalists here (we’ll get Leopold’s song added ASAP):



Venue of the Year

Nominations for Venue of the Year, sponsored by Blank GC, were so good, they all became finalists. Consistently serving up quality live music to very different audiences, Miami Marketta and elsewhere are both finalists for the second year running with Currumbin Creek Tavern and The Avenue in Surfers Paradise also scoring a finalist slot. New-comers NightQuarter – flying the flag for the northern Gold Coast are also in the mix with stalwarts (and last year’s winners) Soundlounge Currumbin.


Chloe Popa, Blank GC and Gold Coast Music Awards co-founder said that the City’s venues regularly punched above their weight.

“From Holy Holy at elsewhere to The Cat Empire at NightQuarter and home-grown events like the Bowie tribute at Marketta, we are seriously spoilt for choice here on the Gold Coast,” she said. “While the City’s venues are always in a state of flux, there’s no shortage of intimate, outdoor and family-friendly venues supporting emerging talent from Helensvale to Currumbin.”

“We want to make sure we’re supporting a music scene that’s regularly adding new and varied venues,” she added.


GCMA 2016 general fb cover


Event of the Year

Can you imagine the Gold Coast without its world-class events? From Bleach* (which is a strategic partner of the GC Music Awards, rather than a nominee) to the grassroots mini-festivals that happen week-in, week-out, this city, the climate, and our landscape are made for events. No surprises that Blues on Broadbeach and Buskers by the Creek (last year’s winners) were named finalists. Both contributing significantly to the local economy and engaging scores of local Gold Coast artists.

Wallapalooza and Summertime Sessions in the Village – while catering to very different audiences, both call Mudgeeraba home and have delivered for the second year running. And La Traviata at Spotlight Theatre totally punched above its weight bringing opera music to new audiences in 2015.

Category sponsor and official after-party venue, Hard Rock Café said they were thrilled to be behind the local music industry.

“As a brand that promotes bringing music and people together, it makes complete sense that Hard Rock Café is a proud sponsor of the Gold Coast Music Awards,” Marine Grandjacques said. “In our book everyone is a winner and we wish nothing but the best to all participants. Music is Life!”


Music Champion of the Year

It’s not possible to acknowledge every person who has contributed behind the scenes to the local music industry in the past year. And indeed, every single nominee deserves accolades for the work that they do. With a limit of five though, the judging panel put in the hard yards to short-list finalists for Music Champion of the Year, sponsored by TAFE Queensland Gold Coast.

Cindy Jensen, the brainchild behind Buskers by the Creek and responsible for scoring hundreds of gigs for emerging local acts was named a finalist alongside long-time industry worker Emily Holler, who in 2015 launched the Indie Now program to support local artists better manage the business side of their work. Cr Glenn Tozer made the cut for his work helping local artists and events navigate local policies and being a voice for indie artists both within the city and externally. Guy Cooper, who created the first ever street press on the Gold Coast and has been credited with paying for international tours for artists, building websites, recording and marketing albums and making music himself was also named a finalist. As was Matt Webber, who most people will know as the Drive presenter on ABC Gold Coast, as well as a powerful advocate for local artists and their music both on his own network as well as through other avenues.


Video of the Year

And last but not least, we come to the newest category in the Gold Coast Music Awards, made possible with the support of Gold Coast Film Festival. This category was actually inspired by one of the videos that ended up a finalist. The talent and skill of those who produced the film clips as well as the artists starring in them is mind-blowing.

Apollo by Baltimore Gun Club was animated by Anthony Hrymakowski and nearly entirely hand-drawn. It’s already come to the attention of RAGE and has been on rotation there since its launch. Watch Apollo. 

The video for Baby It’s A Good Song by The Cheap Fakes was produced by Gold Coast based production team Smokehouse with virtual camera techniques and stop-motion animation and was filmed at Miami Marketta and King Tutt’s Putt Putt amongst other locations. Watch Baby It’s a Good Song. 

Golden Fleece was photographed, performed and edited by Amy Shark in the Cooly Hotel. She’s also the recording artist. Amy ate paint to get the shot in the crescendo of the video. LIKE SHE ACTUALLY ATE PAINT. Watch Golden Fleece. 

Wild Heart was written and directed by Gold Coaster ROMY and received great press all around Australia including being put on rotation on Channel V Music Channel. Watch Wild Heart. 

Unknown Water by Ella Fence was directed and produced by the team at Double Deuce, which is Mike Calvino, Stuart Chapman and Jamie Brookes and filmed at The Spit, QT Gold Coast and The Arts Centre Gold Coast. Watch Unknown Water.

The One You Love by Casey Barnes, directed and produced by Wazza Bray (LMG Digital Media) and Michelle Barnes was shot for just $2000 in Tumbugum with an all GC crew and cast. Watch The One You Love.

And finally That Old Heartache by Hussy Hicks was directed and produced by Hazel Schravemade. In their nomination, the band say it was “filmed in Burleigh by people who live in Burleigh for a song written on a couch in Burleigh by a band who lives in Burleigh.” Watch That Old Heartache.

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Winners of the 2016 Gold Coast Music Awards will be announced on 16 June at a ceremony at Burleigh Brewing Co. Tickets selling fast and available at

The Burleigh Brewing Co. People’s Choice Awards voting opens 27 May and closes 11.59pm on Sunday 12 June. Vote at

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