Southern Cross grads headline inaugural Byron Music Fest

Southern Cross Uni music graduate Sophie Ozard

As the sweet sounds of Byron Music Festival roll over the hills in the Northern Rivers, artists, performers and music lovers alike will breathe a relieved sigh, then dance the night away.

After a tumultuous year of cancelled gigs and tours, this new festival will bring together the best talent from across the region, followed by Byron’s inaugural Music Industry Conference on Sunday as the perfect recovery.

Singer songwriter Sophie Ozard has been making waves across the country bringing genre-bending tunes to scores of festivals, sharing stages with the likes of Bernard Fanning and Dami Im.

It was during her Bachelor of Contemporary Music at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus that Sophie found her sound and owned her place on the stage, balancing practical uni assessments with her burgeoning music career.

Sophie Ozard will feature this weekend at the Byron Music Festival alongside Wolfmother, Hayley Mary and Tijuana Cartel. Other celebrated Southern Cross University alumni on the line-up include four-piece WHARVES, drummer Jason Cunneen from Drop Legs, and another of Sophie’s bands ‘C.A.T.S’ – Cupid and the Stupids – where she features on keys and backing vocals.

Upcoming band Loose Content also features guitarist Sam Sanders the teenage son of highly respected and long-standing Southern Cross Uni drum lecturer and author, Dave Sanders.

As a proficient solo singer and guitarist, Sophie is stage-fit after a string of shows and festivals so far in 2021, and off the back of an epic ‘Great Southern Nights’ tour of regional NSW – right after her final uni assessment in 2020 – supporting Phil Jamieson and Pat Davern of Grinspoon fame who also studied at Southern Cross in Lismore back in the 1990s.

“I’m so stoked to be on the line-up for Byron Music Fest alongside some of my mates’ bands. At first, I was a bit sceptical with all the tours and gigs being cancelled, but the beauty of this one is all the bands, organisers and panellists are local and not impacted by any border closures, and this event has just been put together so well,” Sophie said.

“It’s really exciting because it’s such a community-focused event and for my solo set I’ll be bringing out a couple of new songs that I’m planning on recording for then EP that I’m hoping to put out by the end of the year. Some of the songs are inspired by all the far-flung places we got to visit on tour.”

Sophie said it was during her music degree she uncovered a new confidence in her playing abilities, and instead of stepping out with imposter syndrome, she’s transformed the stage into a place that is comfortable, familiar and a lot of fun.

“The experience of being in the room with other musicians, reading the charts and jamming together – it feels good,” she said.

“Before starting uni, I hadn’t really played in any bands, so that was the part I enjoyed most about the music course. I feel confident to take up space in a room with other really good musicians.”

Course Coordinator of Contemporary Music Leigh Carriage says having so many talented Southern Cross University alumni grace the stage of the Byron Music Festival showed the high calibre of the inaugural hyper-local music celebration.

As an accomplished songwriter, performer and educator, Leigh will kickstart the Inaugural MBF Industry Conference at Byron Theatre a day later, on an industry panel, chaired by GM of Byron Community Centre Louise O’Connell, alongside Koori Mail GM Naomi Moran who is also the Chairperson of First Nations Media Australia, Arts Northern Rivers CEO Peter Wood, and Roots artist Nathan Kaye.

“We’ll discuss the importance of music here in this region, the importance of music in the community and how to support one another from the ground up,” she said.

“We’ll cover the importance of music here in the region and the importance of music as individuals and in the community and how to support this industry from the ground up,” she said.

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