COUNTRY music singer Courtney Conway grew up in Bendigo listening to her parents playing everything from the classics of Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline to contemporary artists Lee Kernaghan, Gina Jeffries and Shania Twain.
So the Tamworth College of Country Music graduate, who now lives with her husband in Mandurah, was shocked to find when she accepted the role of Patsy Cline in stage show Always… Patsy Cline there were a few songs she had not heard before.
“I was definitely a Patsy Cline fan before I was part of the show,” Conway said.
“I knew who she was and knew a lot of her songs already, but saying that, out of the 27 songs in the show there were some I didn’t know, which really surprised me.”
Always… Patsy Cline is based on the true story of Cline’s friendship with fan Louise Seger (played by Mandi Lodge), who she met in a Texas honky-tonk in 1961 and kept correspondence with until her death in 1963.
The cabaret style show opened in Melbourne in June and has been touring Australia since.
“It’s a beautiful and heartfelt story about a gorgeous friendship and the wonderful back story of Patsy Cline’s life,” Conway said.
“Of course it’s sad too because Patsy passed away when she was only 30 years old in a plane crash, which is only one year older than I am now.
“I think people are fascinated by that because she had such great success in such a short amount of time and people wonder what she could have done if she’d lived a bit longer.”
Classically trained pianist Conway said the stage role was a world away from her usual performance style, which won her the 2011 National Country Music Award for Best New Talent.
“When I perform onstage, I don’t have a script or write down what I’m going to say; I find it more natural to talk about my songs off the top of my head,” she said.
“So saying the exact same thing written in the script every time was pretty daunting.
“The songs were a challenge too because Patsy had a much bigger range than me and she sang very differently than I would too.
“I studied her for 12 months, trying to get the accent and pronunciation right, getting my range to stretch the same as hers because I couldn’t change the key of the song.
“I’m so glad I was able to do it.”
What: Always… Patsy Cline
Where: Subiaco Arts Centre
When: November 23 to 26