Kessia Brooke could not believe she had won the Emerging Talent Quest at the 43rd annual Port Fairy Folk Festival.
“Profanities were the first thing to go through my mind,” she said. “This was like a movie type thing; it didn’t feel real.”
Brooke, 18, is a singer/songwriter from country Victoria, whose music has led her all over the state. She is described by Triple J Unearthed as a “multi-instrumentalist (who) utilises storytelling in a blend of nostalgic jazz, folk and satirical honesty”.
The Emerging Talent Quest is an annual initiative at the Folk Festival, that offers up-and-coming musicians the opportunity to showcase their talent. The first prize award is a position in the official line up for the following year’s festival.
This was the first year that Brooke had entered the competition, but not the first year that she had performed at the festival. “I’ve been going to the Folk Festival for a few years, like an annual family-type thing. And every year I thought ‘one day I’m gonna play here’,” she told D*scribe.
“The first year (I attended) I didn’t play, I just experienced it, and I was only there for two days out of the four because I had something on. But I thought ‘I love this place, this is incredible, these are my people’. The next year I came back and applied to do the busking”.
Busking is another opportunity for local musicians over the duration of the festival. No permits are required to perform, with some venues even offering sound boards and amplification services.
In 2018, Brooke watched the winner of the Emerging Talent Quest perform. “I watched the guy that won it, and he’s a year older than me. I saw him play this year, and I’ve seen him play in and around Geelong and I thought ‘I could do that’, so I entered,” she said.
Now with a confirmed spot in the 2020 line-up, Brooke is soon to release an EP and plans to have an album out before her performance next year. “It’s pushing me to get more stuff out there ready for it. I know the standard that I want to be at for that time, so I can sort of track that and keep goals for between now and then,” she said.
“I’ll gig as much as I can, write, develop my style. I haven’t fully fleshed out where I’m going”.
However, Brooke believes finding her own identity will be her biggest challenge over the next 12 months.
“I went through a big Tash Saltana phase. And it’s awesome, but you can hear it. Now, I think I’m in a bit of a Stella Donnelly type thing, so I’m trying to flesh out what I want to write and how to make it different and individual. I think that’s my big thing,” she said.