**Part I of the Jolene interview with Aleyce Simmonds is available here.**

So you’ve toured with Dianna Corcoran and Amber Lawrence. The country music community in Australia – from the punter’s point of view, at least – seems to be very supportive, especially of new artists. Did you find that when you emerging from Telstra Road to Tamworth and getting your first recording contract?

Definitely. I think that the fans, in particular, in country music – I’m not sure if it’s the same in other genres but from what I’ve heard it’s not – they embrace you. The industry as well, but more so the fans – they embrace you from a very young age in talent quest world and all that sort of stuff, and they follow through with you. They don’t drop you. They help you along the road. I still see people at my gigs that I saw ten years ago at the talent quests, and they’ll say to me, you know, ‘We love that song’ or ‘Maybe you could do this differently’ or ‘You’ve improved so much’, and they’ve sort of come on the journey as well, and it’s really quite beautiful.

It must be incredibly rewarding, particularly when you’re in that storyteller vein – you’re not up there singing songs that you don’t believe in. So I would think to have audiences connect to the stories that you’re telling, it possibly influences the stories you go on to tell.

Oh, absolutely. As a songwriter you’re always looking for inspiration, and having these amazing experiences that we are able to have in this industry, being a singer and a songwriter, with these amazing opportunities … Last weekend I just got back from Mildura and up there the inspiration’s everywhere – there are all these creative people around, there are all these wonderful fans who are more like friends, I guess. It feels weird saying ‘fans’ because they are more like friends, and they have such huge input into the music we create.

Just on the songwriting process – how did you find co-writing songs on your album? Was there any disagreement with anyone about who was going to do what?

It depends on who you’re writing with. I had a lot of that in Nashville I was writing in Nashville as an eighteen-year-old and I really had no clue. I’d only had a couple of co-writing sessions here in Australia and I went over there and really didn’t know what I was doing, so I found that to be very difficult. But back here I found a few different writers who I really connected with and it just flowed really easily. Sometimes, like with my producer Rod McCormack, it was always a great outcome, we always came out with a song that was good. But with other people I would sort of write a song and it would just be a waste of the day – well, not a waste, because we still learned a lot from the experience, but it just didn’t work. And I guess co-writing is all about being able to bounce off each other and throw your ideas around and coming up with a whole new perspective that you never even thought of.

And since writing your first album, have you met anyone who you think would be good to work with as a songwriter for the next album, whenever that is?

Yes. There are lots of people I’ve come into contact with since then. I would definitely love to go back to Nashville and write with a bunch of Nashville writers, now that I’ve got more experience and have a better idea of what I want. I think it takes a lot of courage as a co-writer, as well, to be able to stand up and say, ‘That’s a nice idea, but it’s really not for me’, and go off in a different direction. So I would like to go to Nashville, but we have so many great writers here that I’d love to write with also.

You’re a young artist and you have your first album out, and you’ve emerged at a time when it seems that there are a lot of extra demands on musicians, in particular, in terms of social media and connecting with fans. Do you think it’s harder work now to keep up with everything, particularly when you have a job and you’re trying to have a relatively normal life as well?

I think that it’s definitely harder now – just even in my short career it’s getting harder and harder with the emergence of all the illegal downloads and everything like that, and lack of live music venues. Keeping up with social media side, it’s not so hard – it is very time consuming, but it has created this amazing opportunity for us to get our music out to a wider audience so easily. It’s just so great. You can post something and five minutes later have thirty comments and different points of view, which is just amazing.

You don’t find sometimes that it’s too much feedback?

Sometimes it is. People can be brutally honest but also brutal, you know. I guess you have to be careful sometimes with what you do put out there, because you’re putting everything out there in the public eye and it can be very daunting and scary.

You live in Sydney, and that makes sense in terms of accessing record companies and thing like that. But country music audiences tend to be in rural and regional Australia, so how do you find that balance of living in the city and trying to get out and tour, or even do the odd gig, when Australia’s so big?

It is difficult. I actually work a lot around Newcastle. I have a full-time job, so I’m doing that and then doing my music after hours and every weekend, and there are a lot of gigs around Newcastle and western Sydney, certainly not much in the CBD. But the funny thing is that something like four million people watch CMC just from inner Sydney, so where are they at our gigs? There must be this huge contingent of country music followers who are sort of closet country music lovers.

I think that’s true. Also because the venues aren’t there necessarily, people think the music isn’t available, and there’s no process whereby audiences can demand it. I’d be at country music gigs every weekend in Sydney if they were on, but they’re not.

No, they’re not!