Amber Lawrence is the darling of country music in Australia. With five Golden Guitars, two ARIA nominations and seven studio albums to her name, she has won many hearts. But ironically, it was a broken heart that first led her down the road to country.
Before Lawrence was performing live gigs at concerts, festivals and cruise ships – she is the ambassador for the at-sea music festival Cruisin’ Country – the commerce graduate was crunching numbers in the corporate world, working as an accountant.
“I could have had a pretty stable life, if I wanted it,” Lawrence tells 9Honey Celebrity. “I was good at maths at school and then I was dux of my year. I went to university, did Bachelor of Commerce, and then got a job at QANTAS in finance. Then I went on to do my chartered accounting study.”
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“But there’s something about music. When your song connects with people and they’re singing your lyrics back at you, they’re the bits that you go, ‘Oh yeah, I love this job.'”
Her love for music began when she was given a guitar as a gift for Christmas. Armed with a new-found passion at the age of 23, she signed up for guitar lessons, where her tutor encouraged her to write her own music.
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Hesitant at first, Lawrence then leaned right in and unlocked her musical talent. Soon after, she suffered a broken heart.
“My guitar teacher said, ‘I want you to write a song.’ But I don’t write songs,” she recalled. “Well, luckily for me, I got dumped. Not long after that devastation, I wrote a song. And all the emotions of that broken heart were able to come out and I started to fall in love with songwriting.”
Although she didn’t give up her day job, Lawrence pursued a singing career, signing up for a talent contest in 2004, where she came runner-up to a then-unknown Aussie musician.
“It was the Telstra Road to Tamworth and I came runner-up to Jessica Mauboy – I think she was about 15 at the time,” Lawrence recalled of Mauboy, who went on to place runner-up on Australian Idol in 2006.
“I juggled being a chartered accountant and a fledgling country singer for another about five years until I was kind of forced into making a decision.”
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Quitting her finance career was the right call as Lawrence is now one of the most sought-after artists in the country. Ever since the borders were opened and the lockdown lifted following two years of the pandemic, Lawrence has been on the go. This year alone, she has already performed 80 shows.
And she even hopped on board the Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas in early November to headline the at-sea music festival Cruisin’ Country, which is organised by renowned festival cruise company Choose Your Cruise.
“It’s the up-close-and-personal experience that music lovers love about it,” said Lawrence, who has been part of the festival for the last 10 years, bar the pandemic. “I feel like part of our job is to engage with them and make that the X-factor of the trip for people that they get to chat with their favorite artists and get a photo and have a drink even.”
Cruising is family-friendly too, said Lawrence, who brought her husband, Martin Newman, and four-year-old son, Ike. After many days spent on the road – “I’ve been away every single weekend this year, leaving my son at home with my husband,” she says – it was nice to have her family by her side.
“Look, we’re gonna have to manage expectations when we get home because [Ike] won’t be able to have doughnuts for breakfast every day,” she laughed, before adding, “No, it’s great. It’s just really beautiful quality time.”
“I’ve been away a lot this year touring, You know, for necessary reasons of not having been able to work for a couple of years, brand new album out… and I just wanted to hit the ground running.”
Lawrence released her album, Living for the Highlights, in July and it debuted at number one on the ARIA Australian Album Charts and Country Album Charts and number five on the ARIA All Genre Album Charts, where she charted was among the likes of Harry Styles, The Weeknd, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran.
“I put so much into this album. I mean, you believe in every album. But in this one in particular, I felt like it’s the best one I’ve done so far,” she said.
“More importantly, the people that bought the album, have really loved it and give him such great feedback. That was the plan I wanted to come to fruition and sometimes it doesn’t, but this time it did,” Lawrence said of her latest offering, which received a Best Country Album nomination at this year’s ARIAs.
While Living for the Highlights consists of uplifting songs about the pandemic and making it through, it also features delicate tracks dedicated to the hard time Lawrence went through during lockdown.
In 2020, she and her husband lost their unborn baby halfway through the pregnancy, with the singer writing You Were Mine in honour of her late son – a song she loves but can’t bring herself to perform on stage.
“Obviously, if you’ve gotten to the end of the album, there’s a terribly sad song You Were Mine, track 10, which is something that a lot of people have really related to or written to me about,” she shared.
“That happened to us in the year 2020 and locked down we lost a pregnancy at 21 weeks. I gave birth and had to go through that whole process, so it’s definitely not all highs and lows. It’s that journey of happiness and tragedy that I think everyone went through when locked down, so I think that’s where the album sits for me – it’s got that light at the end of the tunnel.”
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