Instantly recognisable by his "bedazzled fedora”, 11 year old Rory Phillips from Tumut, has been described by one of Australian Country Music’s greats, Bill Chambers (accomplished solo artist and father of Kasey Chambers), as “always displaying a professional enthusiasm way beyond his years, and definitely has a way with an audience”.
Rory fell in love with music at a very early age and (some may say surprisingly), it was the music of Joe Walsh (the "Eagles”, “James Gang”), which initially hooked him. Drawn to Joe’s rock and blues guitar sound, Rory was captured by the instrument and consequently, was given his first guitar at age five. Fast-forward to 2015, to an Eagles concert in the picturesque setting of Hanging Rock in regional Victoria, and young Rory shared a moment in time with his idol that he will never forget. Holding up a rain-soaked sign which read, “Hey Joe, I play guitar because of you”, Joe saw Rory’s sign during the final song, smiled and waved at him, then took two guitar picks from his pocket and asked the security guard to give them to him.
Feeling more inspired than ever, Rory continued to hone his performance and playing skills, with the dream of one day being able to play like his idol. It is a tall order, but during 2016, Rory achieved a Top 10 spot in the prestigious (open age) Tamworth Country Music Festival Busking Competition (an achievement he repeated in 2017), was awarded a half-hour set on the Busking Stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest, and graduated from the CMAA Junior Academy of Country Music. He was the youngest participant to do so at each of those events that year. Later in 2016, Rory was invited on stage by Julia Zemiro to perform an impromptu blues number to a packed house at a "RocKwiz Live" show in Albury, which he did to resounding applause and the accolades of the RocKwiz team. He was also named the Primary Category winner at the Australian National Busking Championships in November 2016.
Covering “a bit of everything”, Rory’s influences span blues, country and rock and his performances reflect that. An aspiring songwriter, a live set is often sprinkled with some original tunes. Rory's debut six track EP, Cars and Guitars, containing three original songs, was released at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 2017 and has enjoyed radio airplay across the country. Rory has appeared with Australian blues legend Lloyd Spiegel (named by Australian Guitar Magazine as one of the Top 50 Australian guitarists of all time) and Bondi Cigars front man, Shane Pacey. He has supported Australian country artists such as ARIA nominated Bill Chambers and Golden Guitar winners The Bushwackers, Bennett, Bowtell & Urquhart, Catherine Britt, Amber Lawrence and Fanny Lumsden. Rory has shared the stage with former AC/DC bassist, Mark Evans, and has even played the maracas with Carlos Santana at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in 2017!
· Finalist (Open) - Tamworth Country Music Festival Busking Championships 2017, 2016
· Winner (Primary Section) - Australian National Busking Championships 2016
· Winner - Bidgee Blues Club People’s Choice Award 2016
· Featured Busker, Grommets Busking Competition - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, 2016
· Second Place - Wagga Wagga StarFM Australia Day Talent Quest 2016
· Winner (Junior Section) - Mount Franklin Junior Talent Quest 2016 (Tamworth Country Music Festival)
· Finalist (Junior Section) - Yamaha Battle of the Young Stars 2016 (Tamworth Country Music Festival)
· Finalist (Junior Male Vocal) - Capital Country Music Association 2016 (Tamworth Country Music Festival)
· Third Place (Primary Section) - Australian National Busking Championships 2015
· Encouragement Award - Wagga Wagga StarFM Australia Day Talent Quest 2015
Festivals/Events where Rory has performed:
· Melbourne Guitar Show - Melbourne (2017)
· Tamworth Country Music Festival - Tamworth (2017, 2016)
· Byron Bay Bluesfest (Roaming Busker, Busking Stage) - Byron Bay (2017, 2016)
· Floriade (Regatta Point Stage, Stage 88) - Canberra (2017, 2016)
· UBERfest - Sydney (2017)
· TumbaFest - Tumbarumba (2017)
· Ciderfest - Batlow (2017, 2016, 2015)
· Festival of the Falling Leaf - Tumut (2017, 2016, 2014)
· Junee Rhythm N Rail Festival - Junee (2017, 2016)
· National Cherry Festival - Young (2016)
· Riverina Round Up - Junee (2016)
· Hats off to Country - Tamworth (2016)
· Farm Draft - Wagga Wagga (2016)
· Batlow Apple Blossom Festival - Batlow (2016)
· Rock or Bust Music Fest - The Rock (2015)
· Lanterns on the Lagoon - Tumut (2015)
Photographer: Donna Longobardi