Best Country Music Song winner a tribute to a 'real cowboy'

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Posted 27 May, 2024
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Photo: Si Moore

A heartfelt tribute to a "southwestern gentleman" has earned singer-songwriter Holly Arrowsmith the 2024 APRA Best Country Music Song award.

The South Island musician's alt-country ballad 'Desert Dove' was inspired by the loss of her grandfather, who owned an antiques shop in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

He was once invited to Elvis Presley's house to trade belt buckles and had a home filled with "amazing things", like a sabre-tooth tiger skull, Arrowsmith told Music101.

"He was really just like a true cowboy, you know, in my mind as a child. I looked at him like this kind of larger-than-life figure that embodied this country Americana folklore kind of style."

Arrowsmith's grandparents' house was an "anchor point" for her during her childhood, as she moved multiple times, including from the United States to New Zealand.

Whenever she stayed there, she would hear a dove cry out every morning, she said.

"That's the sound I would wake up to. I would get up and my grandma would be making breakfast and my grandpa would be outside feeding these beautiful birds.

"Years later, when he passed away, I heard the same dove in New Zealand, and every time I hear it - and I hear it everywhere, I've heard it all over the world, this same bird - I get hit with a memory which is almost a memory of a feeling."

The song was further inspired by a 12th-century poem about hearing a dove cry out and being reminded of sadness.

"I was just blown away to find this poem that was speaking about the same bird and the same feeling that this bird evoked 900 years ago."

The song will be featured on an upcoming album produced by Tom Healy.

Arrowsmith said it was a "real honour" to be recognised at the music awards.

It was the second time she was given the award for best country music song, following her win in 2019 for Slow Train Creek


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