Many forces conspired against country-pop trio Bella.
After a quick rise to popularity, two consecutive Golden Guitar awards in 2004 and 2005 and a well-received debut album, Gravity, the group ended.
But now Lyn Bowtell, Kate Ballantyne and Karen O’Shea are reuniting for a special series of performances.
“We’re mates, it’s not as though we haven’t seen each other,” Bowtell says.
“We’ve been friends for a very long time.
“I met Karen at the inaugural College of Country Music in 1997, the year I won [Toyota] Star Maker.
“Kate Ballantybe won Star Maker the year after me, in 1998, so I handed her the trophy as such.
“The reunion, getting back together and doing some shows, has been something we’ve wanted to do, we just haven’t had the time.
“We’ve done two lots of rehearsals and did some radio today and it’s just like a pair of really comfy shoes.”
The music industry is always unpredictable and a number of circumstances prevented Bella from making a second record.
“There was a lot of changes in the record label we were involved with,” Bowtell explains.
“The album [Gravity] came out through BMG just before it was bought out by Sony, so it became Sony BMG then eventually just straight Sony.
“Ironically that’s who my [solo] album [July’s Heart of Sorrow] is out through.
“So all the people that worked on our record and were in charge of marketing, and knew us and our vision, all got fired.
“All of these [new] people came in and they liked us and they were nice and everything, but they didn’t really get what we were doing.
“Eventually Dennis Hanlon let us go without fulfilling the three album deal we had signed.”
Label turmoil was not Bella’s only barricade.
“Personal things happened as well,” Bowtell says.
“Two marriage breakdowns and Katie went back to uni, as did I.
“I studied a Bachelor of Music and she did teaching.
“And Karen had two babies.
“And my father passed away.
“It was one of those perfect storms I guess, so we took a break.
“Katie said on radio this morning that we’re like The Eagles, we just took a 10-year break.”
So now that Bella have reunited will we hear a long-awaited second album?
“At this stage we’re just going to have some fun doing some live shows,” Bowtell says.
“We’ve got enough [songs] to do another record, really.
“Material that I was working on, because I’m the main songwriter for the group.
“But at this stage it’s difficult to think that far ahead, with Katie being a full-time teacher.
“Karen does lots of shows around the Hunter Valley and Newcastle, but is pretty much a full-time mum.
“So it’s difficult for them to tour, I’m the only silly one still touring.
“But I wouldn’t say it’s not on the cards.”
Bella fans are in for a treat when the trio performs at Cessnock Leagues Club next week.
“We’ll sing the entire Gravity album and there’s some unreleased original material that we’re going to perform for everybody,” Bowtell says.
“And we’re going to do a little cover of something different that no one would have heard before, so there’s going to be some special moments.
“And we’re going to have a great band behind us, so it’s not just an acoustic show.”
The Bella shows are part of a very busy year for Bowtell.
The singer songwriter recently relocated from Morpeth to a home in Greta.
“I love it out here in Greta, it’s such a lovely country lifestyle,” Bowtell says.
“I really enjoy the sense of being part of a community here.”
Bowtell also released her second solo record, Heart of Sorrow, in July and this month joined the coveted Cruisin Country festival, which is a week-long country music event that takes place on a luxury cruise liner.
“It’s such a blessing to get to go on holiday and get paid for it, I’m very lucky really,” Bowtell laughs.
Despite her busy career, Bowtell finds time to give singing lessons to young musicians.
Amongst her former students is Kurri Kurri’s rising music star Melody Pool, who has since signed a major record deal with the Mushroom Group’s Liberation records.
“I’ve always loved teaching and I get a real kick out of it,” Bowtell says.
“I seem to understand the mechanics of it, I think I was 15 when I gave my first singing lesson.
“I can watch someone singing something and know where they’re going wrong.
“I knew Mel [Pool] when she was young and naive and singing way too high (laughs).
“I remember one day she brought in this song and she said, ‘I wrote this song and it’s really shit, but I’m going to sing it for you.’
“Then she sang it and I cried and I said, ‘That is the most beautiful thing I’ve heard you sing! What are you doing with these covers, woman?’
“Eventually it got to the point where I said to her, ‘OK, sweetie, you don’t need to come to lessons, there’s nothing I need to teach you. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’
“But apparently I still have this [nervous] affect on her when I’m at her gigs.
“She says, ‘Oh my god, it’s my singing teacher!’”
Bowtell is already working on the follow-up to Heart of Sorrow, and admits that she is constantly writing new material.
“I’m already working on the next album, which sounds bizarre because this [record] just came out,” Bowtell says.
“But I’m constantly writing, so I have lots and lots of notes on my iPhone.
“Now I record voice memos, which is fantastic, and I find I write differently when it’s just voice.
“More melodically, I guess.
“Then [the song] often happens all at once.
“I’ll be in the shower, or doing something that doesn’t require much brain activity, and then all of a sudden I have a song.
“I can imagine the guitar part, the vocal and the lyrics together.
“And it happens a lot from the shower, I’ll be in a towel, dripping wet on the guitar and quickly recording something.
“Lyrics just seem to come out.”
Bowtell’s busy schedule will continue into the new year with a return to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, where she will share the stage with both Felicity Urquart and Kevin Bennett of The Flood.
The trio will then tour together outside of Tamworth.
“It will be called the Country Heart and Soul [tour], the idea is that Felicity is the country, I’m the heart and KB is the soul,” Bowtell explains.
“It’s just the three of us singing each other’s material, but with a twist.
“We’re still working on the arrangements and stuff, but we’re harmonising with each other and it’s a really beautiful sound.
“They’re both such amazing singers.”
Bella performs at Cessnock Leagues Club on Friday, October 24.
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For your chance to win fill out the coupon in today's Mercury and return it to our office by noon on Wednesday.
Bowtell will also perform a free show at the Grand Junction Hotel on Sunday, November 23.