Just two-and-a-half years ago, Aberdare teenager Finnian Johnson picked up his brother’s guitar for the first time.
“I asked my dad to teach me a song,” he said.
As he struck his first chords, they struck him right back – this is what he wanted to do with his life.
He started off learning the modern classics – he remembers the thrill of playing through a song the first time – Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours. With the help of Youtube tutorials the young musician honed his soulful sound, alone in his bedroom. But it didn’t take long for modern country start to begin creeping in to his musical diet.
“I’ve always been a fan of Troy Cassar-Daley and Travis Collins,” he said.
The country songs of beautiful lands and broken hearts became front-and-centre for Finnian earlier this year when he graduated from the Tamworth-based Country Music Australia Association junior academy.
“I like being around country music, the culture of it,” he said.
“It just made me want to take it as far as I can.”
The students taught each other songs and tricks of the trade and, by the time they walked out as graduates, had hearty portfolios of work.
“I haven’t written anything of my own yet,” he said.
“He’s got nothing to write about yet. He’s had no dead dogs, no broken trucks,” his mother Michell added with a laugh.
Finnian shot a recording off to a few talent scouts and before he knew it he was scooped up to play the Gympie Muster talent search, which will take place this weekend.
But his big shot will come at Brisbane’s Doomben Racecourse on September 10 when Rural Aid hosts its Rising Talent competition.
Only the eight most-voted-for young stars will take the stage, but the final winner gets a paid trip to the epicentre of country music – Nashville, Tennessee.
Finnian is currently at number 5, so he’s in with a solid chance. “But I’m hoping to win,” he said.
Until then, Finnian will be busking outside Coles, raising funds for his travels, playing a stunning cover of the fitting Leaving On A Jet Plane. To vote, visit Finnian Johnson Music on Facebook.