In December last year, Orange musician Amy Viola was looking forward to travelling to America to pick up some insightful songwriting tips and evolve her understanding of composition.
Cut to a year later, and she has added guitar to her sound [characterised by a unique approach to viola and looping technology], as well as a full band, who will make their debut with Viola at her 2020 Inland Sea of Sound festival appearance in February.
Viola said 2019 has been a formative year for her music, and it was a five-day intensive at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts in June that transformed her perception on songwriting.
"While at Berklee, I was told that genre's officially dead, as we've crossed enough musical borders to make any style work together," she said.
"This inspired me to pursue a more organic musical direction through a band environment."
In addition to Berklee, Viola visited Nashville for a series of gigs and meetings with industry professionals.
Viola's sound meshes jazz and folk with her background in classical music, but she said her experience in America helped enhance her musical direction.
"The band arrangements have a bit of a surf rock feel, and the focus has been to factor these newer sounds into more familiar influences such as Joni Mitchell and Andrew Bird," she said.
"As a classically-trained musician, I try to bring attention to harmony and tonality but with this project, the aim is to produce music that stands out in unusual ways."
Listeners received their first taste of Viola's genre-bending sound on record through her involvement on Dreaming of a Green Christmas, a festive compilation album featuring a host of notable Central West musicians.
Viola wrote 'At Christmas Time' for the album, and jumped at the opportunity to work with her old school friend, Kris Schubert.
"I started writing the song as soon as Kris asked if I wanted to be involved, and the recording process was very positive," she said.
"Kris has a great instinct for sound and studio dynamics and for someone recording their first original, I really valued the experience."
Viola also lent her talents to Andy Nelson's debut album, Man on the Mountain, and performed at its launch at The Victoria Bathurst earlier this year.
By the end of next year, she hopes to have an album concept solidified and ready to take into the studio.
"I've got a lot of ideas racing around my head and I'm eager to set my sound in stone," Viola said.
"I'm also working hard to bring one of the songwriting professors I met at Berklee out to the Central West as there's so many fabulous musicians here who may benefit from his knowledge."