Passport To Airlie Is Won!

Mardi Wilson takes out national title at Airlie Beach Festival of Music

Mardi Wilson has been officially crowned Australian music’s brightest rising star, after taking out the national ‘Passport to Airlie’ competition at the Airlie Beach Festival of Music last night.

Described by Triple J’s Unearthed Music Director, Dave Ruby Howe, as having “that same raw-nerved and emotional approach as the world-beating Amy Shark, with perhaps a more easy-going edge”, the Brisbane-based soloist beat competing acts from not just her home city but also Darwin, Mackay and Cairns.

“I think I was crying a little bit, and then my brother picked me up and carried me over to the stage and everyone was jumping up and down – I just couldn’t believe it, I was so stoked,” she said, when asked about the moment her name was announced.

As part of the prize, the 26-year-old has now secured herself a place on the main stage line-up at next year’s Airlie Beach Festival of Music, where this year’s headliners include the likes of The Angels, John Schumann, Troy Cassar-Daley, Butterfingers, Russell Morris, Sarah McLeod and Busby Marou.

“To play on the main stage of a festival like this is such a dream – I’m over the moon,” she said.  

“When a friend sent me a link to the ‘Passport to Airlie’ competition and said: ‘you should apply for this’, I thought, ‘yeah, why not’. There was the first heat and then the second heat and now here I am – it’s just so surreal.”

Passport to Airlie judge and Superjesus front-woman, Sarah McLeod, said although it was incredibly hard to choose just one winner from the overall pool of talent, it was Mardi Wilson she immediately envisaged on a national tour.

“She’s got that sound, she’s got the look, she’s got good songs – make her an album and stick her on the road and I think she’ll do extremely well,” she said.

Passport to Airlie co-ordinator, Cherrie Hughes, said the calibre of all competing acts was incredibly impressive.

“I was encouraged by how many bands applied this year despite all the challenges currently facing the music industry and I think that shows promise for the future,” she said.

“We hope to have applications open early for next year and a lot more of our venues and regions back on board so stay tuned!”

Sarah McLeod reiterated what a great opportunity the Passport to Airlie competition presented for emerging talent, and said she looked forward to the interaction all competitors would enjoy with Airlie Beach Festival of Music audiences this weekend.

Sarah McLeod

“It’s hard to get gigs at festivals unless you’re an established artist so to be able to get in front of a large crowd like this is invaluable, especially at a place like Airlie because everyone is really excited about music,” she said.  

The ninth annual Airlie Beach Festival of Music runs from November 5-7.

In addition to the main stage line-up at the idyllic waterfront location of the Whitsunday Sailing Club, the festival runs a live music program at participating Airlie Beach venues, including Anchor Bar, Beaches, Boaty’s, Fish D’vine, KC’s Bar and Grill, Magnums, Paradiso, Sorrento Restaurant and Bar, Treehouse, and the Whisper Restaurant & Gin Bar at Mirage Whitsundays.

All Passport to Airlie acts, including Mardi Wilson, Supertrooper, Legends of Perhaps, Spare Tyre Politics, Kathryn & The Overbytes, Pixie Keenan, Vine Music and Tropical State of Mind, can be found at festival venues over the weekend.

Festival founder, Gavin Butlin, said it wasn’t too late to secure a festival pass. 

“Three-day passes cost $300 and give you access to all venues and events, and if you can’t make the whole weekend there are day passes for $140,” he said.

For updates over the festival weekend, follow @airliebeachfestivalofmusic on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.