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Keith Urban provides drought relief to Tamworth and gives teen his guitar

Haley Craig and Donal Sheil, Wednesday January 23, 2019 - 13:57 EDT
ABC image
Country music star Keith Urban gave Walgett teenager Maddie Warden his guitar at the Rural Aid fundraiser concert last night. - ABC

A teenager from drought-stricken north-west New South Wales got more than she bargained for at a Keith Urban drought-relief concert on Tuesday night.

The international country music star flew into Tamworth for an intimate performance at the city's country music festival.

Among the crowd was 16-year-old Maddie Warden of Walgett who was sought out by Urban and pulled onto the stage where he gave her his electric guitar.

The teenager travelled to the Tamworth Country Music Festival for some much-needed relief from the family's sheep station after spending her school holidays hauling thirsty sheep out of muddy dams.

Maddie is a musician herself and said she was overwhelmed by Urban's gesture.

"[It was] definitely a massive highlight. My hard work has paid off and it's all worth it," Ms Warden said.

The golden ticket

Maddie said her family's sheep station is in desperate need of rain.

"It's really bad at the moment. All our water's running really, really, drastically low," she said.

"Basically my whole school holidays has been pulling out bogged sheep twice a day.

"The dams are getting way too low and they're just getting stuck trying to get a drink.

"A lot of them we've had to shoot because they just won't survive and they've been eaten by other animals."


Despite the challenges her family currently face, Maddie has maintained a positive outlook.

"It's been tough, but you've always got to remember you'll get through. I've got my family and everything," she said.

"It helps me to have a greater appreciation for everything."

The high school student said she was not meant to go the concert, but as fate would have it, a ticket came her way.

"My sister got the tickets, my dad and mum were meant to go but my dad couldn't come, so I got the ticket," she said.

"It was a bit of a freak accident, to get the ticket in itself, and to actually get called up to receive the guitar was even more incredible."

Tamworth delivered 'in spades'

Speaking outside the Tamworth Town Hall after the concert, Urban told the ABC the concert was a homecoming.

"Tamworth delivered in spades. It was just the most amazing feeling coming back to this hall, it feels like it hasn't changed," he said.

"Everything I was hoping I would feel tonight was that intense.

"It was amazing. It was such good energy — absolutely incredible.

"It all began here. So to feel the foundation of everything that I've been blessed to be able to get to do, knowing that it all started here, feels full circle."

Where it all began

Urban took time to share stories of Tamworth with his fans and showed old photos of himself as a young boy playing in the very same venue.

"Tamworth and I go back a long way," he said.

"When I used to come down here when I was nine years old and they used to have the Capital Country Music Association Awards … I competed in the sub-junior section and won a little trophy."



"I thought that was pretty awesome and they said 'you get to come here and play on show and do one song'," Urban said.


"A couple of things have changed since then, but what I remember about winning that particular thing is, I'd played a bunch of places but nothing like the massive, magnificent grandiose of a place like that.

"When you're nine, this thing looks like a stadium.

"I just remembered I loved how I sounded in here and I was so excited.

"I think this is all really where it started for me."

A heartfelt community gesture

The Tamworth mayor, Col Murray, said the visit lifted the spirits of many who are still navigating their way through the drought.

"It's created a real buzz," he said.

"It's quite a nostalgic type of visit where Keith's chosen to have a rather small and intimate type event at the town hall.

"There's obviously a strong recognised link between Keith Urban's stellar career and part of those humble beginnings busking in Peel Street and Star Maker.

"It's been a closely linked journey in the earlier days."

Mr Murray said Urban giving a concert for drought relief was heartfelt and he was pleased the musician acknowledged the issues regional Australia are facing.

"It's a great gesture and quite fitting and appropriate," he said.

"Tamworth is undeniably very much an agricultural community and the pressures of this drought are well acknowledged.

"It's great that Keith also acknowledges that, in playing some small part in some of the relief.

"It's very special to a lot of people in Tamworth and there are a huge number of Keith Urban fans.

"It's fabulous that Keith has chosen to share in that nostalgia and the links of his career in the city."


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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