The message for all the other mums? It's up to you to be who you want to be.
That's what Tasman singer-songwriter Aly Cook wants to say after winning Female Artist of the Year at the seventh annual 2012 New Zealand Country Music Awards in Hamilton on Saturday night.
The 48-year-old self-managed artist and mother of three said it had taken "a lifetime to get to here".
"To all the mums out there that think you are too old to achieve your dreams - or you think you can't debut as an artist, because you're not a ‘young musician'- it's only you that holds you back by thinking you can't do it," she said. "They can be very ageist in the entertainment industry; if you're older you're told you can't. But you only have one life."
The sentiment applied to whatever dream you had, Cook said. It was the second time she had been nominated for the award, and she said there was satisfaction in getting there herself. "It's something nice for your bio and something to sit on top of the television set," she said. "It's still sinking in. I've never actually won anything [and] I've got so used to preparing myself not to win that I don't know what to feel now I have. It's been a lot of hard work to get through."
She said country music was a diverse, rapidly growing genre as people realised country and western wasn't "the be-all and end-all of country".
"The genre is diverse and modern country is one of the biggest globally in music sales."
Cook has had a hectic year.
In May she was a finalist in the international section of the Musicoz Independent Awards, and she has performed at the Tamworth, Blue Water, Port Pirie, Urban Country and Canberra music festivals.
Her latest single Midnight Sun, from her crowd-funded debut album Brand New Day, spent 11 weeks on the Australian country music charts based on airplay, reaching No 12 on the charts. She was also a finalist in the arts and culture section of the Next magazine Woman of the Year Awards, helped organise a CD fundraising for the Christchurch earthquake, We Will Rise Again, and was named as a "champion" for Global Village, an international organisation that seeks to end world hunger. She even got the New Zealand Government to recognise a monument to World War II airmen in Sassenay, France.
Nelson audiences can next see Cook perform with Liam Ryan and Dean Hetherington in their band The Sou'westers at the Nelson Arts Festival in October, and she will be playing at the Canberra Country Music Festival in November.
Other winners at the music awards included Wanaka's Jody Direen, who won the Horizon award. She will represent New Zealand in the Telstra Road to Tamworth event in Australia and will also compete in the Global Artists Awards in Nashville, - the largest country music festival in the world.
Second-time winner Trevor V Stevens was the best male performer. Stevens last won the award in 2010.
The Heartleys rounded out the main prizes with the best duo/group award.
Te Awamutu performer Peter Posa proved a popular choice with the crowd when he took out the annual Legend Award. Last year's winner, Dennis Marsh, paid tribute to Posa, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness.
- © Fairfax NZ News