Thirsty Merc's Rai Thistlethwayte was announced as the Big Chill Beer and Barbecue Festival's headline act last week.
The inaugural food, drink and music fest will be staged by Armidale Regional Council on Saturday May.15.
Rai has established himself as one of Australia's most respected musical talents, and is a highly accomplished pianist, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. As a solo artist, he has been nominated for the APRA Song of the Year and has released four solo EPs since 2012.
His band Thirsty Merc has sold over 250,000 albums nationally, and has been nominated for five ARIA awards. Since 2002, the iconic band has released four studio albums and a string of hits including Rai's composition 'In The Summertime', which has been the theme song to popular television show 'Bondi Rescue' for fifteen consecutive seasons.
Despite having toured internationally in the past, Rai said he is excited to come to Armidale as it is of close significance to him and his family.
"One of my earliest memories as a gigging muso was a band road trip to Armidale when I was only 16," he said.
"My mum, who taught me music, studied a doctorate in music history at the University of New England, so Armidale is close to my heart."
As a solo artist, Rai is inspired by his love of jazz, soul and groove music, and has collaborated with notable artists such as ARIA award-winning guitarist James Muller, trumpeter James Morrison, and Grammy nominated US jazz bassist Christian McBride.
Armidale Regional Council's General Manager James Roncon said the announcement of Rai as the headline act is a huge drawcard for both tourists and locals.
"Bringing a world-renowned musician such as Rai Thistlethwayte to Armidale is such a big win for our community and it will ensure the Big Chill Beer and Barbecue Festival is an event to remember," said Mr Roncon.
"Our local tourism and events sector has taken a huge hit as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, bushfires and drought, so this announcement is sure to draw visitors to the region and alleviate some of the pain the community has endured over the past couple of years."
After a tough year for the music industry, Rai said he is excited to be back on the road.
"I'm stoked to see that gigs are coming back and I'm really looking forward to the Big Chill," he said.
In addition to Rai, there will a great line-up of supporting acts such as James Bennett and Charlie Fittler.
Mr Roncon said more performers will be announced in the coming weeks.
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