Alan Buchan
Alan Buchan

fRETfEST was established in 1997 to support the ever growing interest in folk, roots and acoustic music, focusing on the singer-songwriter genre.

Fretfest helps musicians take their first steps towards a career in the music industry with adutitions, workshops and live performance tutoring.

Fretfest provides a professional arena for talented songwriters through concerts, recording and mentorship services to help guide musicians towards success, gain confidence and built rapport with their audiences.


The following musicians took part in fRETfEST early in their career:

Pete Murray (1 million cds sold)

Women In Docs, (Roz Pappalardo & Chanel Lucas)

Tom Busby (Busby Marou)

Alan Boyle (Billy Thorpe Scholarship Winner)

Andrew Redford (Telstra Discovery Winner)

Bobby Flynn (Australian Idol)

Mark Lowndes (Australia’s Got Talent)

Jac Stone (The Voice 2013)

Other popular singer songwriters who took part in Fretfest are Greg Arnold (pictured below) from "Things Of Stone & Wood" and Paul Greene, best know for his work with Midnight Oil Drummer, Rob Hurst, in "Hurst & Green", supporting Ani Difranco, "The Ghost Writers" and for inspiring Ben Harper to write 'Diamonds On The Inside'.


Fretfest was established by Queensland musician, Al Buchan, as a way of giving unknown solo singer songwriters a chance to sing their own songs and gain live performance experience.

Fretfest has always recruited talent, encouraged and coached musicians on teh art of stage craft and produces demo recordings as well as giving constructive feedback and advice.

Since its inception in 1997, Fretfest has become recognised in the roots acoustic music scene with events now taking place right around Queensland.

fRETfEST first took shape as an opportunity advertised in the local street press magazine. Buchan says, "Graham Rix, Becky Willis and Matt Newnham were among the first to respond. They formed the opening line-up at the first shows in Brisbane in November of 1997."

"Fretfest gave musicians the opportunity to play together, back to back, to share the limelight. I encouraged everyone to talk about their songs (on stage), to share their stories with each other and with the audience. Each musician quickly gained skills and confidence." Buchan says proudly.

Greg Arnold of 'Things of Stone and Wood'fame headlined fRETfEST 04.

"Throughout those early sessions we helped showcase the talents of dozens of new singer songwriters, including Ant McKenna who went on to feature in Those Bloody McKennas (Melb), and Helen McGreevy who later joined The Flannelettes and toured regularly with folk band Spot The Dog.''

Through 1997 and '98, Fretfest was held as a weekly event culminating in several 'best of' sessions which spawned the Best Of The Fretfest compilation CD.

"We had a strong cache of talented performers vying for performance slots. We also enjoyed a constant stream of new artists applying, one act being a female acoustic duo (Roz Papalardo & Chanel Lucas) from Townsville who called themselves Women in Docs, and Pete Murray.

"Pete Murray (pictured below), was a young man armed with a great voice and beautiful songs, and both he and Women in Docs became favourites at Fretfest throughout 1999 and 2000."

Other artists to feature in Fretfest were Dan Carter of Miles From Nowhere, Peachfish (then just 'Craig & Deb'), and Dave Avery who wrote George Thorogood's only #1 USA hit song 'Get A Haircut & Get A Real Job'. Dave was raised in Redcliffe just north of Brisbane, home of the BEE GEES.

Buchan eventually opened the event to songwriters of all ages and saw veteran performer Bob Wilson join Fretfest in 2002 with his quirky urban ditties that featured on the ABC's Australia All Over radio program. John Gordon also joined the Fretfest ranks in 2002, bringing with him his absorbing ballad, Inexorably Yours which Wendy Matthews featured on her popular 1992 release Lily.

"Fretfest quickly became known as the place where fledgling songwriters could take their first steps and where the art of songwriting was being given the sort of exposure it should have,'' Buchan explains, "As well as attracting better known artists who longed for a new audience".

"Fretfest was one of my earliest gigs, and it gave me the the opportunity to play my original music to an appreciative crowd."

-- Pete Murrray

"What's been truly gratifying is to see how far some of these people have come over the years and to work with some of the greatest singer songwriters that Australia has produced.''

Both Women in Docs and Pete Murray have become nationally known acts, while Becky Willis (who debuted on The Best of the Fretfest) went on produce her own independent EP and was then invited to take the Starmaker stage at Tamworth's Country Music Festival where she won the praises of Kasey Chambers. Willis has since attended the College Of Country Music and has toured with Becky Cole as a backing guitarist and backing vocalist.

"This is exactly the sort of step forward we hope Fretfest encourages,'' Buchan said.

"Fretfest is a springboard for young singer-songwriters, confirming their belief in themselves and giving them the experience they will later need."

"Pete Murray is perhaps the best example I can give. He came to me in 1999 looking for reassurance and stage experience, and I immediately gave him as many opportunities as I possibly could.''


Over the years, Fretfest evolved to include an annual Music Festival and a tri-annual Talent Quests called "Find Of The Year" or 'FOTY' for short.

At 2004 foty Thom Busby (Busby Marou), Jess Ribeiro and Bobby Flynn (Australian Idol 2006) were standouts in their age category and Tim Loydell (Deckchairs) was a finalist too. The category winners were Luke Paten, Liz Flynn (no relation) and Sarah Watson who battled it out for supremacy and the $2,500 Ovation Stage Guitar Prize was awarded to 16yo Sarah Watson!

"We decided to run the competition again in 2007 and we chose the Queensland's Performing Arts Centre as the venue (QPAC)" says Buchan. With over 200 entrants we held 16 weeks of heats and finals and we revealed 40 finalists who we took to the Woodford Folk Festival at the end of the year in a celebration of Queensland talent. Among the 2007 finalists were Alan Boyle (Billy Thorpe Scholarship Winner), David Di Marco (Charlie Mayfair) and Mark Lowndes (Australia’s Got Talent).

Dave Di Marco (pictured) departed Brisbane for Dublin IRELAND in 2014 to pursue his music career further. He joins a long list of young Queensland musicians who have succesfully started an independent music career, with fRETfEST.

In 2008, Fretfest released a compilation Cd featuring Nick Hutchinson, JaC Stone, Jessiah Cocks, Bernie Carson, Rene Ranke, Jess Holtz, Jason Maynard, Georgia Potter, Jason Castle, Kat Cooper, Claye Middleton, Candice Long, Ryan Murphy, Simone Elias, Alec Burns, Tommy D, Mick Danby, Tim Loydell, Adam Scriven, Eddie Williams, David Di Marco and Rob Longstaff.

The album was well reveived at the Woodfrod Folk Festival where Fretfest musicians performed in a daily showcase and Fretfest embarked on a local tour of venues in the year to follow. The Full Moon Hotel at Sandgate became a stomping ground along with the Chalk Hotel, where Fretfest was held every Monday night for 4 years straight!

In 2009, Fretfest followed up with another compilation Cd, this time featuring JaC & Jessiah, Bernie Carson, Tommy D, Jake Lloyd Jones, Casey Fogg, Nick Hutchinson, Kat Cooper, Andrew Redford (Telstra Tamworth Discovery), Anie Drake, Alec Burns, Cath Stevens, Dave Court, Simone Elias, Lachy Stewart, Pat Doran, Rene Ranke, Claye Middleton and Michael David.

Jac Stone (pictured) performed at fRETfEST for 2 years and wowed Woodford audiences on the fRETfEST stage. She contibuted songs on the Best Of fRETfEST compilations Cds and went on to reach the finals of THE VOICE in 2013.

The Woodford Folk Festival had became an annual event for Fretfest and new relationships were being formed with local council festival organisers across Southeast Queensland.  Fretfest was being invited to perform at The Urban Country Music Festival, The Redcliffe Festival Of Sails and Careers That Changed The World at the University Of Queensland (UQ).

In 2010 Fretfest gained the support of The Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) and returned to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre with a showcase of teenager singer songwriters and added workshop to its list of faculties. Experts from the music industry gave speaches and the young musicians stepped up on stage to perform their songs. "We helped launch the career of 15yo Hannah Karydas." Buchan says, "and we also released another compilation Cd featuring Bree Bullock, Nick Hutchinson, Lauren Crick, Simon Thomas, Alison Briskey, Al Buchan (Fretfest Founder), Bernie Carson, Alec Burns, Cath Stevens, Dekota Striplin, Anie Drake, Matt Newnham, Abbie Roberts, Hunter Van Larkins, Linny Thornely, Graham Moes, Rachelle Van Slobbe and Sam Wallman."

In 2011, Fretfest moved the business to the Gold Coast and released another compilation Cd, this time in support of the Australian Environment, entitled DEEP WATER.  Check out the details on the webpage here > www.fretfest.com/deepwater.

In 2012, with support from the Australian Performing Rights Association, the Regional Arts Development Fund and the Australian Government Contemporary Music Touring Program, fRETfEST toured the Darling Downs and built a network which helps musicians take it to the next level, sustainably, turning a passion for music into a full time business.

In 2013, a Professional Music Mentorship Program was developed and, in 2014, the fRETfEST Regional Song Contest was established.

Our first Mentorship graduate was 15yo ASHA JEFFERIES and she went on to feature on Triple J and her indie music career is blossoming, with a national tour.

Another graduate, KODY BRIMS, was accepted into the BERKLEE MUSIC COLLEGE in Boston USA, graduated and now performs internationally.

The Regional Song Contest has expanded over the years and now takes the winners and finalists to the TAMWORTH COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL each year, where they get to experience one of Australia's largest music festivals and showcase their songs to new audiences!

In 2015, Fretfest made in-roads into AMERICA & UK with plans of developing an international OPEN MIC SERIES and infrastructure for education as well as music exchange programs.

In 2016, Fretfest relocated to NSW where we have been busy building relationship within the local music industry and making plans to revive the FIND OF THE YEAR program with auditions, heats and finals for singer songwriters of all ages from across NSW!

Check out www.fretfest.com/foty for more information

Contact fRETfEST at the contact page

Thank you!