TRAVIS Collins might be among the leading contenders for Saturday night's 49th Country Music Awards of Australia, but the Cessnock artist admits he'd feel "selfish" if he dominates in Tamworth.
Collins famously ended his Golden Guitars hoodoo in 2017 when after 12 previous nominations he won three awards for his album Hard Light - male artist of the year, song of the year and single of the year.
The tally has since swelled to seven and could potentially rise to 13, after Collins received another six nominations for his 2020 record Wreck Me, which includes the marquee awards album of the year, male artist of the year and single of the year for Rainy Day.
Only Fanny Lumsden, with seven, received more nominations and country-pop stalwarts The McClymonts also earned six.
Lumsden is expected to dominate after her stunning third album Fallow debuted in the ARIA top 10 and encapsulated regional Australia's battle with drought with emotion, humour and stoicism.
"To be completely honest, and I know this is something people often say for a nicety, but I'll feel selfish if I have a big year because there was really great work last year and I hope it gets spread around and it's acknowledged," Collins says.
"I think Brad [Cox] deserves an award and Casey [Barnes] and I definitely think Fanny [Lumsden] with the whole story of where her album came from out of the ashes of the bushfire in her home town, is such a great Australian thing.
"My album means a lot to me as well. It's a tough one. I certainly wouldn't want to be judging these things."
Due to COVID-19 there is no official Tamworth Country Music Festival this year for the first time in the event's almost 50-year history and last week a host of unofficial gigs were also cancelled.
The awards ceremony at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre will also be devoid of an audience except for musicians and industry figures, who will be socially-distanced.
Collins is thankful the awards are going ahead in some capacity, because he knows first-hand what they mean to artists.
"The main emotion that comes with it is a feeling of validation from people who you really respect," he says. "These awards are industry voted by radio hosts, agents, managers and fellow artists. We all vote for each other.
"To get to a finalist position, little alone your name read out as a winner, is quite a big deal to know people you look up to and people you surround yourself with in the business are giving you a pat on the back."
Former Newcastle, now Brisbane-based musician Melody Moko is feeling that validation after her second album Two Kids & A Radio earned the first nominations of her career for best alt-country album, best female artist and best new talent.
Moko says she and her husband Michael Muchow were "jumping up and down and screaming" at home in their pyjamas when the nominations were unveiled, but she'll be in Tamworth on Saturday to perform her song Like Hank Would.
"I'm not gonna lie, since I was a little girl it was a career goal for me," Moko says. "It's hard having a career goal which is basically not in my control at all. All I can do is put my best into what I do and hope other people like it.
"It would mean a lot. It's a good nod, but I'm honestly just happy to have the nominations and be performing at the event, which is another thing on my bucket list."
Another act preparing for their first time as a Golden Guitar nominee is Newcastle country-rock band Hurricane Fall, who are in contention for group or duo of the year alongside Angus Gill & Seasons of Change, The Buckleys, The McClymonts and The New Graces.
The maiden nomination arrived at the perfect time for Hurricane Fall after the five-piece's national tour to promote their debut album Ain't Leavin' was cancelled five gigs in due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
"Getting nominated for a Golden Guitar was more than we expected, because we obviously didn't get to ride that album as much as we wanted to," Vee says.
"The support through media has been really overwhelming."