“You’re not a fully fledged, fair dinkum Aussie until you’ve been to the Tamworth Country Music Festival at least once.”
The above statement by Australian country music legend Lee Kernaghan reflects just how important he views this ever growing festival to be, not just for country music but for Australian culture as a whole.
Tamworth Country Music Festival has been transforming the quiet country town into a mecca for Australian music fans since its inception in 1973. What initially began as a small country music talent quest over the Australia Day long weekend has since grown into a 10 day epic festival which sees over 300,000 people heading to Tamworth to witness 2,800 shows from 700 artists in 120 different venues.
Kernaghan, who now acts as the official ambassador for the festival, has attended almost every festival since his very first experience there in 1978, at just 13 years old.
“I entered the CCMA (Capital Country Music Association) Talent Quest at the Town Hall and won Best Male Vocal Under 15, which was the first award I’d ever won for anything,” he recalled.
Since then Kernaghan has gone on to win 37 Golden Guitar awards at the Tamworth Country Music Awards of Australia.
Without the festival Kernaghan truely believes he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“It was a life changing award for me. It set me on a path and career in country music. When I look back on how things fell into place if it hadn’t been for the Star Maker award I probably would be doing something else.
“The Star Maker got me my first publishing deal for songwriting, it gave me the opportunity travel to America and learn from some of the best songwriters in the world, and to work with some of the best musicians on the planet. There have been so many people that I’ve met as a result of that, including Garth Porter who produced my first album The Outback Club.
“None of what I’ve done would have happened without Star Maker.”
Due to the importance he places on both the festival and the Star Maker competition Kernaghan is more than happy to provide mentoring to winners of the competition. This is a role which the late Slim Dusty once acted in for Kernaghan, and something that he will “forever be grateful for.”
Whilst 2019 marks the 47th year for the festival as a whole, it will be the 40th Anniversary of the Toyota Star Maker Award. As such many of the past winners will be returning to the festival for a very special one off performance together.
“I’m really looking forward to being involved in the monumental concert being held at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC) on January 23 featuring 28 winners on one stage.”
It’s not just the live shows which make the Tamworth Country Music Festival special, it’s also the atmosphere which envelops the town, the impromptu jam sessions between artists who rarely cross paths due to their touring schedules and then obviously the Tamworth Country Music Awards of Australia.
“It’s the town, the festival and the awards that give birth to new stars of Australian music. The Golden Guitar Awards are the most important awards event of the year for all of our artists. They can be career changing or career defining.”
One of Kernaghan’s most endearing memories of the Tamworth Country Music Festival is an impromptu late night jam session with fellow country megastar Troy Cassar-Daley.
“One January I’d done 21 touring shows in a row and then I did three shows in one day at the Services Club with my Dad, but then at the end of the night I still hadn’t had enough so Troy and I ended up jamming until about 4am.”
The festival though isn’t just for country music fans explains Kernaghan.
“I think anybody could go and absolutely love it. If you enjoy music you’re going to get all kinds of music at the festival, from roots music to blues and all different types of country such as contemporary, bluegrass and traditional. That’s one of the magical things about our genre of music, there’s so many different variations and dimensions that there is something there for everyone.”
Jan 18-27. Various Venues in Tamworth, NSW. More Info: www.tcmf.com.au