GLORY days don’t get much bigger than Friday for Morgan Evans.
The 28-year-old Newcastle singer songwriter was named Oz Artist of the Year on Friday night at Hope Estate at the CMC Music Awards ceremony that kicked off the CMC Rocks The Hunter country music festival.
Evans topped the poll of five finalists. More than 400,000 votes were cast through CMC.
The other finalists were Adam Brand, Amber Lawrence, McAlister Kemp and O’Shea.
Evans also won CMC Male Artist of the Year, beating a field that included Adam Brand, Lee Kernaghan, Travis Collins and Troy Cassar-Daley.
He also won Best Australian Video of the Year for Carry On.
If that wasn’t enough, Friday also marked the release of his debut album, the self-titled Morgan Evans.
The 12-song long player has already produced the current number one song on the CMC network, One Eye For An Eye, co-written with fellow Novocastrian and long-time collaborator Mark Wells.
''This is the best week of my life," he told the crowd as he accepted his first award of the night for best Australian video if the year for Carry On.
After accepting the award for best oz male artist of the year he said, "if you would have asked me before I would have put me last on that category".
Evans won the CMC New Artist of the Year in 2013.
Other winners last night were Jasmine Rae (Female Artist of the Year), Taylor Swift (International Artist), Taylor Swift-Tim McGraw-Keith Urban (Highway Don’t Care, International Video) and The Wolfe Brothers (New Oz Artist).
The music festival kicks into full swing today. Highlights include Busby Marou on the main stage this afternoon and brother sister duo Kaylens Rain, Kevin Bennett and The Flood, Morgan Evans and American Gretchen Wilson on stage tonight. The songwriters session in the afternoon includes Aussies Jedd Hughes and Mike Carr.
Sunday’s festival includes Catherine Britt and Kevin Bennett in the songwriters’ session, Newcastle musos Viper Creek Band in the Campers Bar late night bar and American star Toby Keith as headliner on the main stage.
IT will be a cold day in hell when you call Morgan Evans a manufactured star.
He started writing songs in his Mount Hutton bedroom with a guitar when he was 13. Fifteen years later, he’s still got the touch, and he’s pretty darned good at it.
“I made five trips in two years to Nashville,” he said of the journey to create his debut album, released yesterday. “And I wrote a song every day I was there.”
The first video off the self-titled album, One Eye For An Eye, co-written with Mark Wells, reached number one on the CMC music charts this week.
Writing original music is in his DNA.
“It’s always been an important part of me and the artists I like,” he said.
At 28, he’s finally at the top of the country dirt pile in Australia. While it is a small music sector, it is tightly connected to Nashville and huge American country music scene. And that is where the money is – just ask Keith Urban, The Caloundra boy made good as an international country music star.
The other thing in Evans’ favour is the huge swing toward the progressive country rock in the US. Top acts like Eric Church and Big & Rich rock hard. Even Gretchen Wilson, one of the headliners at CMC Rocks The Hunter, put out an album of classic rock last year.
While Evans will tell you the first song he ever played on a guitar was by John Williamson, he cut his teeth with a garage band playing solid rock’n’roll. He debuted as a three-piece called Extortion at a Warners Bay High School talent night, his brother Tom playing bass and Nick “Cookie” Cook on drums. Tom still plays in Morgan’s band, along with drummer Dane Baldwin and guitarist Mark Hoppe. Nick Cook, by the way, plays in Benjalu, a success story in their own right.
As a crossover country artist, Evans remembered catching flak for one of his first breakout songs, “Big Skies,” written with Mark Wells. “It was too rock, not country enough,” Evans related the feedback.
It was on one of those trips to Nashville that Evans had what he called a “lightbulb moment” about his music.
“I was visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame. Every decade a bad guy came along and ruined country music – and then he became the good guy,” Evans said.
The names Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams spring to mind.
“I’m not more rock or more country than I was,” Evans said.
Evans is definitely one of the good guys, even if he rocks out.