TRAVIS Collins is striking while the iron’s hot.
For he knows the intangible inspiration behind quality songwriting can be fleeting. Luckily for the Cessnock country music star he has enjoyed an abundance of inspiration in recent years.
Collins’ 2016 album Hard Light earned him three Golden Guitars at last year’s Australian Country Music Awards for male artist of the year, song of the year and single of the year, breaking his long-running drought at Tamworth’s night of nights.
That success was followed by the seven-track EP Our Backyard with Amber Lawrence in August, which has attracted six nominations at this year’s Golden Guitars for best contemporary country album, heritage song, group or duo, song of the year, video clip and single.
However, Collins isn’t wasting his time navel-gazing. Straight after a short Christmas break he returned to Nashville to begin work on his next album.
“I feel like I’m digging from a pretty good songwriting well lately,” Collins tells Weekender from Nashville.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to be fruitful for me, so while ever I’m feeling inspired about this stuff and excited to be writing, I want to make sure I’m recording.
“That’s why things have been a bit more rapid fire.”
Collins’ songwriting has developed quickly. While he predominantly worked with seasoned songwriters on his earlier records, he wrote 12 of the 14 tracks on Hard Light.
The result was his most personal and heartfelt record. The 2004 Tamworth Star Maker winner has stepped up to write the entire batch of songs for his next album, which he hopes to release later this year.
“It’s too early to tell, but I’m really proud of the songs,” he says of the sound of the new album.
“It’s a continuation. When I did Hard Light it was a real validation of where my songwriting is supposed to go, so we’ve continued down that honest, raw thing with that and leaning on a few more of my country-blues roots.
“I really can’t talk about it too much because we’re still tweaking and changing so much. I could tell you something now, but by the time it comes out it could be different again.”
Collins returns to the Hunter next week to begin preparations for his Tamworth campaign, which includes a solo show at the Albert Hotel on January 25 and a performance with Amber Lawrence in the Peel Street Fanzone on January 23.
It was in Tamworth back in 2004 while attending the Country Music Association of Australia’s academy that Collins forged a close friendship with Lawrence.
The pair bonded over their shared experience of growing up in the country music wasteland of Sydney and have toured together in their formative years.
“We also joked that one day if the time was right and we could both afford professionally to press pause on our own solo careers that we’d love to record and do a tour together,” Collins says.
“That’s what we did in 2017 and the Our Backyard album was just that. It was us finding that middle ground between our sounds.
“Songs and sounds that wouldn’t feature on her album on their own, and wouldn’t on my album. It was both of us bridging the gap.
“You get a lot of new licenses when you collaborate with someone, so that was a lot of fun.”
Collins has seen first-hand the impact winning a Golden Guitar has on your career. The last 12 months have opened up numerous doors to festivals and venues that previously were shut.
He would love to add more gold to the trophy cabinet, especially if it’s shared with Lawrence.
“The awards are great and I can’t say they don’t matter, because this last 12 months has been an absolute slingshot year for me,” he says.
“I’ve had some incredible career opportunities and been travelling around the country and the world, trying to hang on for dear life at the pace things are happening now.
“I’ll be there in January with Amber and for the sake of our friendship and the journey we’d individually had, I’d love to take a trophy and just have that moment.
“The whole reason we did this was about mateship and celebrating the fact that we got to a place where we could do this in the first place.
“If we can get up there and win an award, I won’t lie, it would mean the world.”