Dreams come true at Tamworth: Kernaghan

Lee Kernaghan has been nominated for 10 awards at the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Lee Kernaghan has been nominated for 10 awards at the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Dreams can and do come true at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Just ask 37-time Golden Guitar winner Lee Kernaghan.

The boy from the bush has been nominated for a further 10 this year, including album of the year, single of the year, and male artist of the year, with the winners to be announced at the festival's awards ceremony on Saturday night.

But Kernaghan still vividly recalls performing his iconic song, which inevitably became his nickname, for the first time in January 1992 and the rush it gave him as a 27-year-old.

"Of everything I'd sung before this was different," he told AAP.

"People were standing up and getting on tables - for me it was like an epiphany.

"Tamworth is a town where dreams can and do come true."

Joy McKean handed Kernaghan his first ever Golden Guitar when "Boy from the Bush" was crowned song of the year in 1993, a moment which transformed both his life and career.

And his latest album, Backroad Nation, could see Kernaghan equal or surpass McKean's late husband - Slim Dusty - who took home a record 38 awards.

Kernaghan said Backroad Nation, like most of his work, was in large parts autobiographical, although he was quick to point out the pig dog called Chainsaw in "Keep on Trucking" actually belonged to his co-writer Colin Buchanan.

"Each album is another chapter in my life," he said.

"Backroad Nation comes from the places I've travelled, the things I've seen and the people I've met over several years of touring and it's probably a new chapter for me in terms of record production."

Released in May, Backroad Nation was produced by Nashville-based Australian songwriter Lindsay Rimes, who Kernaghan described as one of the "breakout" producers in America right now.

"Sometimes I travel to the ends of the earth to get my records done, but it seems no matter where I am on the planet, I'm working with Australians," he joked.

"I'm so thrilled to be nominated for album of the year, because that one means the most to me.

"It's the one voted by the people who come out to the shows, buy the albums and make that music and that album a part of their life - for me that's a huge privilege."

Fellow country music legend Troy Cassar-Daley, currently tied with Kernaghan on 37 Golden Guitars but without a nomination this year, was certain that Slim Dusty's record would be broken on Saturday and said the occasion would be a big moment in Tamworth's history.

"It's a privilege that Lee gets to do it - he's been a mainstay and it couldn't go to a better bloke," Cassar-Daley told AAP.

"Slim would be proud to see people making records, winning Golden Guitars, and trying to write the best songs they can, because that's what it's all about."

But the spotlight still doesn't sit entirely comfortably with Kernaghan, who remembers busking for change on Tamworth's Peel Street and watching Kasey Chambers, Keith Urban and Cassar-Daley do the same.

"It's a little surreal to be honest - I've always just felt like a bloke from the Riverina," he said.

"That's where I come from and I never ever want to forget that."

Australian Associated Press