by Luke Voogt
Travis Collins began his journey to country stardom at age 11, busking with his guitar in a suburban Sydney street.
“Before I knew it, busking led to my first paid gig and the rest is history,” the six-time Golden Guitar winner told the Independent recently.
“To be up there singing songs to rooms full of people singing them back, it’s been such a journey from busking out the front of that cafe.”
Collins recounted busking with the supervision of his parents or his then 18-year-old sister, ahead of his upcoming Geelong show next Friday.
“She would always be sitting in eye or earshot,’ the 35-year-old said.
“I’m really, really grateful for the early years – the more I think about it as an adult, it wasn’t just me making a commitment.
He even busked in Australia’s heart of country music, Tamworth, when his family travelled up for a festival in 1996.
“Other people told me you could just turn up with your guitar and play, and that’s what I did,” he said.
“Dad was a keen country music enthusiast. In all the different day jobs he had, one constant was he would go play gigs with his mates on the weekend.”
His dad’s country music catalogue, featuring Johnny Cash, was the basis for his busking.
“I only had about four or five songs but the foot traffic kept changing so no one noticed,” he said.
But the act caught the attention of a man putting together a country showcase at a local RSL, who stopped when he saw the young Collins.
“Before that first show I was scared to death but then it all sort of switched the moment I walked onstage,” he said.
“It really sort of pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the spotlight.
“From that moment I was like this is what I am, this is what I’ve got to do with my life.”
His mum bought him flannelette shirts and cowboy hats for the shows that followed.
“It’s cringe man – absolute cringe,” he said.
“We all laugh at that now but back then we must have thought we were something pretty big.”
His proud parents remained huge supporters throughout his career, and their presence proved to be auspicious at the 2017 Golden Guitar awards.
“I was nominated 19 times until I actually got one to take home, which was a bit depressing,” he said.
“But the first year that mum and dad came was the first year I ended up going home with one.”
Collins will bring his award-winning tracks Call Me Crazy and Just Another Girl when he comes to Gateway Hotel on February 14.
The show, featuring story-telling, country ballads and lively tunes, would be the first time Collins had performed his own set at the venue, he said.
“I’ve been there several times as a support act – always on someone else’s tour,” he said.
His last journey down was with five fellow country rockers on the Outlaws tour.
“It was five front men on stage in a bit of an all-in brawl, but in a good, positive way,’ he said.
“That’s a lot of people that are usually demanding attention fighting for it.”
He encouraged Geelong locals to come along and “leave their troubles at the door”.
“Going to see a band is a lot cheaper than going to see a shrink,’ he said.
“I love that a live band can be the best amplifier of good times.”