When Travis Collins takes to the stage at Hope Estate in October, it will be a moment of sweet reward for the hard working country musician.
After years of slogging it out and playing any and every venue, and questioning whether a career in music was truly possible, for Collins to be asked to join US country star Tim McGraw's Australian tour and open for his shows, it was a dream come true.
"To be able to open for a hero like that at a venue like that so close to home is pretty damn cool," Collins, from Cessnock, said.
"When I was just finding music as a teenager going through school, Tim McGraw's career was really hitting that purple patch. It's remarkable that all these years later he's still selling out arenas and vineyards.
"I've been a big fan of him for a lot of years. It's really exciting to be opening for one of my heroes, one of my influences. The other side to this is, I get to do a gig that's 10 minutes from home. I don't get many home games these days."
Collins, a past Toyota Star Maker Quest winner, released his first album, Start the Car, in 2005 and has gone on to release seven more titles. The latest, Brave and the Broken, was released in August 2018 and hit number 15 in the Australian music charts.
Collins has four CMC Australian and seven Golden Guitar awards to his name, and most recently took out CMAA's 2019 Male Artist of the Year.
While acknowledging his achievements and awards, particular those from the past three years as his career lifted off, Collins said it had been hard yards to get to this point.
"I'd say I'm living the dream now," he said. "I guess a lot of people tie success to awards but forget that between 2004 and 2017 when I won my first awards in Tamworth, there was a good 13 years in there where I was just out there slogging my guts out playing every little hole in the wall club, pub, carpark.
"Its been quite a journey. 'Living the dream' is a fairly correct cliche because it was getting to the point where I wasn't sure it was going to work out. I was in my 30s wondering what I'd done with the last 15 years of my life, if any of it had made any impact, and then all of a sudden, when I was about to quit, the spaghetti stuck to the wall."
Collins will open for McGraw's Hope Estate and Melbourne headline shows, and will also join the singer for the C2C festivals in Brisbane and the 2019 Deni Ute Muster.
It is the first time since 2012 that McGraw has toured to Australia.
"I have always enjoyed playing for Australian audiences, who are some of the loudest and most loyal music fans in the world. It's been too long since I've been there, and I look forward to seeing you at these special concerts, bringing my full show to fans in the Hunter Valley," McGraw said.
Also on the bill for the McGraw headline shows is Texan band Midland.
Collins said he was excited to debut new music during the McGraw tour.
"We'll aim to have two new [songs] in the set, which may end up blowing out to a few more if my history tells me anything," Collins said.
"I usually surprise my band the day before and tell them there's five new songs in the set. I'm not really good with keeping a lid on new music. I do like to play it to anyone who will listen as soon as I can because I am so enthusiastic about new stuff."
Tickets, on sale now through Ticketek, start at $101 for general admission and go up to $713 for a VIP package.
The Examiner has one double pass containing two general admission lawn tickets to give away to the October 4 Hope Estate show in the Hunter Valley, which starts at 8pm.
To win, send your name, daytime phone number and reason why you like to win the double pass in an email titled "McGraw" to email@example.com.
The winner of the pass will be notified by September 25.