Adam Harvey tells his story in a country music podcast marking the 50th Tamworth Country Music Festival

Adam Harvey's latest album, Songs from Highway One, includes a tribute to his late father.
Adam Harvey's latest album, Songs from Highway One, includes a tribute to his late father.

Eight-time Golden Guitar winner Adam Harvey describes the Tamworth Country Music Festival as his "favourite 10 days of the year", a time to return to the musical "family" who took him in 31 years ago.

Now, like other country music artists - and fans - he'll have to wait another three months before enjoying the festival atmosphere again.

Organisers made the difficult decision to postpone this year's event - the 50th anniversary of the festival - due to surging coronavirus cases.

But here's an offering, while we await the new April dates: a podcast series with some of the regular festival performers.

  • Listen to our interview with Adam Harvey and hear some of his music in a new podcast. If you already have Spotify on your phone and are reading this on your mobile, click on the banner below. Otherwise, download the Spotify app on your phone and search for Celebrating Aussie Country. For more instructions, click here.

Harvey made his first trip to Tamworth as a teenager, after a tour manager heard him singing in his home town of Geelong.

It was an inauspicious start for the aspiring country music star. After driving with his mum and dad the 16 hours from Geelong to Tamworth, Harvey discovered he hadn't been booked for any shows.

Luckily, his parents were undeterred and decided to stay for the 10 days as they'd already paid for accommodation. The rest, as they say, is history. Harvey soon discovered that the country music scene really is just like one big family. And they welcomed him with open arms.

"The thing that surprised me about Tamworth was how friendly and open all the other artists were there," Harvey said.

"As soon as I got talking to them ... the moment I told them my story ... the first thing they did was say come and get up and sing on my show.

"People talk about the country music family but I really witnessed it. I left there feeling like I was part of something really special."

In the intervening years, Harvey has sold more than 500,000 records, with millions of downloads of his songs on Spotify. He's grown up in the country music family and is now respected as an industry veteran.

Sadly, Harvey's dad Les died of cancer in 2015. Last year, the singer-songwriter included a moving tribute to his father on his new album Songs from Highway One.

"I wanted to write this song [Lindeman Again] for many years since dad's passing, but it was still too raw and emotional," Harvey said.

"This song is very personal to me, and I knew Graeme Connors would be the perfect writing partner to help me capture the emotion I wanted to convey. Graeme is an incredible songwriter, and it was a real pleasure to tell this story with him."

Another single from the album is Highway Number One, about the joy and freedom of travelling around Australia.

Having toured for more than 20 years, Harvey has a swag of stories to recount. He is currently writing a book based on his memoirs, Tales from the Road.

The stories are funny, inspirational and self-deprecating.

Harvey is happy to be able to retell one incident, which could have ended very badly, on a flight home from a concert in Birdsville.

"I'm scared of flying at the best of times," Harvey confides. "This was a tin can ... with two little propellers.

"All of a sudden I remember watching as the right engine started spluttering to a halt, and stopped. Myself and all the band are desperately staring out the left hand side, staring at that other engine just willing it to keep going."

The pilot thought the problem was a fuel blockage and warned the passengers she may have to ditch the plane if she couldn't restart the engine.

"All I could see below us, it was sand dunes for miles, there was nothing, it was desert," Harvey said. "I actually thought we're going to die. I thought well this is it."

Unhelpfully at the time, guitarist Stuart French started singing La Bamba by Ritchie Valens. Valens died in a small plane crash along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper (JP Richardson) in 1959.

Eventually, the pilot of Harvey's plane got the stalled engine going again. The band made it home safely and they can look back on that trip and laugh.

Now based in Bateau Bay on the NSW Central Coast, Harvey doesn't have too far to travel to Tamworth these days. He can't wait to get back there.

"The beauty of Tamworth is that you've got all the country music singers in the town at the one time, so all sorts of special guests get up with me and sing a lot of duets," Harvey says.

"My daughter often gets up and sings with me, which the crowd always loves and that's a real highlight."

The Tamworth Country Music Festival has been rescheduled for April 18-24.

Listen: new country music podcast

To mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Tamworth Country Music Festival, ACM (publisher of this website) created a new podcast, Celebrating Aussie Country.

The podcast was recorded and released before the recent surge in coronavirus cases that forced the festival's postponement. We are sure you'll still enjoy the interviews and the music. Just bear in mind any references to performance dates are no longer current.

In the 10-part series, available only on Spotify, you'll hear from established and emerging artists and their music.

To listen, you'll need to download the Spotify app on to your mobile phone and search for Celebrating Aussie Country. If you already have Spotify - and you're reading this story on your mobile - click on the banner below and your phone will take you direct to the podcast.

Each podcast episode includes an interview with the artist and some of their music. People with free Spotify subscriptions will hear a 30-second snippet of the song, while those with premium Spotify subscriptions can enjoy the full version.

This story The bumpy road along Harvey's musical highway first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.