With no albums in the competition and only one award nomination, Andrew Swift could have been forgiven for thinking he would have a quiet Saturday night at the Golden Guitars.
But the Melbourne-based troubadour, who won two country music awards in his breakout year 2019, pulled off the surprise of the evening, being named best male artist for the first time in his career.
Although Swift didn’t release an album in 2022, it was another solid year for the bewhiskered former pop-punk musician, touring extensively on top of releasing his single The Good Old Days.
The bearded bard paid tribute to his fellow nominees in a star-studded field that included Casey Barnes, James Johnston, Morgan Evans and Adam Brand.
“This is absolutely incredible,” he told the crowd in Tamworth.
“To be nominated alongside you guys is something else. We all work pretty hard, we all work our arses off.”
The night’s top prize went to Gold Coast-based Barnes, who claimed best country album for Light it Up.
“I love where Australian country music is at,” he said.
“I think we’re in such a great place and we’re headed in all the right directions.”
It was yet another accolade for the album, for which Barnes also picked up an Aria and a Golden Guitar for top selling album.
The other major award winner was Amber Lawrence.
The 44-year-old fended off reigning champion Ashleigh Dallas to be crowned best female artist after a stellar year which saw her nominated for five awards.
Although local favourite Dallas couldn’t defend her title, she didn’t leave empty-handed with her album In the Moment named traditional country album of the year.
Husband and wife duo Brooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley swept the minor categories.
The songwriting pair won song of the year for Star Of The Show and single of the year for Memory Lane, as well as being named group or duo of the year.
They were joined on stage by their 10-year-old daughter who helped pen their songs.
Breakout talent Johnston capped a successful year with two gongs, taking out new talent of the year and vocal collaboration of the year with Kaylee Bell for their single Same Songs.
Meanwhile, nine-time Golden Guitar-winner Colin Buchanan was inducted into the Australasian Country Music Roll of Renown, alongside such esteemed company as Slim Dusty, Kasey Chambers and frequent collaborator Lee Kernaghan.
Country music’s night of nights returned to its traditional January timeslot after Covid-19 caused last year’s awards to be postponed to April.
Golden Guitars executive producer Peter Ross said the calibre of talent present at the awards demonstrates the vitality of the country music scene in Australia.