Former south-west musician Rhys Crimmin is the toast of Tamworth after being named the iconic country music festival’s Busker of the Year.
He was one of 400 buskers at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and was chosen as a finalist in the Toyota Country Music Busking Championships on Sunday.
He said nine judges hit Peel Street to watch the performers in action during the ten days of the festival.
He was one of 10 finalists to perform at the Best of the Buskers concert on the final Sunday of the festival. Each artist was given 10 minutes to perform.
“I mostly play original music and over the last few years I’ve been trying to develop my own genre which is a combination of my two favourite styles of music, which is country music and Celtic music,” Crimmin said.
“I’ve been trying to blend those two styles with a real Australiana feel. I did one cover song, I did a version of the The Devil Went Down to Georgia with an Australian twist that features harmonica and didgeridoo and then I did one of my own original songs which was The Aussie Song (in the final),”
He said the win was recognition for 14 years of work as a street performer across Australia and Europe.
“I’m really excited about this award because it’s a big reward for effort, especially because of the music I’m trying to play. This cross of country, Celtic and Australiana, to get recognised by the biggest country music festival in Australia as the top street performer is really rewarding and exciting.”
Crimmin said the main prize included $3000 cash, plus two performances at the Tamworth Hotel at next year’s festival and two main stage gigs next year, opening and closing the festival. “It’s pretty cool.”
He said over the past three years he had slowly worked his way from one of the festival’s worst busking locations in his first year, to one of the best spots in town this year, at the event which ran from January 17 to 26.
“This year I has really big shows on the street, especially on Australia Day when I often had 200 or 300 people on the street circled around me. The judges must have seen me this year.
“This is the first time I’ve made it into the top 10 after three years. Over those three years I would have done over 200 street shows because I usually go out at 9am and I’m out until midnight. I just do show after show.”
“Three years, 200 street shows and I finally made the top 10,” he said.
Crimmin said he loved the spontaneity of street performing.
“I’ve been doing this for 14 years but no matter what I do, I always get drawn back to the street. I love playing on the street more than anything,” he said.
He said you never knew what was going to happen and it could be “the best gig ever”, someone could join in with another instrument or the crowd could get up and dance.
“You can play for as long as you want or as short as you want,” Crimmin said. “There’s no restrictions. It’s the best way to get your music out there. To play on the street nobody has to stop for you, so if they do it’s always a nice feeling.”
Crimmin has recorded four albums, including his latest Fairsea which he released at the Port Fairy Folk Festival last year.
The Melbourne-based musician will perform in street shows at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in March and will be on stage at the Koroit Irish Festival in April. He’s also preparing to head to Europe in July for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.