Song award winner no stranger to these parts

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A man who worked at Bushy Park Station in Waimumu about four decades ago walked away with the MLT Songwriting Award on Thursday night.

Diversity summed up the style of entries in the New Zealand Country Music Awards.

The St James Theatre was packed for the gala night, audience members being entertained by entrants’ original songs and energetic interludes by fiddler Marion Burns.

The winner of the MLT Songwriting Award, Auckland singer-songwriter and producer Mal McCallum, is no stranger to Eastern Southland. He said he worked at Bushy Park Station in either the late 1960s or early 1970s.

He is no stranger to winning the songwriting competition either, having won in 2001, in collaboration with Kylie Harris, and 2006.

“I’ve entered quite a few time.”

He delivered this year’s winning song, After the Storm, in a relaxed style.

Highlights of his career included playing the support act for Joni Mitchell at the Sydney Opera House, and a tour with the late John English, he said.

Way to go… Jody Direen won the Best Country Music Album award. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

He had also produced albums for other artists such as Shane as well as two CDs of his own music.

Kaylee Bell was runner-up with a song called May Day

Chester Travis won the Best Country Music Song award with his song Toothache, while Jody Direen won the Best Country Music Album award with Shake Up

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said the awards were a highlight for Gore.

“Tonight is all about the songs – this is a night I especially look forward to,” Mr Hicks said.

Host of the show and New Zealand Songwriters Trust member Jeff Rea described the gala event as a great night of music.

There were some great performances and songs performed on the night, he said.

And there was a good crowd at the event, he said.