WHEN Lyn Bowtell opens her gig diary for the nine-day Tamworth Country Music Festival there's limited white space.
The Greta-based singer-songwriter is one of most in-demand artists of the festival, which annually attracts country's cream of the crop and fans alike to the inland city on the banks of the Peel River.
Bowtell has performances scheduled for all but two days of the festival, beginning last night with the Opening Concert in Toyota Park.
There's an appearance with her Golden Guitar award-winning three-piece with Felicity Urquhart and Kevin Bennett, Bowtell and Luke O'Shea will play at the Golden Guitars, and she's also part of a fundraiser for the daughters of late musician Glen Hannah, Joy McKean's 90th birthday celebration and Troy Cassar-Daley's tribute to the ladies of country music.
Finally, Bowtell also has her own gig with her band Southern Steel to close the festival on Australia Day.
"When I started out at Tamworth in my early teens with a band, I think we used to do 20 gigs or something silly, but as a professional this is one of the biggest yet," Bowtell says from Tamworth.
"I think I'll sleep in early February."
Bowtell has already been in the country music capital for the past fortnight, teaching the next wave of talent as the director of the Country Music Association of Australia Academy.
It's been a particularly rewarding two weeks for Bowtell as Joy McKean, the wife of the legendary Slim Dusty, visited to impart her wisdom on students.
"We're really honoured and lucky to have Joy come and speak at the academy," she says. "It's one of the highlights of my career working as academy director.
"She's so incredibly sprightly and her memory is amazing."
Another highlight of the festival is always the Golden Guitars held next Saturday at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre.
Bowtell and O'Shea are in contention for three awards - Vocal Collaboration, Heritage Song and APRA Song Of The Year for their track Sing Me A Story.
Despite Bowtell and O'Shea being asked to perform at the awards, she refuses to be too confident about adding to her tally of seven golden guitars.
Bowtell says "it's never a shoe in" and recalls a funny story of when Bill Chambers had to perform his "losing song" moments after the winner was announced.
Sing Me A Story was co-written by O'Shea and Felicity Urquhart and Bowtell says the appeal of the song rests in national pride, without falling into the trap of being overly "bogan".
"I think there's something in those lyrics that resonates with people and the story of who they are and where they come from and the land beneath their feet," she says.
"Aussies are generally proud of where we live and proud of who we are and it's nice to able to sing about it in a positive way."