THE transformative impact of impending fatherhood and the COVID-19 pandemic has led Cessnock country star Travis Collins to revaluate his career and life.
As the beacon of a return to normality continues to glow brighter on the horizon, most musicians are salivating at the chance to hit the road again after 18 months of gig cancellations.
Collins is too. However, with the Golden Guitar-winner and his wife of 10 years, Bec, expecting a baby girl within weeks, his priorities have changed.
"I'm tired now of chasing every pub and club around Australia and that mindset that we have to be out there every weekend," Collins said.
"That's been waning away for me for the last few years. If you get on that hamster wheel it's hard to get off it.
"That said, you've got to do that when you start out, but we're very fortunate to be in a position where instead of doing a place two to three times every year, I want to do it one time and do the biggest thing I can possibly do there and then come home and spend time with my family and be around for my baby girl.
"It's changed in the sense that I want to see more balance. The irony is I'm talking about getting home-life balance off the back of almost two years at home, but I think it's important to have that perspective."
Ever since winning the Tamworth Country Music Festival's Star Maker in 2004, Collins has kept up a hectic pace of touring, releasing eight studio albums and songwriting in Nashville.
However, he's seen too many negative family stories in the music industry to continue that approach.
"I've seen a lot of peers in this business and I've admired their balance and they are good at getting it right, and sadly I've seen people in this business who don't get it right and they end up with broken families," he said.
"I'm very wary of that and it's something I'm gonna take very seriously. I want to make sure I do the best things and biggest things I can out on the road so I can come back home and live as normally as possible."
COVID forced Collins to switch to Zoom songwriting, and after the initial awkwardness, the sessions have provided a bumper crop.
Collins said the five to six weekly songwriting sessions have delivered the biggest collection of songs of his career and they include collaborations with Canadian country-pop star Lindsay Ell, US trap-country hit-maker Breland and Australia's The Wolfe Brothers.
The songs will likely feature on the follow-up to 2020's Wreck Me.
"In the past we've written 15 songs and we'd use 10 for a record and that's something I've been happy to do, but this time I'm not even gonna look at the pile of songs until I feel like I'm completely worn out from writing songs," he said.
"It's writing until our faces fall off."