Alberta's Gord Bamford was crowned king of Canadian country music for a second year in a row Sunday and he says he's now turning his sights south of the border.
After the veteran vocalist took home two top awards Sunday at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards show in Edmonton, he announced he has signed a deal with the American arm of Sony Music.
"I got turned down by every record label in Nashville probably two or three times until last week," the 38-year-old told reporters.
"I'm just hoping I can be one of those guys to bust through so it paves the path for more Canadians because it needs to be done.
"So let's take some good redneck Canadian country music over across the border and see if we can do good over there now."
Bamford won Male Artist of the Year and Single of the Year for his slow-moving track When Your Lips Are So Close.
The tune hit Number 1 on the country charts in just eight weeks.
Bamford also cleaned up at the CCMA awards last year winning five awards, including best album and single.
While he was born in Australia, Bamford told the Sunday crowd he was glad to be back home in Alberta, especially in the capital city, since he grew up "just down the road" in Lacombe.
Fellow Albertan Brett Kissell was poised to win big, having received the most award nominations with eight. The 24-year-old was shut out in the top categories, but did claim Video of the Year for the edgy 3-2-1.
Jess Moskaluke, also 24, grabbed her first CCMA trophy for Female Artist of the Year. The pop-country lass from Langenburg, Sask., recently saw her single Cheap Wine and Cigarettes go gold.
"I'm loving every minute of this crazy ride," said Moskaluke. She later joked about duct-taping the glass trophy to her body so she can carry it around with her wherever she goes.
She credited her win to country music spreading its wings and allowing new and different types of sounds into the genre.
"It's such a great time for country music right now ... I am here because I do such rock-pop-country music. And, had it not been for that spreading out and some of the bro-country that's really been happening, I wouldn't have had the gap that I had to let myself break through a little bit."
Reid the fan favourite again
Nova Scotia-based Dean Brody was given Album of the Year for Crop Circles, the same album that snagged a Juno back in March for country album of the year. He accepted the CCMA wearing his father's dusty cowboy hat.
Brody said being back in Edmonton, where he once attended college and worked part-time at an area Walmart, reminded him of how differently his life could have turned out if he had never taken a chance and sent some of his first songs off to record labels.
Country stalwart Johnny Reid claimed the Fans' Choice award for the fifth time in the last six years.
Sibling-duo Small Town Pistols, Amanda and Tyler Wilkinson, who sang when they were younger with their father in The Wilkinsons, were honoured with Group of the Year. Amanda Wilkinson, seven-months pregnant, joked on stage about being so excited she might go into labour.
"I think my kid's gonna pop out," she laughed.
The Rising Star award went to Tim Hicks, a 35-year-old country rocker from St. Catharines, Ont., who sported a ball cap instead of a Stetson.
He has amassed four Top 10 singles and even racked up two Juno nominations earlier this year, but Hicks said his success has been a long time coming.
He remembered one awful job he took before he made it big, singing on a moving double-decker bus. He turned green and his audience told him it was OK for him to sit down and stop playing.
"It took me 20 years to be a rising star but I don't regret any of those gigs," he said.
"I can't wait to go back home and share this with my friends and family and just continue this wild ride."