Ten of Australia’s top emerging country artists will vie for the honour of becoming the 39th Toyota Star Maker in a winner-takes-all, free musical event at Toyota Park, in Tamworth on Sunday night.
South Australian Cassidy Rae Gaiter returns after making last year’s Star Maker grand final, while the other nine are all first-time grand finalists.
Four of them are Queenslanders, including Academy of Country Music graduate Health Milner, Tammy Moxon, Hayley Wilson and Chloe Styler.
Emily Joy enters after winning awards in her home state of Western Australia, and Victorian Jake Sinclair also made the cut.
The sole finalist from NSW is singer-songwriter Brad Cox, and the other finalists are Tanya Cornisha and Taylor Pfeiffer are from South Australia.
Toyota Star Maker continues the tradition as the main event of the first weekend of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which officially starts on Friday.
For the second time in its long history the grand final will be free to the public, with all 10 finalists being judged on the night, and one winner emerging.
In January last year, it was held free in the park for the first time.
The winner will receive a prize package which includes the use of a new Toyota motor vehicle and an unlimited fuel card for 12 months, plus guaranteed performances at major festivals and events throughout Australia.
Among the exclusive Star Maker alumni are Lee Kernaghan, Keith Urban, Beccy Cole, James Blundell, Darren Coggan, Travis Collins, Kylie Sackley, Samantha McClymont, Kirsty Lee Akers, Kaylee Bell and many more.
Toyota Star Maker co-ordinator Cheryl Byrnes said it was always a joy seeing who applied for Toyota Star Maker each year.
“Within the industry, the quest is a highly-respected vehicle and there are any number of aspiring artists wanting to emulate the feats of previous winners such as Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan and Beccy Cole,” Cheryl said.
“It’s the ideal platform for artists to showcase what they have.
“It’s the perfect jumpstart to any career, with the $100,000 prize package that goes along with the prestige of the title.
“Many of the benefits of being part of the Toyota Star Maker family are intangible – but absolutely priceless. The networking among the past alumni and the current crop of Star Makers is extraordinary. You can’t put a price on that.”
Toyota Australia’s Corporate Manager Marketing Integration Andrew Wearing said he was delighted to continue Toyota’s support of Star Maker.
“It’s a wonderful thing that Star Maker continues to be accessible to a worldwide audience through livestreaming in the park,” Mr Wearing said.
Darren Coggan, who won Star Maker in 1996, returns as the esteemed compere and there will also be a performance by outgoing 2017 Toyota Star Maker Rachael Fahim.