FIVE of NSW’s emerging country artists have been named as one of Australia’s top 10 musicians and grand finalists in the 40th Toyota Star Maker – Australia’s most significant and longest-running search for a new country star.
Toyota Star Maker has been a crucial launching pad for some of Australia’s biggest country music stars including Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, James Blundell, Travis Collins, Gina Jeffreys, Beccy Cole and Sam McClymont (The McClymonts).
The winner will be announced on January 20 and will receive a prize package, which includes the use of a new Toyota vehicle and a fuel card for 12 months, plus guaranteed performances at major events.
Lizzie Steadman of Kootingal
SINGER-songwriter Lizzie Steadman has an ability to tell a story through her songwriting and empowering vocals. She incorporates soul, folk, blues and country into the music she plays and writes.
Lizzie grew up at Kootingal and was introduced to country music by her dad, who always played and sung with the children when they were young. She taught herself to play guitar and it has become her constant companion on her adventures to date.
This includes being a jillaroo in the Territory, an aged care nurse at Mutitjulu (Uluru), nursing in Tamworth, and as a case worker assisting disadvantaged youth. She was awarded the Troy Cassar-Daley Indigenous scholarship through Create NSW to attend the CMAA Academy of Country Music in January 2018.
“Being named as one of the finalists feels like I have been given the greatest gift in the world,” Lizzie said.
“Being a Tamworth girl all my life, I have watched the Toyota Star Maker finalists take to the stage over the years and it is something I had only ever dreamt of experiencing.”
Stephanie Penrose of Moore Creek
FOR Stephanie Penrose, music is not just a dream – it’s her destiny. Stephanie was born and raised in the Country Music Capital and at age 11, surprised the heck out of her family when she came home from school with a trophy for singing.
Stephanie believes her musical talent was a gift from her late grandfather, Howard (“Howie”), who played in dance bands all over the North West of NSW from the 1950s until his untimely passing in 2013.
Steph attended Oxley High School, the alma mater of fellow country music artist Ashleigh Dallas. In 2010 Stephanie was the youngest person be invited to sing at the closing concert of the Tamworth Country Music Festival, riding a horse into Toyota Park and singing one of her favourite Dianna Corcoran songs.
Stephanie has sung the national anthem at the PBR for the past five years and performed during both PBR and ABCRA events.
Arna Georgia of Sans Souci
SYDNEY- born, Arna Georgia has performed at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Bluewater, Gympie Music Muster and AmericanaFest in Nashville.
“I think as a musician, each day is a rollercoaster of emotions and ups and downs and to get a phone call like this just makes you stop and go wow, I really can do this,” Arna said.
Chelsea Berman of Terrigal
CHELSEA started singing at the age of eight and now in her late teens, the Central Coast-based singer-songwriter has her sights firmly set on a career as a professional recording artist.
She released a debut EP early this year, achieving the Apple iTunes Country Album number four chart position.
Blake O’Connor of Port Macquarie
Blake grew up in a house surrounded by country music and scored his first gig as a wedding singer at age 14, writing his first song for the occasion.
He hasn’t stopped writing since. Blake has opened the show for several big stars including Adam Eckersley and Adam Brand and released his debut EP in 2018.