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Top Ten Announced For Star Maker ’24

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A new generation of country stars will head to Tamworth in January to compete in Australia’s biggest country music talent search, with the top 10 announced in the 44th Toyota Star Maker. This year there are five females and five males in the 2024 Toyota Star Maker top 10, with one returning for the third time. In alphabetical order they are:

            Dakota East       30        Elwood Vic

            Ethan Calway    25        Warragul Vic

            Felicity Dowd    19        Bega NSW

            Jake Whittaker  29        Stockleigh Qld

            Jay Santilli        33        Officer South Vic

            Jemma Beech    31        Singleton NSW

            Jimbo Stokes     30        Scone NSW

            Nathan Lamont 30        Wagga Wagga NSW

            Piper Rodrigues 23        Brisbane Qld

            Wade Forster    25        Winton Qld

Toyota Star Maker Coordinator Cheryl Brown says the Australian country music scene is ever-evolving and this year’s top 10 are a good example, offering a variety of country music styles.

“This year’s finalists are going to make it difficult for the judges, as they are a strong, determined and driven group.

“The competition is on, that’s for certain, and with such diversity as country rock, alt country, country pop, traditional and folk, it’s definitely going to be hard to choose one winner.”

Toyota Star Maker is the nation’s longest-running and most respected country music competition. More than 500 artists have performed as finalists over the past 43 years. The Star Maker alumni include Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole and James Blundell along with the latest stars including Kaylee Bell, who is enjoying Billboard success with her song Keith about 1990 winner Keith Urban, Blake O’Connor who’s relocated to Nashville and Max Jackson, newly signed to Stephen White Management and ABC Music, among them.

The top 10 will perform two songs each at the 2024 Star Maker Grand Final on the first weekend of the Toyota Country Music Festival Tamworth, in Toyota Park.

In 2024, Toyota Star Maker will welcome Wheelhouse Agency as a new strategic business partner. Wheelhouse is Australia’s leading country and Americana agency and is a joint venture between industry heavyweights Chugg Music, Select Music and artist manager Dan Biddle. The team from Wheelhouse will handle live bookings for the Toyota Star Maker winner throughout the year, with a view to building long-lasting relationships and success for the winner.

Agency partner and co-head, Dan Biddle, said; “Wheelhouse Agency is proud to partner with Australia’s most prestigious and successful country music talent contest to help discover and nurture the careers of the next crop of country music stars. We look forward to working with Barry, Cheryl and the team from Tamworth Regional Council to enhance the incredible experience that the winner receives throughout their Star Maker year, and beyond.”

Corral Boots is proud to join the list of generous supporters of the 2024 Toyota Star Maker competition by gifting the winner with a pair of the world’s finest western boots. Corral Boots are works of art, meticulously handcrafted in Leon Mexico, using premium materials. Now available nationwide, Corral Australia is committed to supporting young Australians on their country music journey.

The grand final concert will feature a gala performance by the 2023 winner, Loren Ryanwhose Star Maker reign has seen her perform far and wide including the Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Muster, Savannah In The Round and soon to set sail on Cruisin’ Country.

Loren said of her time as the winner, “I’ve had the absolute best time performing at festivals and events as this year’s Toyota Star Maker. It feels like I’ve finally been able to break through to the next level and I’m looking forward to keeping that momentum up. It’s exciting that we will have a new Star Maker soon and I wish all the Top 10 the best for the finals night.”

Sponsor Chris Watson Travel flew Loren to Nashville’s CMA Fest where she performed on the CMA Spotlight Stage and the Sounds Australia stage, as well as experiencing a number of songwriting sessions.

Loren’s Star Maker EP will be launched at her first ticketed show on Thursday, January 24 at 4:30pm in Moonshiners Honky Tonk Bar. The EP will feature Suddenly, Take Me Home, and Bounce Back, which was previously released and recorded prior to her Star Maker year.

Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer, Vin Naidoo, said Toyota is proud to support the talented musicians vying for the chance to create a name for themselves in the country music scene through the Toyota Star Maker Competition.

“We are excited to watch the Star Maker top ten finalists perform on stage in January, which is already an exciting opportunity in their career.”

“It is always a pleasure experiencing the vast array of talent during the competition and supporting the winner with a prize pack, to help fast-track them to becoming the next big country music star in Australia.”

“Congratulations to all the musicians who have been selected as finalists and I look forward to seeing your performances at the grand final concert.”

The Toyota Star Maker Grand Final is one of the biggest events of the annual Toyota Country Music Festival. It all begins at 7pm on Sunday, January 21, 2024 at the city’s largest outdoor venue – Toyota Park.

For further information on Toyota Star Maker visit starmaker.com.au

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Country HQ premieres “Pure As The Flame”, the new single from Harvey Russell

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On March 1st 2024, Harvey Russell will release his second solo album via Heartland Music Australia. Today he releases the slow-burning title track ‘Pure as the Flame’, and Country HQ is proud to be the first to share it.

Harvey Russell rounds out 2023 with the fourth single from his forthcoming new album, due on March 1st. The title track ‘Pure As The Flame’ finds the Sydney alt-country songwriter exploring a more atmospheric, swaying and intimate sound, enhanced by a lilting violin and the evocative strains of Aaron Langman’s pedal steel.


Russell sings, ‘It rises like a wave and breaks with relief / The right to your silence and the thrill of a thief’ as he places himself inside the mind of a kleptomaniac and the feeling of relief and euphoria they feel when they give in to an impulse or addiction.

I’m often interested in what motivates people to act and how they attempt to find meaning in the world. ‘Pure as the Flame’ depicts the short, fast burn of chasing an illusion that satisfies momentarily and then quickly fades away to devastating effect. It’s a clear tale of how inner conflict can lead to self-deception,” says Russell, reflecting on the song and why it also provided the title for his new album. 

I wanted to elevate this track in particular because I think we’re seeing quite a bit of this quick-hit, quick-fix attitude in the culture today, and I’m not convinced it’s all for the best.”  

The new single is another fascinating side of a songwriter constantly seeking out new ways to document and convey the struggle and joy of the human experience.

To get a copy in advance of Harvey Russell’s new single “Pure As The FLame”, click here and you will be enjoying the amazing troubadours single in no time.

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Spotlight On…..Ella Powell

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Ella Powell is ending a successful year with the release of her brand new single ‘Country Love.’

This lighthearted, toe-tapping song shows what Ella does best, her country-inspired storytelling and catchy pop melodies.

Produced by Matt Fell and Shane Nicholson, this highly anticipated release is here just in time to add to your summer playlists!

 At a very young age, Ella desired to be both a ‘cowgirl and pop princess.’ Growing up listening to a variety of artists, in her early teenage years, she began to blend Country, Pop and Folk genres together to create her own sound.

Fans of Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini and Jewel will connect with Ella’s relatable lyrics and powerful vocals. Ella first became noticed within the music industry in 2019, where she won Peoples Choice Award at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which was closely followed by her debut single release ‘Paper Town’ in 2020.

Since then, she has become a rapidly rising artist, with her releases being added onto major Spotify and Apple Music playlists, sitting on numerous music charts, being added onto ABC High Rotation as well as being named Triple J’s feature artist of the month.

With her streaming and radio plays going into the hundreds of thousands, particularly with the hits ‘Behind The Glass’ and ‘Along The Way,’ she is gaining fans from all around the globe.

Over the last few years, Ella has performed at numerous festivals, supported a variety of musicians, and headlined many sold-out shows.

Working with a long list of award-winning industry professionals, including Matt Fell, Shane Nicholson, Grammy-winning engineer William Bowden, and publicist Stuart Coupe, it is evident why she was named the National Junior Songwriter of the Year. Her future within the industry looks extremely promising, with her debut EP set to be released in 2024.

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Lucie Tiger’s Covers Tyler Childers For Latest Single ‘Shake The Frost’

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Lucie Tiger’s latest single, Shake The Frost, marks a captivating departure from her recent releases. The title may ring a bell, as it was originally penned and performed by esteemed Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Tyler Childers. Lucie has held a special affinity for this song, making it a staple in her live performances for several years. It feels fitting that she unveils her rendition of it during her first Christmas season in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

For Lucie, “Shake The Frost” embodies a sense of nostalgia and a longing for change, an anthem of knowing that one can emerge from the darkness and ‘shake the frost,’ especially with the support of the right people. While the song may carry diverse meanings for different listeners, Lucie aspires to introduce it to a fresh audience. For those already acquainted with the tune, her added instrumentation amplifies the warmth and hope embedded in the lyrics.

Much like the songs that have influenced her, Lucie’s music is recorded organically, with all musicians collaborating in the studio, creating an authentic and vibrant sound. Performed by Lucie Tiger (acoustic guitar, vocals), Shake The Frost also features Bob Wray (bass), Brad Kuhn (keys), Will McFarlane (electric guitar), Justin Holder (percussion). Engineered by Colin Lott, produced by John Gifford III and mastered by Chris Bethea.

Lucie Tiger has some excellent runs on the board. Her self-penned song Gasoline won Country Blues Song of the Year 2021 and she’s the only independent Australian artist to have five singles on the MusicRow Country Breakout Chart plus four singles in the CountryTown Top 40 chart in Australia including Found My Home, Midnight Goodbye, Do Me Right, Right Next To You and Burn It Down.

Lucie’s April 2022 album Alabama Highway debuted at #14 on the ARIA Country Albums chart (Australia’s equivalent to the Billboard Country Albums chart) and #10 on the AIR (Australian Independent Record Label) Albums Chart. Lucie’s September 2022 acoustic album The Memphis Tapes recorded at the legendary Sun Studios, Memphis, debuted at #7 on the AIR Albums Chart.

Lucie Tiger has featured in Americana Rhythm Magazine (USA), Rhythms Magazine (Australia), CountryTown, Today’s Country Magazine, The Music, Country Music Capital News, Scenestr plus CMT Television and the television program Songwriters Across Australia. Her song Christmas In The South was listed as one of the 10 Best Australian Christmas Songs in 2022 and her songs are regularly in the Top 10 Australian Songwriter Awards 2022, where she’s been industry-nominated twice for the Rudy Brandsma Award for Songwriting Excellence by the ASA.

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