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Top Ten Announced For Star Maker ’24



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

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Listen To Ashleigh Dallas On The Country HQ Podcast



Country music enthusiasts, get ready to tune in to the latest episode of Country HQ’s acclaimed series, “Spotlight On.” We’re thrilled to announce that the spotlight is now shining brightly on the immensely talented Ashleigh Dallas, and the episode is available for streaming on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

In this captivating installment of “Spotlight On,” listeners are treated to an intimate journey through Ashleigh Dallas’s remarkable career in the country music scene. From her early influences to her chart-topping hits, Ashleigh shares insights, anecdotes, and behind-the-scenes stories that offer a rare glimpse into her world as a singer-songwriter.

Listeners will be spellbound as Ashleigh reflects on her musical journey, recounting the moments that have shaped her artistry and propelled her to the forefront of the country music landscape. With her soulful vocals, heartfelt lyrics, and authentic storytelling, Ashleigh Dallas has captured the hearts of fans around the globe, and this episode of “Spotlight On” is a testament to her enduring talent and passion for music.

Whether you’re a longtime fan or discovering Ashleigh’s music for the first time, this episode is not to be missed. Join us as we celebrate the artistry and brilliance of Ashleigh Dallas in the latest installment of Country HQ’s “Spotlight On” series.

To listen to the episode featuring Ashleigh Dallas, simply head over to Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and immerse yourself in the magic of her music. Don’t forget to subscribe to Country HQ for more exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes content, and unforgettable moments with your favorite country artists.

Tune in, turn up the volume, and let the music of Ashleigh Dallas fill your soul. It’s time to experience the magic of “Spotlight On”!

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Stapleton Australian Tour Sells Out Six Shows In Hours



Country music sensation Chris Stapleton’s upcoming debut Australian tour for 2025 has already made waves, with the announcement of six sold-out shows across the continent. The news comes as a testament to Stapleton’s immense popularity and the eager anticipation among Australian fans to experience his electrifying performances live.

The announcement of Stapleton’s Australian tour generated immense excitement among country music enthusiasts across the continent, many of whom have long awaited the opportunity to see him perform live. With tickets for all six shows selling out in record time, it’s clear that Stapleton’s appeal knows no bounds, transcending geographical boundaries to resonate with audiences of all backgrounds.

Stapleton’s Australian tour promises to showcase the full breadth of his musical prowess, from intimate acoustic ballads to rollicking, foot-stomping anthems. With a setlist spanning his impressive catalog of hits, including chart-toppers like “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Parachute,” and “White Horse,” audiences can expect a dynamic and unforgettable live experience that will leave them craving more.

For Stapleton, the sold-out Australian tour is a testament to the enduring power of authentic, heartfelt music and the deep connection it fosters between artists and fans. As he prepares to take the stage in front of sold-out crowds across Australia, Stapleton must truly be humbled by the overwhelming response and grateful for the opportunity to share his music with audiences around the world.

As the countdown to Stapleton’s Australian tour begins, fans can rest assured knowing they’re in for a night to remember, filled with passion, energy, and the unmistakable sound of one of country music’s brightest stars. With tickets in high demand and anticipation reaching a fever pitch, Stapleton’s debut Australian tour for 2025 is shaping up to be an unmissable event for music lovers across the continent.

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Essential Listening This Weekend – “Say What You Mean” – Hana & Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits



Hana and Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits have been a staple of the rising alt-country scene in Australia live since the release of their debut album “Southlands” in 2017. They have played at various festivals such as WOMADelaide, Out On The Weekend, Brunswick Music Festival, Adelaide Guitar Festival, Dashville Skyline & Queenscliff Music Festival, and Tamworth Country Music Festival, where they have tirelessly worked to perfect the band’s sound.

Eleven songs make up the album “Say What You Mean,” which was recorded at Alex O’Gorman’s Pakenham studio and features the lead singles “Arrowhead” and “Tallest Of Tales” (which have been added to high rotation on ABC Country) as well as “Paper Boats” and a variety of rock’n’roll swagger, country influences, and soul ballads. Hana and Jessie-Lee have been performing music together for nearly a decade. On this new album, they are accompanied by the Bad Habits rhythm section, which consists of two of Melbourne’s best musicians, Tommy Brooks (bass, slide, pedal steel) and Patrick Wilson (drums & percussion). Additionally, Norwood (backing vocals), Joe Cope (keys), Jordie Gilmour (drums), and Kate Alexander (backing vocals) make an appearance. With the exception of three tracks, Alex O’Gorman mixed the album at Phaedra Studios. John Lee mastered it, while Stephen Mowat (Wilsn) mixed the other tracks.

Love, awful first dates, insomnia, loss dread, longing home, and avoiding troublesome individuals are some of the lyrical topics covered. In the first track, “Misery Queen,” the band playfully points out the problems in a relationship while playing languid rock and roll in the style typical of the South. Without missing a beat, Jessie-Lee strides into one of her characteristic earworm guitar riffs on her distinctive green Gretsch, which harmonises perfectly with Hana’s brassy vocals. Title track “Say What You Mean” is a raucous rock anthem that implores people to be honest rather than silent in their relationships, while “Under The Vines” is a haunting tribute to homesickness in the vein of Bruce Springsteen.

“When we were picking songs to put on the album, it was a matter of what fit together, and what felt good playing as a band. I think I had about 25 songs and was still writing new material right up until we were going into the studio. We played a few at shows in their rawest form to see how they felt, how people reacted and that helped us make the final decision on the songs included.” – Hana

“These Shambles,” a cover of an older song with updated lyrics, is a bonus track on the CD and digital releases.

“We decided to record These Shambles again because it seemed to be a crowd favourite at shows” says Jessie-Lee Zubkevych of the re-record. “People sang along, and the song had changed shape into a bit more of an upbeat heavier version.”

In support of the new album, the band is taking to the road to play some new places and return to some old favourites all over Australia. For the first time, Tasmania, Bendigo, and Beechworth in Victoria are all on the list, as well as several features at the Cronulla Jazz & Blues Festival in Sydney on the last weekend in May.

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