With the 2024 Toyota Star Maker Grand Final approaching (Sunday, 21 January 2024) alongside the 52nd Tamworth Country Music Festival, Toyota Star Maker organisers have announced the top ten finalists for next year’s competition.
Performing for the chance to win the Toyota Star Maker prize package, valued at over $100,000, are the following up-and-coming Australian country artists:
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
“This year’s finalists are going to make it difficult for the judges, as they are a strong, determined and driven group,” Toyota Star Maker Coordinator Cheryl Brown commented in a press release. “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.”
2023 Star Maker winner Loren Ryan will host a gala performance on the night, having scored slots on festivals including the Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Muster, Savannah In The Round and soon, Cruisin’ Country since her win.
Explaining the impact being crowned Star Maker has had on her career, Ryan said, “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 final’s night.”
Three artists in the 2024 top ten – Jake Whittaker, Jay Santilli and Piper Rodrigues – have already found coverage on Countrytown, including video premieres and Front Deck Boom Box features.
Jake Whittaker’s sound blends traditional country music with contemporary flair. With a background in soul, blues and funk, the South-East Queensland singer-songwriter said he’d always loved country and was now being true to himself, citing his significant influences such as Brothers Osborne, Zac Brown Band, Morgan Wallen, and Luke Combs.
Meanwhile, Rodrigues is a CMAA Academy of Country Music alum, has opened tours for fellow Australian country queens Catherine Britt and Hayley Marsten, and has created a distinctive sound based on following the footsteps of her inspirations (including Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, Brandi Carlile and Dolly Parton) and paving her own path.
Santilli is also a growing artist with expressive vocals and beautiful songs that have connected with country music fans across Australia.
The 2024 Toyota Star Maker competition will be held at 7 pm on Sunday, 21 January 2024. The event is free to attend.