2019 - Blake O'Connor
Blake O’Connor, from Port Macquarie, became the 40th Star Maker winner in front of thousands of country music fans at the Toyota Star Maker 40th Grand Final held in Toyota Park on Sunday, January 20, 2019.
Blake’s performance received high praise from the judging panel, to win the prestigious title singing If You Wanna Get To Heaven (Ozark Mountain Daredevils) and an original, Worth A Little More.
Toyota Star Maker is Australia’s most significant and longest-running search for a new country music star and has launched the careers of some of Australia’s biggest country music stars including Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, James Blundell, Travis Collins, Gina Jeffreys, Beccy Cole, Sam McClymont (The McClymonts), Darren Coggan, Lyn Bowtell, Kirsty Lee Akers, and Kaylee Bell.
Blake grew up in a home surrounded by country music – mostly Johnny Cash. At 14, he scored a gig as a wedding singer, so he wrote his first song for the occasion, and hasn’t stopped writing and performing since. In 2015 he was a featured artist in the NSW Schools Spectacular playing four shows at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with audiences of more than 20,000 people.
Toyota Star Maker producer Barry Harley congratulated Blake; “Toyota Star Maker has been the launchpad for many successful country music artists. It’s so encouraging to see the incredible talent emerging in the industry and we look forward to watching Blake’s journey as 2019 Toyota Star Maker.”
The outgoing winner Brad Cox, from Jindabyne, has had a stellar. His hard work has earned him two nominations for best new talent and contemporary album of the year in the 2019 Toyota Golden Guitars.
Toyota has a long and proud history of supporting country music in Australia, including 24 years of sponsoring the emerging artists of Star Maker and 27 years of the overall Country Music Festival in Tamworth.
Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Gabriel said Toyota was proud to support such an important initiative for the country music industry.
“Toyota Star Maker is a great example of Toyota’s role in inspiring people to start their impossible. Toyota Star Maker is the perfect platform for young artists to launch their career and I congratulate Blake for starting his impossible – there’s no stopping you now.”
In addition to the title of Toyota Star Maker winner, Blake received a prize package which includes the use of a new Toyota vehicle and a fuel card for 12 months, plus guaranteed performances at major festivals and events throughout Australia.
Blake performed at the 40 years of Star Maker concert alongside 26 former winners on Wednesday, January 23 at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC).
Blake competed against nine other finalists. They were Arna Georgia from Sans Souci NSW, Chelsea Berman from Terrigal NSW, Jake Sinclair from Springhurst NSW, Juliet Oliver from McLaren Vale SA, Leigha Moore from Sippy Downs Qld, Linc Phelps from Gympie Qld, Lizzie Steadman from Kootingal NSW, Matt James from Mt Gambier SA and Stephanie Penrose from Moore Creek NSW.