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Port Macquarie's Blake O'Connor Crowned 40th Toyota Star Maker

21 January 2019

Blake O’Connor has been announced as the 2019 Toyota Star Maker in front of thousands of country music fans at the Toyota Star Maker 40th Grand Final held tonight in Toyota Park.

Blake’s performance received high praise from the judging panel, to win the prestigious title, for his first song If You Wanna Get to Heaven written by Mountain Daredevils and second song, Blake’s own original, Worth a Little More.

Blake competed against nine other finalists including 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.

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, Blake scored a gig as a wedding singer, so he wrote his first song for the occasion. And he 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.

Blake has opened the show for a number of big stars including Brooke and Adam Eckersley, Adam Brand, Russell Morris, Drew McAlister and the 2018 Toyota Star Maker winner Brad Cox.

Like many big stars before him, Blake has entered and won talent quests, busked on the streets of Tamworth, won the CCMA Junior National Talent Quest and received a scholarship to the CMAA Academy. In 2018 Blake released his debut, self-titled EP, which experienced excellent airplay and chart success.

Toyota Star Maker producer Barry Harley said: “Congratulations to Blake on winning the 2019 Toyota Star Maker title. 2019 is a very special year as we celebrate 40 years.

“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,” he said.

Last year’s winner Brad Cox, from Jindabyne, has had a stellar year putting 75,000km on his Toyota since winning in January 2018. 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 receives a prize package which includes the use of a new Toyota vehicle and a fuel card for 12 months, a return trip to Nashville for CMA Fest with Chris Watson travel and performance in the Aussie showcase. The winner will also perform at major festivals and events throughout Australia and this year, will perform in Manchester UK at the Buckle and Boots country music festival and join the artists line-up on Cruisin’ Country in October.

Blake will also perform at the 40 years of Star Maker concert alongside 27 former winners at 12noon on Wednesday 23 January at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre (TRECC).

The judges were Dan Biddle – Chairman of the CMAA and manager of The McClymonts, Adam Eckerlsley & Brooke McClymont and Fanny Lumsden; Roxanne Brown – industry influencer of 40 years and manager of Troy Cassar-Daley;  Jason Hodges -  TV presenter Better Homes & Gardens; Tom Inglis – industry influencer of 40 years and HSF Artist Services provider; Scott Lamond – ABC Saturday Night Country; Craig Power – The Pub Group Tamworth; Greg Shaw – artist manager (Keith Urban 1986-2000), and currently managing Brad Butcher, The Ayers Rockettes and SaltbushSix; and Justin Thomson – program and content director of KIX Country Radio Network.

Tamworth Regional Council acknowledges the Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi people, who are the Traditional Custodians of this land. We would like to pay respect to Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in and visiting our region.