Max Jackson wins Toyota Star Maker

Carrington, Newcastle singer-songwriter Max Jackson has been crowned 2022 Toyota Star Maker following her impressive performance at the 50th Toyota Country Music Festival, Tamworth.

Thousands of country music fans packed Toyota Park for the grand final event hosted by Ray McCoy, 88.9FM Tamworth content director. The 10 grand finalists Max, Billie-Jo Porter (Coffs Harbour), Brittany Elise (Boyne Island Qld), Charlie Fittler (Armidale), Clancy Pye (Orange), Heath Lancaster (Kempsey), Jade Gibson (Wangaratta), Jake Davey (Taree), Katie Jayne (Scone), and Loren Ryan (Tamworth), performed two songs each, backed by an A-grade band featuring Rod Motbey, Ian Lees, Glenn Wilson, Gary Day and musical director Sam Hawksley, who flew in from Nashville for the gig.

Following the postponement of Star Maker from January to April, the finalists had a greater opportunity to prepare for the event while gaining new followers and creating relationships.

When coming to their decision, the judges, Craig Power, Dan Biddle, Justin Thomson, Roxanne Brown, Tom Inglis and Cheryl Brown, considered the finalists’ entry, their individual interviews and their preparation before choosing the one they believed stood apart from all others.

Star Maker coordinator and judge Cheryl Brown admitted it was a particularly difficult year with all 10 finalists worthy of their place on stage.

The 42nd holder of the Star Maker title, Max impressed the judges with a captivating performance of her songs Life of the Party and Runnin’.

Max now takes over from singer-songwriter 2020 winner Sammy White, whose support by Toyota and Star Maker was extended by 12 months after COVID-19 cancelled the 2021 event.

Sammy was a finalist in New Talent of the Year at the 50th Golden Guitar Awards, taken out by country pop group Darlinghurst.

Sammy was unable to perform on the Star Maker stage but she sent a message from isolation.

Crowds were treated to a performance from 1997 Star Maker winner and 2022 Hands of Fame inductee, Lyn Bowtell.

Since her Star Maker victory, Lyn has won nine Golden Guitar Awards and released three solo albums along with several collaborative projects with Bella and BBU.

Toyota Star Maker producer Barry Harley was thrilled to offer Max his congratulations on her stunning performance and win.

“Star Maker has been a launch pad for some of Australia’s biggest country stars including Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole, Travis Collins, Sam McClymont, Lyn Bowtell, Kirsty Lee Akers, Blake O’Connor and Brad Cox and I have no doubt this is just the beginning for Max,” he said.

The 1982 Star Maker Lee Kernaghan also surprised fans with an exciting performance of two of his mega-hits, The Outback Club and Boys From The Bush.

Lee’s appearance marked 40 years since his impressive victory on the Star Maker stage and 30 since the release of his groundbreaking album, The Outback Club.

Barry presented Lee with a gift from Star Maker to acknowledge his four decades of continuous support of the competition, his nurturing of new talent and commitment to the Australian country music industry.

Lee recently released a milestone album The Very Best of Lee Kernaghan – Three Decades of Hits.

In presenting Max with her title, Toyota Australia Senior Manager of Marketing Integration, Tim Stuckey, said the performances on the night were a testament to the extraordinary talent rising through the ranks in Australian country music.

“For over two decades, Toyota Australia has proudly helped rising country music stars achieve their dreams and Max was truly a deserving winner of the 42nd Star Maker competition,” he said.

“We hope the prizes Max takes home will help enhance what is set to be an incredible career in music, and we wish her all the best for their career.”

Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the Tamworth Country Music Festival was considered one of the most unique events in the world.

“Every year this festival attracts Australia’s top country music talent and brings the city of Tamworth to life. Every year this festival acknowledges new and emerging talent and that’s what Star Maker is all about,” he said.

“The last two years has been tough, but incredibly tough for artists who haven’t been able to practise their craft in public.

I’m excited that festivals are back on, stages are being used and live music is once again at the forefront of our minds.

“Congratulations to all the finalists of 2022 Toyota Star Maker. The NSW Government is proud to support the Tamworth Country Music Festival via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.”

In addition to the title of Toyota Star Maker winner, Max receives a prize package which includes use of a new Toyota vehicle and fuel card, a trip to Nashville for the CMA Festival in June 2022 courtesy of Chris Watson Travel, a photo portfolio with Andrew Pearson Photography, a recording session and production of two professional video clips, plus the opportunity to perform at major festivals and events across Australia.