THE next three young artists chasing dreams of a full-time country music career will vie for the Toyota Star Maker crown on Friday night, following the final on Sunday.
Gretta Ziller, Dana Hassall and Mickey Pye have a week of anxious waiting ahead of them as they prepare for Australian country music’s longest running and most prestigious talent quest.
With artists of the calibre of James Blundell, Beccy Cole, Lee Kernaghan and Keith Urban among the list of winners, the competition means a headstart for those who win.
The three young artists fought off tough competition from seven other talented young singers in the final and, after much deliberation by the judges, said they were surprised when their names were read out as grand finalists.
“I was totally shocked,” Ziller said.
“It was a really pleasant surprise.”
Hassall said she was really hoping to hear her name, so was relieved when it came, while Pye said he felt a bit guilty to be announced a grand finalist.
“I felt like being a grand finalist meant someone else was missing out,” Pye said.
Pye is a second-time finalist in Star Maker, but said his style of country was more accepted now.
“The biggest things that have changed since 2010 is the music,” he said.
He said pop and rock country could now do well, whereas it wasn’t as popular five years ago.
All three grand finalists said they wanted to make a living for themselves from country music and all had planned for this moment for years, so were ready to embrace the opportunities the competition gave them.
“I’ve planned for this for three to four years to end up here,” Ziller said.
“I recorded an EP last year because I wanted to make sure I had something released before Star Maker and it was all in my grand plan to be here.”
Pye said not winning in 2010 was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“For me, it was like a lesson,” he said.
“I started a business and tried to get into the scene the musician’s way, by playing for other artists.”
This week they will mix their pre-arranged shows with Star Maker commitments and said they were just taking it all as it came to prepare for the grand final.
The Star Maker crown comes with prizes including the use of a new Toyota vehicle and fuel card for 12 months, performance opportunities in the US and Australia and an album recording with the full prize worth more than $100,000.