Meet The 2023 Toyota Star Maker Finalists

29 November 2022 | 2:52 pm | Mallory Arbour

The 2023 Toyota Star Maker finalists have been announced!

(Image: via Facebook)

More Sari Abbott More Sari Abbott

Helping to launch the careers of some of Australia’s best country stars, Toyota Star Maker is the nation’s longest running and most respected country music competitions. The winner will join the long list of country music royalty, including the likes of Keith Urban, James Blundell, Travis Collins, Beccy Cole, Kaylee Bell, Blake O’Connor, Sammy White, Rachael Fahim, Brad Cox and Lee Kernaghan.

The top ten will perform two songs each at the 2023 Star Maker Grand Final on the first weekend of the Toyota Country Music Festival Tamworth, in Toyota Park, as they vie for the prestigious title. The top ten sees artists from Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

The 2022 Toyota Star Maker top ten, in alphabetical order, are:

Claudia Tripp

Claudia Tripp wrote her first song at the age of seven in her hometown, Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. She began gigging around Perth aged 12, both acoustically and with bands, after teaching herself to play guitar.

Claudia’s catalogue of songs has been described as having ‘honest and powerful lyrics, where Nashville country sound meets LA pop hooks.’ Since the release of her 2017 debut EP, Fugitive, she has gone on to release six more singles. Her 2020 single Attention charted at #2 on the iTunes Country Chart and was nominated for WAM (Western Australian Music) ‘Country Song of the Year’. The single also reached an impressive #12 on the KIX Country Radio Chart following touring at Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Join our community with our FREE weekly newsletter

Now based in Perth, Claudia continues to go from strength to strength building a solid fanbase with her regular shows while being under the radar of industry tastemakers. I Only Miss You When I’m Drunk is her most recent fun country-pop embellished single. The bubble-gum pop production and honest lyrics make the song instantly catchy, with relatable post-breakup lyrics.


With a background in dance and musical theatre from the age of 4, Denvah began her love of music at a young age, listening to artists like Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Kasey Chambers. She began singing at age 13, after discovering Taylor Swift and later, Ed Sheeran. She admits, her love of Ed’s lyrics merged with her love of country have helped shape her sound.

In 2015, at the age of 15, Denvah began to gain experience in the local music scene, regularly performing at open mic nights. Three years later, she attended her first Tamworth Country Music Festival, the highlight of which was performing Sleep On It with Busby Marou at their sold out Longyard Hotel show, as well as winning the ‘One Hot Night’ battle of the bands competition.

In 2019, she recorded her self-penned debut EP Just the Beginning. Following her sold out launch concert, Denvah’s first two singles My Favourite and Do it Again, reach #6 and #7 respectively on the Australian Country Hottest 50 chart and both remained in the top ten for multiple weeks.

She has worked with, performed with, and supported artists such as Busby Marou, Troy Cassar-Daley, Brad Butcher, Felicity Urquhart, Melanie Dyer, Caitlyn Shadbolt, Fanny Lumsden and Shannon Noll, and played at various festivals and events including Tamworth Country Music Festival, One Hot Night, Legend and the Locals, Hats off to Country Festival, Country on Keppel, The Village Festival, Capricorn Food and Wine Festival and Rockhampton River Festival.

Emily Hatton

Seamlessly blending country and pop stylings, Emily Hatton is a dedicated songwriter with great emotional range. She crafts her music from places of strength to vulnerability, but all the time with heartfelt, true-to-life experiences, to complete the storytelling.

Her parents were an instrumental part of her creative upbringing and fostered a healthy love of music and performance from an early age. Emily’s first taste for performance came at 5 years old, when she developed a love of musical theatre and would perform on every stage she could get her feet on. Her vocal training began at the same time and continued throughout her high school years. By 19, Emily had self-taught the guitar and discovered a love for songwriting.

Her accolades include being named a 2021 Gympie Talent Search finalist, awarded TSA New Songwriter of the Year (2022), announced as a Top 40 finalist in this year’s Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition, as well as a semi-finalist in the 2020 International Songwriting Competition. Emily has also been awarded a scholarship to attend the CMAA Academy of Country Music, before a string of solo shows at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

In 2021, she released her debut self-titled EP, which hit #4 on the Country iTunes Chart. Over the course of releasing a string of singles including Make It Slow, Red Wine and Blue and What Country Means, her songs have accumulated over 100,000 organic streams across platforms.  

Finnian Johnson

Local to the Hunter Valley, Finnian Johnson is a singer-songwriter with a passion for country music and performing live. He first began performing at the age of 13, playing a regular set at a local pub. From this, Finnian got a taste of the music industry and knew that’s what he wanted to do with his life.

Over the past few years, Finnian has travelled the country to perform at numerous festivals including the Tamworth Country Music Festival and Gympie Music Muster, and to play alongside and support some amazing artists such as Ian Moss, Troy Cassar-Daley, Bill Chambers and Troy Kemp just to name a few.

Whilst Finnian is a gigging musician, he balances his career with a Bachelor of Music Degree at the University of Newcastle in hopes to further his connections and expand his knowledge for his passion in music. Earlier this year, Finnian competed on The Voice Australia in 2022 on team Jess Mauboy, where he beat out 2013 Toyota Star Maker Kaylee Bell during the battle rounds.

Jacob Vincent

Brisbane-based alt-country singer-songwriter, Jacob Vincent discovered his love of music at a young age, but he followed his love of swimming, competing in internationally World Junior Championships for Australia in Tokyo, Japan and Indianapolis, the United States.

The 23-year-old released his debut single Blackwood Road and debut EP, Cold & Blue, in 2020. Earlier this year, he was crowned the 2022 Toyota Best of the Buskers champion at the 50th Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Kiara Rodrigues

As well as building her music career, Kiara Rodrigues works as a Speech Pathologist. Born to immigrant parents of Indian heritage, she fell in love with country music when she moved to North Queensland at nine years old and has since emerged as one of the industry's rising stars.

Her career in country music, spanning 16 years, has seen her achieve the title of Triple World Champion (Country, Gospel, Rock) at the ‘World Championships of Performing Arts’ in Hollywood, Junior Aristocrat ‘Country Entertainer of the Year’ and the 2013 ‘Voice of Urban’. In 2019, she was recognised as a 5 X semi-finalist in the Tamworth Songwriters Association awards, her song Mr Vanity, earning her Comedy/Novelty ‘Song Of The Year’.

Additional career highlights include singing at the world famous ‘Tootsies’ in Nashville, singing the National Anthem at Broncos vs Cowboys NRL games, and graduating from the CMAA Senior Academy of Country Music. Kiara has performed with the likes of Beccy Cole, Melinda Schneider, Carter & Carter, Bill Chambers and Pete Denahy.

Kora Naughton

Kora Naughton taught herself to play guitar, write songs and sing after she was forced to give up her passion of cheerleading – a sport she had loved since she was 7 years old. It wasn’t, however, until Kora attended her first Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2017, where she busked for ten days, that she found a new passion and discovered that music was what she wanted to do in life.

Kora released her debut album Ride or Die the following year with producer, Rod Motbey. She followed it up with her 2021 album, Nineteen, which combines modern production values combined with traditional elements, along with a dash of swamp and some country blues.

The country-pop artist has opened shows for some of the greats in Australian Country Music including Travis Collins, Amber Lawrence, Tania Kernaghan, Christie Lamb, Catherine Britt and Hayley Jensen, and has performed alongside the likes of Bill Chambers and James Blundell.

Loren Ryan

Having shared the stage with Jessica Mauboy and Kelly Rowland, Loren Ryan was known as an R&B artist before making the switch to country music. The First Nations singer-songwriter, proudly from the Gamilaraay Nation, writes original songs and translates well known Australian songs into her traditional language. She achieved her first iTunes #1 single, Eventually.

Her latest album Songs for Charlie is a kids country music album that includes covers of her daughter’s favourites, as well as four original tracks. The album incorporates words and verses in the Gamilaraay language and the musical backing of the didgeridoo and clapsticks.

Hailing from Tamworth in north-west New South Wales, Loren was also a Toyota Star Maker Finalist in 2022. She recently teamed up with fellow 2022 finalist Billie-Jo Porter to write her brand-new single Bounce Back. The saucy track serves as a dopamine hit and confidence boost.

Robbie Mortimer

Robbie Mortimer is a wildly fun, infectious and captivating performer, and is fast becoming one of our shining talents in the Australian country music scene. Robbie’s unique style and sound can be attributed back to several different periods of his upbringing. 

He took his first guitar lesson at 9, performed at a school talent show in Year 5 and experimented with different sounds during his school years. His parents love for quality song writing has led to him being a natural storyteller.

Robbie’s recent album 200 Years Too Late (2021) gained a spot in the Top 10 of the Australian iTunes Music Charts. It follows the release of his debut album The Fall Of March, launched in 2019. The original ten tracks showcase his personal reflections and thoughts on life, love and travel. Robbie has opened for several renowned artists including The Beach Boys, The Temptations, Thirsty Merc, Jon Stevens INXS/Noiseworks, and Eskimo Joe.

Sari Abbott

As well as being a top 10 finalist in both the 2019 and 2022 Gympie Music Muster Talent Search, Sari Abbott was also runner up in the Tamworth Songwriter Association Talent Search 2020/2021 and a top 100 finalist in the International Songwriting Competition 2021.

She has performed at Caloundra Music Festival, Byron Bay BluesFest, Gympie Music Muster, and Tamworth Country Music Festival and gigs regularly around the Sunshine Coast.

Sari unapologetically stands on her own two feet, letting her vocals tell her truths through music. Telling stories her own way, Sari is working with other strong female and male artists to create music, promoting self-discovery and independence.

The CCMA Junior Academy Graduate 2021 hopes her latest single Too Much Space, which peaked at #11 on the iTunes Country Songs Chart, will encourage people to reconnect as life returns to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toyota Star Maker Grand Final begins at 7pm on Sunday, January 15, 2023, at the city’s largest outdoor venue – Toyota Park. Max Jackson will be performing for the last time in her reign as the 2022 Toyota Star Maker with special guest 2013 winner Kaylee Bell.

The illustrious panel of judges include Dan Biddle, Chugg Music Country special projects manager; Justin Thomson, KIX Country program director and The Pub Group’s Craig Power, together with Star Maker manager Cheryl Brown and publicist Tom Inglis.

Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer Vin Naidoo says, “The Toyota Star Maker is widely known as a platform for country music artists looking to take the next step in their career, and we are proud to support the winner with an extensive prize package that will help fast-track them in hopefully becoming the next country music star both in Australia and internationally. We look forward to celebrating the remarkable young country musicians and wish all the finalists the best of luck with their performances at the grand final concert.”


For further information on the Toyota Star Maker competition visit