Tamworth local and Gomeroi woman Loren Ryan has been crowned the 43rd Toyota Star Maker winner at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Huge crowds of country music fans gathered in Toyota Park for the Grand Final, hosted by Ray McCoy, which saw 10 grand finalists perform two songs each. Loren won the talent quest after her outstanding performance of ‘Bounce Back’ and ‘Suddenly’ in the Grand Final.
In a gorgeous moment showing how beautiful the TCMF community is, Loren burst into tears at the announcement that she was the winner, and last year’s winner Max Jackson ran to get her some tissues.
In accepting her award, Loren said she was so proud to accept the award as a First Nation’s person.
“I’ve watched this competition for so many years and envisaged myself being on this stage.”
“This isn’t just for me, this to show all the young black kids aspiring to play music and to move within this industry, especially the country music industry.”
“I’ve got the door open and I’m going to hold it open for you.”
The single mum also thanked her parents for looking after her daughter and enabling her to pursue her dreams, and said her daughter was the main reason she wanted to win.
Ryan was also a finalist in 2022, performing her cover of Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees which she translated into Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi) language.
Each year, the competition helps unearth talented new artists, including 2022 winner Max Jackson from Coonamble, who hit the stage for a gala performance and is also nominated for New Talent of the Year category at this year’s Golden Guitar Awards. Former winners include Keith Urban, Gina Jeffreys, Sam McClymont, James Blundell and Lee Kernaghan.
Loren took home a prize package worth more than $100,000 including the use of a fully serviced Toyota vehicle for a year including fuel, return air flights including accommodation to Nashville in the US to attend the CMA (Country Music Association) Fest and recording and promotion of a four-track EP.
Star Maker coordinator and judge, Cheryl Brown said the judges had a difficult time coming to a final decision.
“We were amazed at the social and musical diversity amongst the finalists. Max Jackson’s past eight months has been really rewarding and we look forward to making the year ahead just as memorable for Loren.”