Judges and audiences have decided the final four of this year’s Star Maker music competition at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Tamworth’s Town Hall has been packed with the friends, family and fans of country music hopefuls for the final 10 round of the 2014 Star Maker awards.
And, to the surprise of organisers, the competition has attracted an international audience online.
Since it began in 1979, Star Maker has unveiled some of Australian country’s biggest stars, including Lee Kernaghan and Keith Urban.
This year, judges chose Damien Agius, Jared Porter, and Tori Darke to battle it out at the grand finale, while Johnny Taylor was the audience wild card.
It’s the second time organisers have allowed one of the grand finalists to be chosen via text-vote by the audience and online viewers.
But this year, general manager Barry Harley said staff were surprised to find people from Romania and Kenya streaming the round online.
“It was just extraordinary to see who was watching it at any one time,” he told AAP.
“You think … ‘what interest would they have in a competition in little old Tamworth?’.”
This is the third Star Maker for Darke and second for Taylor, who only started playing country music four years ago.
Both Porter and Agius are competition newcomers.
Eighteen-year-old Agius is the youngest competitor in the final four and drove more than 15 hours from North Eton in north Queensland for the event.
He told AAP he couldn’t believe he’d made it so far in the competition.
“This is what I’ve wanted since I was little,” he said.
“I almost fell over.
“It took me forever to get on stage because I thought ‘no, no you’ve read it wrong’.”
Tamworth’s Bicentennial Park will play host to the grande finale on January 24.
The winning competitor will receive a recording and distribution deal, album launch at the Gympie Muster and return tickets to Nashville.