Toyota Star Maker winner Luke Austen.
Toyota Star Maker winner Luke Austen.

Determined Luke wins Star Maker

FORMER South Graftonian Luke Austen was braving a media storm, greeting adoring fans in the streets of Tamworth and eating on the run yesterday following his Toyota Star Maker win on Sunday night.

“I haven’t had time to scratch myself,” said the personable 27-year-old.

The win puts him in a highly esteemed category of Australian country music icons such as Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Gina Jeffreys and James Blundell who were all launched to success via Star Maker.

Luke was the judges’ number one choice from a pool of 19 finalists and six grand finalists who each performed at the event.

Luke’s first public performance was a cameo appearance at the tender age of four at the Grafton District Services Club with The Country Rebels – a band which his father Whayne played with at the time.

“I sung the Slim Dusty song G’day G’day ... I’m not sure if my microphone was even on,” Luke said.

Whayne started teaching his musical son guitar from the age of six and as a teenager, Luke joined the family’s band The Outlaws alongside his dad, his elder sister Tanya and a friend Steven Lind.

Luke’s mum Debbie, and Whayne, both still live in South Grafton.

“There was always country music in my family ... I was brought up around it,” he said.

Luke completed his high schooling in Mackay, Queensland which is where he played his first paid show at Walkers Market at the age of 14.

Luke moved to the Brisbane area five years ago to keep up with touring demands in his position as bass player for Troy Cassar-Daley’s band.

In 2000 and 2004 he completed four tours of Australia with legendary bush balladeer Brian Young. He lists both Brian and Troy as major influences, mentors and inspirations in his life.

Though Brian is too sick with emphysema to tour much any more, Luke said the highly regarded entertainer taught him about true showmanship.

“Today I’ve had a taste of what Troy does everyday ... we go on tour and say ‘where’s Troy?’ and he’s been up since 5.30am doing promo work to get more people to the show and, of course musically, he’s been a major influence.”

Luke estimated, based on discussions with industry experts, that the Star Maker win, though not a guarantee of success, would propel his career by four years overnight.

The prize package includes, among other things, a recording contract with Compass Brothers records, a big budget recording session with a major producer, the use of a vehicle, including fuel, for a year and a Maton guitar.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be awarded a prize that has started the careers of some of the biggest names in country music. It’s a huge opportunity and I intend to make the most of it,” he said.

All 19 finalists were joined at the event by 2009 Toyota Star Maker winner Liam Brew, who has been nominated for a Golden Guitar.

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