Rising country music star Tori Darke has quite a bit happening at the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival, including her one solo show, at West Tamworth Leagues Club on Tuesday, 21 January 2014. She is also a finalist in Toyota Star Maker.

I spoke to Tori about her Tamworth plans.

Tori, I’m surprised you entered Star Maker – you’re quite established, you’ve been playing for a few years, you have an album out. Why did you enter?
 I entered when I was a lot younger, when I was 18 and 19. A lot of thought went into me entering Star Maker this year – I thought, Do I do it? Don’t I do it? I really took a lot of time to think about whether I was doing the right thing and doing something that would be beneficial as well. The main reason for me entering Toyota Star Maker is that, even with having several conversations with the organisers of it, ‘Do you think it would be a good idea for me to enter? Do you see any reason why I shouldn’t?’ I’ve had so much support from Rural Press and all the organisers of Star Maker with me deciding to enter again. I really made this decision because when I was 18 and 19 entering Star Maker, I was the new kid on the block, I was fresh out of Country Music College, and I was really just making a start in country music. At that point in my life if I had won Star Maker, I don’t really think I would have been able to use it to my best advantage and to use all the amazing tools and opportunities get from it. Now being a few years older and having done everything that I’ve done, I really saw it as an opportunity to take all of my experience and everything I’ve learnt and put it into something good. If I was to do well with Toyota Star Maker then I’d know exactly how to work it and exactly how to get out there and start making an even bigger career in country music.
You’ve already been to Nashville and written some songs there. A lot of people would think that that’s great in terms of using industry contacts. What does Star Maker offer beyond that?
The opportunities are so amazing with Star Maker – you get to record a full album with a renowned producer and playing at all the different festivals throughout Australia in 2014 and 2015. I guess in a little bit of a way it is [about] all the people you meet through Star Maker but it was really a decision just for me to stay that I’m ready to do something like Star Maker, whereas a few years back maybe I just was too young.
You’re still young but also more experienced. If you’d won it when you’re a teenager, the amount of attention can come from that and also winning it at that early stage could have sent you in a direction that you didn’t end up wanting, but now it seems that you know what you want and this is a way to help you get it.
Exactly. Now I look at it and think if I was to do well with Star Maker I’d know exactly where I’m going, I’d know exactly how to approach everything that I’d be heading towards.
I have to say, though, Tori, having seen you perform, if I were the other finalists I’d be a little bit nervous.
Oh, no, don’t be silly! [laughs]
You have your own show coming up on the 21st of January during the festival, and the final is on the 19th – will you feel different about playing that final than playing your own show? Will you be more nervous? Less?
I’ll probably feel the same way about both. I know when I did my own show in 2013 I was shaking in my boots until the moment I went on stage and for the first few songs I was still a little bit jittery because it was my first ever ticketed show and for me it was a really big step and I was really worried about how it would go or whether people would turn up. I just didn’t know what was going on. And the fact that I had a sold-out show was amazing and I was absolutely so stoked with how my show went and how it all turned out. So to have that experience it made me even more excited to go back and do it all again and hope for the best.
Do you have the same band for your 2014 gig?
Yes, I have all the same band bar one. Unfortunately my bass player has another gig on that he’d already said ‘yes’ to. So I have a different bass player and he’s a wonderful bass player, so I’m really looking forward to him becoming part of the band this year.
Do you go to Tamworth ahead of time to rehearse there?
Funnily enough, two of the boys in my band are Queensland based. So when we get to Tamworth we just go to one of our houses and hang out and have an acoustic jam to make sure we have the flow going right and what song’s going into what – just to work it all out for us.
 I read that you’re planning to play some new songs at the show because you have about 30 songs for your new album and you’re trying to work out which ones to record.
There’s going to be quite a bit of new material played this year and I just hope that everyone enjoys it. I’m thinking of what ways I can get the view of the crowd who are there as to what songs they do like. Maybe if I give them all a marking sheet or something as they walk in, and they can give a little tick and let me know which songs they like and which songs they don’t. Choosing songs for a new album is always very difficult and as an artist you fall in love with so many of your own songs and then it’s like they’re all your babies and you don’t know what to do with them.
With that many songs you could always keep the ones left over for the album after that and save yourself some work.
That’s exactly right. I still have some left over from my first album so there’s still some to choose from there as well.
Do you get to see other people play at the festival?
I really hope so. Tamworth for me is really great for catching up with your mates who you may not have seen all year. You may have spoken to them but just not caught up in person. And it’s honestly one of the hardest things when you work in country music and you’re all in the one place at the one time and you think you will be able to catch up but it’s so difficult. Having just the one show and StarMaker this festival, I really hope I can get around and see my friends play.
It sounds like next year you have things to do, regardless of what happens with StarMaker.
Whatever happens I’m just honoured to be part of such a prestigious competition within the country music industry.