Jared Porter will arrive at the 42nd Tamworth Country Music Festival this weekend as one of Australia’s most exciting emerging country music artists.

The 25-year-old is a finalist in the 2014 Toyota Star Maker — the national talent competition responsible for launching the careers of Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, James Blundell, Gina Jeffreys and Beccy Cole.

For the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith UniversityBachelor of Popular Music student, the opportunity has come at the perfect time.

“It’s such a huge opportunity and an incredible honour to be in the presence of Australia’s country music legends,” he says.

“Just to be a finalist in a competition of this calibre is in itself a solid stepping stone for a full-time career as a musician.”

First prize includes a recording contract, production of a video clip by an award-winning director, a trip to Nashville and performance at the annual CMA Global Artist Showcase, photography, an album launch, exposure in Australia’s monthly country music magazine Capital News, and the use of a new Toyota and fuel card for one year.

The competition heat will take place this Sunday 19 January with the Grand Final featuring Lee Kernaghan and Kaylee Bell set for Friday 24 January.

Jared says his love for music is deeply rooted in his family history.

“My father was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains and my mother is from the desert valley of Mesa Arizona, so that, coupled with my childhood in the small gold mining town of Grass Valley in the Sierra Mountains in northern California, had a profound impact on me,” he explains.

“Not long after I moved to Australia as a teenager, I had a serious rock climbing accident, which left me with a broken tailbone and a displaced disc in my back.

“I was suddenly faced with the reality that the sports, fishing, dirt bike riding and camping that I’d spent so many years focused on was no longer a viable option.

“As it turns out, this then became the point in my life where I started to take music more seriously and really focus my attention on the sounds I’d spent my childhood listening to.”

Despite a brief stint in a punk rock band, country music was well and truly in his heart and soul, becoming the driving force behind his study at the Queensland Conservatorium and the release of his first video clip in February last year.

Jared and his wife still have family ties across the USA – in Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado and Texas – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his long-term plans involve returning to the country of his birth to pursue life as a recording and touring artist.

But for now, the young artist has his sights firmly set on Australia’s country music capital, Tamworth, which will this weekend be home to more than 55,000 visitors.

Watch Jared’s video Under the Sun visit his website or follow him on facebook.