Blake O'Connor's friends at home might not understand his music taste, but the mates and fans the young country singer has made at Tamworth do.
O'Connor, who is this year's Toyota Star Maker award winner, has more than 30 gigs and appearances across the 10 days of the Tamworth Country Music Festival making this his biggest year yet.
"All my friends they don't really have a specific genre - some of them are stuck in the 80s, the other ones are into hip hop and rap," the 17-year-old from Port Macquarie told AAP.
"So when I go over here and meet all my mates that are into country music - it's so great."
A name none of his friends can deny knowing is Australian megastar Lee Kernaghan, who O'Connor will join on stage for the 40th Anniversary of the Toyota Star Maker Award on Wednesday.
"When you walk past them in the street you are sort of a bit star struck because you've just grown up watching them on television and listening to their music," O'Connor said.
"It will be great to be in the line up next to him."
For Kernaghan, stepping on the Star Maker stage will mean going back to where it all began with his advice for O'Connor being to make every day count.
"The Star Maker truly launched my career and gave me so many opportunities to write, to record and then eventually take it out on the road," Kernaghan told AAP.
He said fellow past winner and international star Keith Urban was a testament to the spirit of the award as he returned to Tamworth to put on a show at the town hall for drought-stricken farmers on Tuesday.
"Tamworth gave Keith his start and he's never forgotten it," Kernaghan said.
Past winner singer-songwriter Beccy Cole remembers how ill she felt back stage on the year she won.
"When they said my name as a winner I had no idea I had not even any clue that I was even in the running for it. I thought I must I have been the weakest link," she said.
She said the award gave her the confidence boost she needed to pursue music as her path and realise her worth.
This humble attitude is shared by O'Connor, who described his win as a massive shock, but for musicians Brooke McClymont and her husband Adam Eckersley his win was no surprise.
"He's ready, he's incredible. He's such a nice, humble, young man," McClymont told AAP.
"He's well beyond his years. He can write songs, he can sing, he can play harmonica, guitar. He's just the whole package really. I'm even predicting a Golden Guitar for him next year."
O'Connor will join Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole and 25 other past winners on stage for the 40th Star Maker concert on Wednesday.
The festival runs until January 27, with the Golden Guitars taking place on Australia Day.
Australian Associated Press