'Nashville Star' tryouts attract 6,000 hopefuls
Most days, people show up in Music City with a dream and a guitar.
On Friday, more than 6,000 performers packed up their instruments and headed to Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to try out for season six of Nashville Star, a televised country music talent search.
Music City drew the most in-person auditions of all the tryout sites, which included Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles; second was Austin, Texas, with about 4,000 people. In all, more than 30,000 people will try out for the show by the end of auditions, including video submissions.
"It's a shot at what I want," Abigail Mitchell, 20, of Covington, Ga., said on Friday. "I've wanted to sing since I was 4, and any opportunity you get to break into the (country music) industry, you have to take it no matter what it costs you."
If there were ever a year to brave the line, producers said, this is it.
Winner gets record deal
Past installments of Nashville Star were broadcast live from the Roy Acuff Theater on cable's USA Network, but this year, major network NBC will air the program from Nashville starting June 9.
The winner will receive a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records.
By noon Friday, some members of the crowd had already been in line for six hours. People brought umbrellas and chairs to keep them comfortable while others slept on the pavement as they waited their turn in front of the judges, who included John Rich from Big & Rich, who will be a judge on the show, and Nashville Star co-executive producer Joel Zimmer.
"I don't care how long it takes, anyone in line by 6 p.m. gets to try out," Zimmer said. "We will sit here until tomorrow to audition people if we have to. The next Nashville Star could be out there. The amount of talent here is just insane. Some people might look at this line like a problem, but we look at it as an opportunity."
Duos, trios encouraged
Craig McCown, 42, from Seattle, hopes that opportunity will be his. McCown, who got in line at 6 a.m., said he is thinking about moving to Nashville to "get closer to the business," regardless of whether he makes it onto the show. To that end, he has already affiliated with performing rights organization BMI.
Twins Kristin and Cory Vesekla, 21, from Oak Creek, Wis., also have their fingers crossed for one of the 10 spots on Nashville Star.
In years past the girls would have been ineligible to try out together, but this year duos and trios are encouraged, and the sisters thought, "Why not?"
"We're making a trip out of it," Kristin said. "It was a nine-hour drive, so we're going to the Opry tomorrow night to see Loretta Lynn. This is something new for us."
Rich said he's excited to be involved in something that rallies country music fans and "takes country music to the next level."
In addition to judging and mentoring on the show, Rich will produce the winner and co-write the winner's single for radio.
"We know we have the fan base and that artists in this genre have staying power," Rich said. "And seeing 6,000 people standing in the sun with guitars says something about country music. This show is going to be a sledgehammer for country music. My goal was never to be a reality show guy, but we're going to find country music's next major star."