Vocal coach pegs 'Nashville Star' finalists
By CINDY WATTS • Staff Writer • August 4, 2008
And then there was one.
The season six finale of Nashville Star, NBC's fan-voted country music talent competition, will air at 9 tonight on WSMV-Channel 4. And one of the three remaining contestants — Gabe Garcia, Melissa Lawson or Shawn Mayer — will walk away with a Warner Bros. Nashville recording contract and the opportunity to perform at the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Perhaps no one has a better handle on who that winner might be than the guy who's spent the last nine weeks with the contestants, honing their skills: David Coury, Nashville Star's celebrity vocal coach.
Coury has worked with The Spice Girls, *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and lent his expertise to other reality shows including Making Menudo and TV Guide Network's Idol Tonight and Idol Wrap.
This kind of coaching, Coury said, is more challenging with some singers than others. But from the first time he watched the Star contestants on a DVD provided by the show, he predicted two of the top three finalists.
"I wrote it on a paper and folded it up," he said. "I knew they were it." The names on the paper: Melissa Lawson and Gabe Garcia.
Mayer hits stride
Coury's "thrill," though, has come from watching Mayer's progress.
From a town of about 45 in Iowa, 21-year-old Mayer has struggled with self-doubt throughout the series. She said she's getting better, and Coury's noted her blossoming poise.
"I was comparing myself to all those other people and was like, 'Man, they're so good. I'm not going to last very long,'" Mayer said. "Then every week I heard my name called, and it was very moving to me, knowing that people called and believed in me."
Garcia, whom Coury likens to Alan Jackson and George Strait, moved to Nashville from Lyle, Texas, in January to pursue country music, and tried out for the show in March during auditions at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
"It's been one of the most memorable things, and it's been a jump-start to my career," the 28-year-old said.
Lawson sees her Nashville Star experience as "the opportunity of a lifetime," and Coury pegs Lawson as "Trisha Yearwood meets Wynonna Judd," and the probable winner. He also figures her story — the 32-year-old mother of five has lost more than 70 pounds since the beginning of the year — is an inspiration to viewers.
"She might be the hardest person physically to market, which drives me insane because I think what's so marketable about her is that people think she isn't marketable," Coury said. "I think anyone who has had a dream and is not in their 20s anymore would find her very empowering."
For Coury, the most important thing isn't who wins the show but for at-home viewers to know that the show is real — no vocal tracks are used at all.
"I'm very proud that nothing is faked on this show," he said. "The singers have improved week to week even with their stumbles. On (other shows), the contestants' auditions are invariably their most interesting work because they are hungry and they haven't been touched by the show. On Nashville Star the emphasis is on the work and the story they're telling. That's what Nashville is all about."