Talent Search

Area singers to compete
in national contest

Texaco Country Showdown
former contestants share advice
for area newcomers

(June 13) – At age 15, D.J. Adkins of Aurora, Ind., knew he wanted to do one thing – sing. After competing in multiple competitions through school, he heard of the Texaco Country Showdown and decided to give it a shot. Adkins won the local contest in 2011 and headed to the state competition at the Indiana State Fair. Though losing at the state level, Adkins’ participation launched an amazing career.

Jordan Bales

File photo provided

Jordan Bales, last year’s regional qualifier, says the contest gives amateur singers a chance to perform in front of large crowds, which he calls great experience.

Two years later, he lives in Nashville, Tenn., where he writes songs for Taylor Swift’s label while advancing his own singing. The Showdown competition started it all. 
Aspiring musicians, it’s time to dust off your guitar or background CD and head to the Showdown – the nation’s longest-running country music talent search. Participants begin competing at the local level, with more than 450 local competitions nationwide. Local winners advance to state then regional competitions. Winners of regional contests compete in front of both a live and television audience for the National Final with a $100,000 grand prize and title of Best New Country Artists. Past contestants include Billy Ray Cyrus, Garth Brooks and LeAnn Rimes.
WIKI 95.3 FM radio station, along with a variety of local businesses, sponsors three local qualifying rounds. Winners of those rounds compete in a final competition to be held during the Madison Regatta weekend.
Kristin Clevenger, WIKI marketing specialist, invites any and all to come to compete or to cheer the contestants. “If you love singing, you should come give it a shot,” she says. “Even if you just come to watch, you’ll hear some great music.”
Those interested in competing can find applications at WIKI office on the Madison hilltop, the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce office at 101 E. Main St., the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center at 601 W. First St., or any of the sponsoring businesses. Entry fee is $20. Individuals can compete only once in any local competition but can go to as many local competitions as they desire until they win.
“We have people who come from all over Indiana to compete here because they like our approach,” says Clevenger. “Most local competitions choose winners from demo tapes. Our live competition mirrors the national finals and gives contestants a chance to connect personally with the judges and audience. It makes for a great show.”
Local qualifiers will take place June 8 at Gold Star Chili and George’s Pharmacy in Versailles, Ind., and June 22 at Chandler Select Chevrolet in Madison. (The first qualifier was held at Flooring Gallery in Madison on May 25.)
Clevenger reminds contestants that they must provide their own music. “You can play your own guitar, have a back-up band or bring a CD, but you have to provide your own music. The radio station doesn’t offer any music for contestants.”
Competitions take place rain or shine, so contestants should prepare for any kind of weather. “We try to make accommodations,” says Clevenger, “but we can’t postpone. So the competition will go forward no matter the weather.”
Last year’s winner, Jordan Bales of Pendleton, Ky., urges others to take part. “The competition gave me some great experience singing in front of a crowd larger than I was used to and provided contacts for more bookings. Plus, I was able to sell some of my CDs to those in the audience,” says Bales.
He has continued his musical career as lead singer for the Jordan Bales Band, which includes Scott Mitchell on lead guitar, Todd Moore playing bass, Sean Brooks as drummer, and Moriah Bales singing back-up.
Bales prime advice to contestants: “Pick good songs; if you have original music, play that. And stay under the time limit.”
Clevenger echoes the advice for original material noting that judging is based on marketability, vocal and musical ability, originality, stage presence and charisma, and talent. “The further you get into the contest, the more original music counts,” says Bales.
Bales also urges contestants to simply enjoy the competition. “Everybody goes in wanting to win, but it’s better to go in just wanting to have fun. If you don’t get any further, that’s OK. You will have learned something and gained some experience.”
Bales increasing experience gave him the courage to take a chance recently, and he scored big. Bales was attending an autograph signing by country legend George Jones – one of Bales’ favorite singers – at Kinman Chevrolet in Carrollton, Ky. The line was long, so Bales and his friends, Rozlyn Turner and Jamie Tingle, who had brought their instruments along, began playing and singing for others in the line. The organizer of the event told Jones, who invited the group to come to him.
They spent the rest of the day singing country classics next to Jones as the line moved by. “We were singing George Jones to George Jones. It was amazing. Every so often he would look over and give a thumbs up,” says Bales. “He passed away not long after that, so it was a chance of a lifetime.”
Jones, who was a close friend of car dealership owner Herb Kinman, died April 26 at age 81.
Both Adkins and Bales’ experiences demonstrate that contestants don’t need to go all the way to benefit from competing in the Showdown. “If you go at it as doing what you love, you can be happy with whatever happens,” says Bales.
Clevenger said she hopes those interested will take Bales’ advice to heart and come out to compete. She notes there is a separate competition for songwriters.

• For more information on both contests, visit: www.CountryShowdown.com.

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