Eleven were expected, nine showed but this year not one but two walked away with the coveted Nashville Lights opening slot.
Alvarado’s own Brittany Oviedo and Fort Worth musician Kiefer Detrick will split stage time come Oct. 17 when Nashville Lights returns to the Cleburne Conference Center, an annual concert bringing country’s cream-of-the-crop singer/songwriters from Texas and Nashville.
Nashville Lights, now entering its seventh year, raises funds for the Cleburne Education Foundation, which in turn supports Cleburne ISD teachers and students.
Event organizer Peter Svendsen, who spent more than 40 years in the music industry, picked the opener for the first four Nashville Lights, pegging local unknowns or little knowns with the chops and potential to soar.
Three years ago, however, organizers decided to mix it up sounding a clarion call for local talent and hosting an “American Idol” styled judging event to highlight local music and pick one lucky designee to kick out the Nashville Lights jams. About 100 attended Tuesday’s tryouts at Plaza Theatre Dudley Hall. As in past years, each contestant performed two original songs.
The judge’s Tuesday night decision marks the first time two winners were chosen.
Oviedo performed “Love Her Like You Love Me,” which she described as a “broken-hearted, good old country song,” and another number inspired by her father commenting on her penchant of leaving empty water bottles laying about.
Detrick said his ode to running away and leaving it all behind, “California,” dates to back in the day inspired by the “daydreaming stuff young people tend to do.”
Oviedo expressed shock over her win.
“There was so much talent here tonight I really didn’t think I had a chance,” Oviedo said. “But I’m so excited and I feel really blessed right now.”
Detrick echoed Oviedo’s sentiments adding that he signed up for the tryout more to see what would happen than anything else.
“I came in with, if there’s an opposite of expectations, that’s what I came in with,” Detrick said. “I wasn’t even sure as far as what I was going to hear and what the music was going to be like tonight. I hadn’t heard of Nashville Lights until just recently but I’m looking forward to it and excited about it. If the music’s as good as what we heard tonight it’s going to be great.”
In addition to gigging around the state, Oviedo helped organized the popular Monday night come-one-come-all musical jam nights at Loaf’N Dog in downtown Cleburne.
“We need to get together before [Nashville Lights], maybe write some songs together,” Oviedo told Detrick after the tryout.
All nine contestants were mindful of and a couple mentioned Alvarado singer/songwriter Andrew Sevener who two years ago won the Nashville Lights opening slot. Sevener earlier this year went on to finish fourth on NBC’s “The Voice.”
Sevener served as one of the judges Tuesday night.
“Definitely more stressful being a judge rather than a musician,” Sevener said. “If you’re a musician you just have to go up there and play your music and whatever happens happens. But once you’re a judge you have to tell somebody no. I don’t really like the feeling.”
Sevener will take the stage during this year’s Nashville Lights as not the opener but among the state of Texas musicians.
Fellow judge Crystal Dudley described Tuesday’s tryouts as an abundance of great local music.
“It shows how much great talent we have in the area,” Dudley said. “Tonight was a lot of fun. Once again, it was a very tough decision to pick the winners but I think we made the right choice in the end.”
Cleburne Education Foundation Executive Director Paige Harris dubbed the night a resounding success.
“We had a lot of talent once again like we’ve had every year,” Harris said. “What I enjoy most is that, since singing and song writing is not my thing, I can just kick back and listen, and I was blown away by how talented everyone was this year.
“I think these tryouts are great for the musicians too. A lot of them play around the Metroplex but probably didn’t know about each other until tonight.”
The magic of Nashville Lights, Svendsen said, is that it allows songwriters who have penned huge hits for name artists to not only perform their own songs but also to tell the stories behind them.
The line up of Texas and Nashville singer/songwriters will be announced soon, Svendsen said.
For information, visit cleburneeducationfoundation/nashville-lights.