It's starting to get down to the wire on CMT's Next Superstar. With only half of the original 10 hopefuls still in the game, the series took a turn toward the practicalities of being a professional superstar--and for the most recent episode, that meant the contestants had to examine their physical image from head to toe.
At first, this seemed pretty fun. Everyone was taken to what could arguably be called the epicenter of image--Elvis Presley's home, Graceland, in Memphis--and given a good spit-and-polish by a team of expert stylists.
Hair was done, costumes chosen, makeup applied. Then, the contestants were posed around Graceland for a professional photo shoot. Following this, they were allowed into the legendary Sun Studios to choose, cover, and record a song from the Sun catalog.
Now, I don't know about you, but all this sounds pretty fun to me--clothes! Photos! Recording where Elvis and Cash once recorded! However, there was an ulterior motive to all this glitz and glam. The five hopefuls quickly realized they had to use their photos and music to sell themselves to a real record-label team: The staff at Warner Music Nashville. Everyone--and that means everyone, from the security guard to label head--had to be wooed. The staff ultimately voted on who had the most potential, with the bottom two again having to "sing for survival."
This week, the jokester of the group, Wynn Varble, was pitted against sweet-natured girl-next-door Courtney Cole. Cole gave a soaring rendition of Martina McBride's "Anyway," but unfortunately was the one who had to go home, to much sadness from her remaining four cohorts. Varble said on air that he'd gladly have given up his spot for her.
When I spoke with Cole this week, however, she sounded bright and cheerful--it's clear her peppy personality on the show was no put-on. Right now, she's working in Nashville for label Black River Entertainment, and is a staff writer for Black River Publishing, so her music career isn't in any danger of stagnation. In fact, the 24-year-old told me enthusiastically, "tell everyone they're going to hear from Courtney Cole!"
I have no doubts! Here's a bit more of what she had to say about her experience on the show.
Our Country: You got to visit two huge American landmarks on the last episode. Which was personally more moving for you--Sun Studios, or Graceland?
Courtney Cole: I think Sun Studios hands down. Graceland was amazing, because that was where Elvis lived, but there's something about the history of Sun Studios...just knowing that Johnny Cash and Elvis and everybody we look up to these days stood there and recorded their songs. A surreal experience. It's haunting, almost.
OC: The makeover challenge may not have been the male contestants' favorite day on the show, but I bet you girls loved it.
CC: Yeah, me and Danielle loved every minute of it! It was perfect. We got to have our makeup done, hair colored, whatever. We got to go into a really great store and pick whatever we wanted--whatever we thought would look good for the photo shoot. I was in heaven. I could do that every day!
OC: Did you get to choose your own locale at Graceland for the photo shoot?
CC: Yeah, we got to pick out. I wanted the front gates because I thought it would really cool with my dress--you know, having the music notes in the background. I thought it would be a little sassy and urban.
OC: The photographer seemed...well...a bit annoying. Was he hamming it up for the camera, or was he really like that?
CC: (Laughs) I think he took some people by surprise, especially Wynn. I thought he was hilarious. He was actually really like that. Just very artsy. He wanted to get the best results...and if that takes saying "Courtney, look like you're waiting for an alien spaceship coming down," that's what it took for him!
OC: I thought when you were presented with your album covers, made by the WB art staff, that was probably one of the coolest moments on the entire show to date.
CC: I was so pleased with my cover, because it was colorful and classic in my opinion. The only thing was that I thought my picture looked mean (laughs).
OC: The marketing/branding executive was a little disparaging about it, however...
CC: She thought that I was too pale, and that my face was too somber--she had everything to say about it. But I was really pleased with it.
OC: Was it intimidating having to go into Warner Music Nashville and interact with a bunch of execs? Or not as hard as it looks?
CC: I work at a music company so I get to interact with those people on a daily basis. But of course, I'm working there, so I'm coming at it from a different perspective. Being the artist and actually going in and promoting myself is completely different and really intimidating.
OC: The top guy at the label, John Esposito, seemed really nice and down to earth.
CC: He had a great personality and just a way of making you feel really comfortable. I really appreciated that about him.
OC: You've come fairly far in the show and have quite a few experiences under your belt now. Which would you say was the most difficult challenge on the show for you? Your favorite?
CC: The hardest challenge, I guess, would have to be the biker bar. Just because I didn't know what to expect and I didn't think anyone was going to like me. Which was really cool because I proved myself wrong! I got out of my comfort zone and did something different. But my favorite episode was probably Fort Campbell. That was amazing. And getting my makeover!
Don't forget--I'll have an exclusive interview with the next eliminated hopeful next week!
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