Last week, we introduced you all to the brand-new singing competition show, CMT's Next Superstar. Hopefully you've had a chance to see the program and get familiar with the contestants--because every week right here in Our Country, we'll be featuring an exclusive interview with the eliminated competitor from each episode. All the way down to number one...the Next Superstar!
Last Friday's segment really threw the nine remaining challengers for a loop. As the producers of the show promised, this series is not meant to be an ordinary talent contest--it's a real exercise in everything an artist needs to become a star. And, this episode, the hopeful stars learned that plain old luck is sometimes a pretty big (and not necessarily fair) element in reaching the top.
The challenge this week was surprising: The contestants were sorted into three groups of three, and told they would perform as a trio the following day. After rehearsing two songs overnight--and unanimously expecting to deliver their tunes in a regular stage environment--the group was shocked to learn they were going to have to busk on the streets of downtown Nashville. The trio who received the least amount of tips from passers-by would be forced to "sing for survival," with one contestant--of course--eliminated for good.
That's where the hard-luck lesson came in. Because, anyone who's performed for tips knows that a lot of elements besides talent can contribute to how much money is earned.
And, in this particular case, a fan favorite--who was lauded by the judges in the debut episode--went home. It was Matt Dame, who sang a soulful Ronnie Milsap tune for survival, but lost out to his fellow trio members Adrienne Beasley and Courtney Cole.
The 37-year-old Dame--a cop-turned-studio-musician, as well as devoted husband and dad--was admirably composed and gracious upon receiving his elimination. Fans have spoken out online about how outraged they are he was dropped. We sat down with Dame and learned a little more about what actually went on that particular day.
Our Country: Did you feel the busking challenge was reasonable? It seems a bit unfair that a challenge should rely so much on luck, rather than talent. But, then again, luck plays a big part in many cases of fame.
Matt Dame: I understand that they're looking for more than just someone who can sing or write. I totally agree with that.
OC: So, you were standing out on the streets for a full hour, performing? What other songs did you bust out besidest the two songs you were given? (Hank Williams's "Honky Tonkin'" and Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man.")
MD: We had one hour to peform, and we only could perform those two songs for an hour. It was quite a challenge, trying to maintain the energy to perform those songs over and over and over.
OC: Oh, man. The show didn't make it clear that you only could do those two songs. I thought you got to do whatever you wanted in addition to the rehearsed numbers.
MD: It would have been awesome if we could have done other stuff, but we could only do those two songs.
OC: No wonder Courtney suggested that you and Adrienne do a little breakdancing. Hey, did you actually breakdance?
MD: (Laughs) No. I don't know why Courtney said that. I'm the old bearded guy, not as old as Wynn (laughs) but close. It was a little awkward!
OC: Why did you choose Ronnie Milsap's "Stranger In My House" as your "Sing For Survival" song?
MD: I've played that song as long as I've had a band, and it's one of my favorite songs to sing. I love it. It was an easy choice for me; it was the first thing that popped into my head.
OC: Guest-star judge Trace Adkins was disappointed you didn't hit the high note in that song. That seemed to be his main beef with your otherwise solid performance.
MD: You know, it's funny. When I perform that song with a band, and I don't have to cut it down to a minute--we had to cut the song down to one minute--I always do what he asked me to do. I don't want to mess with something that great, and I don't change it a lot. And I guess when I cut it down to a minute, I just totally forgot. I was like, whoa, I'm already at the end!
So when [Trace] said what he said about that note, I had an "oh crap" moment. Shoot! Lesson learned! I guess it was a lack of preparation, you could say. But at the same time, you don't have to do something just like Ronnie Milsap does it.
OC: Were you upset by Adkins's critique?
MD: Trace is just blunt. He's gonna tell it the way it is. I'm cool with that; I'd rather have somebody do that than beat around a bush.
OC: When you and Adrienne were called in, and it was announced you were going home, you handled it with unbelievable composure. Were you feeling less gracious inside?
MD: Obviously, I don't like to lose, and I didn't want to go home that early in the competition. I would have liked to go further along, but at the same time, I've gotten a lot of good feedback out of the controversy of me leaving so early. I was genuinely gracious and I really, really like Adrienne a lot. She's so young and it means so much to her.
OC: It seems that fans are really speaking out online on your behalf. Lots of people are commenting that your dismissal was a raw deal.
MD: The cool part is, I understand people that are my friends defending me. Even if I were singing against Ronnie Milsap himself, they'd be defending me! But to see people that I don't know, never heard of them, and they're randomly coming to me and saying "Hey, I thought [your elimination] was crap..."
I think because of the way it happened, I've met a lot of people--on my ReverbNation, and my Facebook, and all that. A lot of people were like "Oh my gosh, I'm so pissed that you were kicked off. I want to be your fan and buy your CD." Most people have commented, "Wow, what a classy guy, you handled that with grace."
OC: What's the best part of your whole experience on the show?
MD: My parents and my grandparents all called me and said, "You made me proud." That's what I want people to know about me. Not that I'm a great singer or musician, but that I'm a genuine person--a family man first and foremost. My job was done when everyone reacted the way they did.
Be sure to watch the next episode on Friday, April 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. And come back next week--I'll have an interview with the next eliminated contestant!
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