Back in December, we announced the fun news that Ram Trucks would be hosting its first-ever "Battle of the Bands" event--a competition designed to discover the next big thing in country music.
Hundreds of amateur country artists took on the challenge and entered the contest, uploading their music videos to Ram's Facebook page for folks to view and vote on. By mid-February, the top 10 vote-getters were identified, and these lucky musicians then went on to Round Two, where a panel of Ram judges selected the very best two vids out of the bunch.
I'm happy to introduce the fab finalists to all of you--they are Justine Blazer and the Natalie Turgeon Band. They'll be playing live at the Rodeo Austin this Sunday, March 20, before yet another panel of judges, who will determine the ultimate winner. (Oh, did I mention--I'm actually one of those judges? Well, hey, I am!)
I thought you'd like to get to know these talented finalists a little better, so I had them answer a few questions about their lives, music, influences, and favorite things. I'm also including each artist's winning video for you to check out...feel free to let me know what you think!
Our Country: Introduce yourself/your band. Where are you from? Where do you live? How did you get started in music? How long have you been playing?
Justine Blazer: I am from Canton, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. But I currently live in Clarkston, another suburb north of Detroit. I always knew I wanted to do music. I loved being on stage and performing. I started playing music when I was a young kid. I grew up surrounded by all types of music.
My mother owned a dance studio and a performing arts center for 12 years. I was in my first pageant at age 2.5. I started dance lessons when I was 3. When I was about 5 years old my family started to notice my ability to sing, so I started working with a private vocal coach. I started writing music and poetry at age 8. Shortly after that, I started learning the piano. I competed in talent competitions almost every weekend and I sang everywhere I could.
When I was 13, I recorded my first three-song country EP demo that was shopped around Nashville. After high school, I moved away to work at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. I sang and danced in the live shows. That was about the same time I started playing the guitar and working and writing my original music. When I was 19, I moved to New York City and studied out there. Then I started modeling for the Auto Shows, and traveled the country. I did that for five years.
After that, I transitioned into doing music full time and that's been what I have doing these last several years. I am a fulltime musician and touring artist.
OC: What are your favorite country artists/influences?
JB: I love Reba McEntire. I think she is so phenomenal. She has been in the business for many years now. She is constantly reinventing herself. I definitely emulate her career. I also like Patsy Cline, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and Martina McBride.
OC: What do you listen to besides country music?
JB: I listen to all kinds of music. My favorite rock artists are Nickelback and Kid Rock. I love Etta James and Herbie Hancock in the jazz world. I like pop singers such as Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna, and Celine Dion. I don't listen to much rap but I love Detroit's own Eminem.
OC: What band or artist (living or dead) would you most like to open up for on tour--or have open for you?
JB: So many to mention...I think I would have to go with Johnny Cash. He is such a legend and an icon. True country.
OC: What's your dream goal in five years? Ten years? Your ultimate goal as a musician?
JB: My goal is to just keep doing what I am doing, making music, staying healthy and being happy. Keep bringing joy to people through my music. However, I would eventually like become nationally--and hopefully one day, internationally--known. I would like to headline my own tour, have a song on the Billboard charts and give joy to others.
OC: What made you decide to join Ram's Battle of the Bands contest? Did anything in particular spark you to go for it?
JB: Something inside me told me to just enter this and hope for the best. I feel I have been doing to this for so long and working so hard. I would like to think this is "my time" to shine. The stars are lining up and things are in my favor. I am enjoying the ride.
OC: How did you feel when you discovered you were a finalist in the contest?
JB: I was ecstatic! I was jumping up and down, screaming, laughing and kind of crying all at the same time. Something I was NOT expecting but so happy I was chosen.
OC: What instruments do you play?
JB: I play the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, and the harmonica. I like to write songs mainly on my guitar but I have written many songs on the piano.
OC: Tell us something funny, crazy, unusual, or unique about yourself that will make Ram Country users never forget you.
JB: I love Chili's Restaurant. I could probably eat there every day. It's funny because we will tour all these awesome cities yet I somehow find a way to always eat at Chilis. It's kind of a joke with my entire band. We laugh about it because it's so silly. We went to the CMA Awards in Nashville this past fall and of all the places we could eat in Nashville, I wanted to eat at Chilis. I love their chips and salsa!
I'll be reporting next week with all the details on this event, including an interview with the ultimate winner--so be sure to come back for the news!
As always, be sure to:
- Justine Blazer