Hardcore reality addicts might remember that I was the official blogger for seasons 3 and 5 of the country music talent competition Nashville Star (see my season 5 blogs HERE). Some readers didn't dig my typically outspoken opinions all that much (one even went to the effort to create the messageboard alias "lyndseyparkersux"...which I of course took as the ultimate compliment). But oh well. The show is back, and so am I. And hopefully we're both better than ever!
Yes, Nashville Star is returning for a sixth season on Monday, June 9. And it is new and--from what I've witnessed so far--improved. First, it's moving from the USA Network to NBC, which means a whole lot more viewers--many of whom are still seeking to fill the gaping void in their hearts and DVR hard-drives recently vacated by American Idol--are going to watch it this time around. Second, the competition has opened up to include not just the expected hat acts but also duos, trios, rock/gospel/soul/country hybrids, et al. And finally, the show has recruited a new host-with-the-most, Billy Ray Cyrus, and three new unapolgetically, delightfully mouthy celebrity judges: Big & Rich's furcoated MuzikMafioso John Rich, recent folkie-turned-country-diva Jewel, and midas-touched songwriter Jeffrey Steele.
So this week I hightailed it over to Nashville for the pre-taped season 6 premiere. There, I got to spend some quality time with the cast and in the process develop a new post-Idol obsession: By the end of my junket, I actually found myself on a bar stool at some downtown Nashville saloon on Broadway, slurrily arguing about the merits of each contestant and predicting who'll go home when the public vote begins next week.
That's the sign of a good show, dear readers: When people are already drinking and fighting over it before it's even aired. Set your TiVos now and you can join in on the debate when the show debuts on the 9th.
So anyway, I spent a great deal of time on the N-Star set this week, and I managed to get some awesome behind-the-scenes footage. There are plenty more clips to come, but in the countdown to Monday's premiere I'll begin by airing my interviews with Billy Ray and the judges; then in the next couple days I'll focus on the contestants and, in my true biased-blogger manner, on my favorite contestants. (Yes, I tend to pick my faves early...though of course, it's a blogger's prerogative to change her mind after future episodes.)
First up was my one-on-one with John Rich, who will not only serve as this season's center judge but will also ultimately produce the winner's album. That perhaps gives him more of a vested interest in the competition than the other two judges. And since many country fans disagreed with his controversial decision to name Julio Iglesias Jr. as the winner of his VH1 reality show, Gone Country, his credibility is especially on the line here. But the man behind "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" is one fearless mutha, so he freely invited me onto his tour bus to openly discuss his new judging role. Not only did he address the Gone Country controversy, but he made it abundantly clear that he'll always be straight-up and no-holds-barred on Nashville Star. However, he also made it clear that--because he's a Southern gentleman--he won't ever be as rude as Simon Cowell:
Next was Jewel, with whom I caught up while she was being prettified in her dressing room at the Acuff Theatre. Jewel co-hosted N-Star last season, and though she was supposed to be neutral, she got in the habit of sassing back to the season 5 judges whenever she disagreed with their critiques. Therefore it makes sense that now she's an actual judge, so she'll be free to spew her strong opinions and bicker with her fellow judges all she desires. Here she is talking about her career shift from hostess to judge, as well as her career shift to country music (John Rich just produced her first country album, Perfectly Clear):
Then I hopped onto another well-appointed tour bus, that of third judge Jeffrey Steele. Jeffrey's face isn't as famous as John's or Jewel's, but his words and music sure are: The guy's penned pretty much every gibungous hit for Rascal Flatts, for instance, as well as songs for Faith Hill, Montgomery Gentry, Trisha Yearwood, insert-A-lister-country-name here. And if Jeffrey has his way, he might be writing a few hits for the season 6 Nashville Star winner, too:
And finally, I visited Billy Ray Cyrus's dressing room, and he was every bit as charming and handsomely un-mulleted as I'd hoped. Here's a guy who's had a lot of ups and downs in his achy-breaky career, and now he's guiding his superstar daughter Miley through the same, so naturally he had some words of sage advice for this year's young Nashville Star hopefuls:
Come back in a couple days to get a sneak preview of those young hopefuls (and my personal picks) before the premiere...so you can start solidifying your own biased preshow opinions, too!