Country Idol

By Desi Rubio, Jan. 1, 2015.

Country music fans looking to kick-off the New Year with a twang and a two-step are invited to attend and participate in the Country Idol, a karaoke Singing contest hosted by the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association (AGRA).

In its fifth year, this free community event encourages country music lovers of all styles to sing their favorite country tune or modern hit (with a country twist) for a chance to compete for a grand prize during the 30th Annual Road Runner Regional Rodeo.

“It is always awesome for community members to participate in something different,” said Helena Grayson, Country Idol coordinator. “It’s a fun way to promote the 30th anniversary of the rodeo and the money raised will be donated to local charities.”

Although the competition formally kicked off Dec. 15 at The Rock, where the first round saw nine contestants take the stage, event coordinators expect to see some exciting local talent showcased in the eight remaining preliminary competitions.

Country Idol is free and open to anyone who loves country music and contestants can choose to participate in auditions at any local bar on the upcoming schedule.

Contestants choose one or two songs from the venue’s karaoke catalog to perform in front of a three-judge panel. At the closing of the night, two winners will be selected from each venue and move onto the grand finale at the rodeo.

Judges will be selecting the winners based on the following criterion: talent, voice and showmanship.

Former Mr. Gay Pride Tommy D’s karaoke rendition of “Alcohol” by Brad Paisley and “Drugs or Jesus” by Tim McGraw Dec. 15 earned him a ticket to the finals.

“I absolutely love to sing and perform for people,” said the singer, who has been pursuing a career in country music and recently moved back to the Valley from Nashville. “I had a great time and I definitely sang my heart out for the judges.”

According to contest rules, contestants who let their nerves get the best of them on the first try can try out again at another venue (as many times as they want) with no penalty.

Judges for Country Idol were selected based on their music knowledge, and may be active members with AGRA, former contestants or locally known personalities.

“We want our judges to be well known, we like the big personalities as well as knowledge in music and performance,” Grayson said.

This year judges will alternate and shuffle between venues. Each event will always have a minimum of three judges on the panel. One of the judges for 2015 will be last year’s Country Idol winner Kyle McDonel.

“ I think it is great that (AGRA) asked me [to be on the panel] and I am honored to participate,” he said of his involvement in this year’s selection process. “I did not ever see any former winners on the judging panels in the years I competed.”

One of the main elements McDonel will be judging is if the performer has heart. He warns that he will carefully be looking out for contestants who merely join every singing karaoke contest just because.

“Know the words and don’t just watch the monitor, feel the music in your heart and you will receive my support for sure,” McDonel explained.

The event has seen more than 300 singers audition since it began five years ago and the song selections are sure to cover a wide range of styles and time periods of the genre.

McDonel encourages contestants to take the time to really search for a song that fits their voice rather than choose a song or artist that is just popular at the moment.

Finalists will go on to perform either Feb. 14 or 15 and the winner will receive special recognition at the 30th Annual Road Runner Regional Rodeo and a variety of other prizes.

So, whether you’re an aspiring Country Idol or just enjoy country music performances, shine those boots, tighten that belt and don’t forget your cowboy or cowgirl hat, because auditions have just begun.

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