From a 32-year-old mother of five to two high-school friends who dream of making it as a duet, NBC's "Nashville Star" revealed the top-12 music acts that will be vying for the crown when it kick-starts its first season on NBC on Monday, June 9 (9-11 p.m. ET).
The-top 12 finalists sang their hearts out during the taping of the "Nashville Star" premiere last Monday (subsequent episodes will be live) in front of a packed audience at the Acuff Theater, part of the Opry Entertainment Complex, in Nashville. In episode one the performers have to impress the show's judges/mentors multi-platinum singer-songwriter and three-time Grammy nominee Jewel and John Rich — multi-award-winning singer, songwriter and producer and one half of the country duo Big & Rich — and award-winning songwriter and hit-making producer Jeffrey Steele. In the end the celebrity panel tells one act that their dream ends here. Beginning week two America decides who will return to the stage next week and who will pack up their guitars and head home.
The sixth season premiere also will feature a performance by 2008 ACM Best New Female Vocalist Taylor Swift as well as showcase highlights from the nationwide casting calls.
Nashville Star top-12 contestants:
HOMETOWN: CROOKSTOWN, MINNESOTA
CURRENT HOME: JACKSON, TENNESSEE
Stunningly beautiful former Miss St. Paul, Alyson has a passion for music and animals. Her husband quit his job so Alyson could pursue her dream of music. When not performing at local bars and parties, Alyson studies veterinarian science at the University of Tennessee in Martin.
HOMETOWN: Lancaster, Minnesota
CURRENT HOME: Nashville, Tennessee
With her dad currently in Iraq training Iraqis, Ashlee is hoping to stay on the show for a few weeks so her dad can see her perform when he returns to the States for a short leave from overseas. One of 13 children, Ashlee grew up on a 2,500 acre horse ranch in Minnesota and is a true country girl – she's comfortable driving tractors, catching fish or riding one of her family's 70 horses. Now, Ashlee's left her family and her farm to move to Nashville in pursuit of her dream.
HOMETOWN: Roosevelt, Utah
CURRENT HOME: Murray, Utah
Everybody has been affected by cancer but for Charley Jenkins, it partly defines who he is. Five years ago Charley moved away from home to pursue his music career but when his dad was terminally ill with cancer, Charley returned home to Utah. A year later, Charley's dad passed away and now Charley includes a song he wrote about his father in every set he performs to have his dad still be close to him. With a 2-year-old daughter and a wife at home, this true good-old-boy from Utah wants to make his family proud — and his dad smile from above.
HOMETOWN: Bangs, Texas
CURRENT HOME: Los Angeles, California
According to Coffey, being away from his 5-year-old daughter Savannah is like holding his breath and suffocating. As a single father, Coffey is competing for two–– himself and his daughter. He loves country music, entertaining and being a Southern gentleman. While most move to Nashville, Coffey left his small town in Texas for Los Angeles where he can often be found performing on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, trying to sell a CD as people pass by.
HOMETOWN: Lyle, Texas
CURRENT HOME: Dickson, Tennessee
Gabe Garcia is proud of his roots and wants to inspire other Hispanics to pursue a career in country music, just as Rick Trevino inspired him. The ultimate Tex-Mex cowboy, Gabe left San Antonio and his job of 10 years after his father passed away last October to follow his dream and he's not turning back. With his family's support, Gabe wants to be the next "Nashville Star" with his mother cheering him on from the audience.
HOMETOWN: Pineville, Louisiana
CURRENT HOME: Los Angeles, California
Originally from Louisiana, Justin left home at age 17 to pursue a career in music, while supporting himself as a model. Only after suffering heartbreak from breaking up with his long-distance girlfriend did Justin realize how isolating living on his own can be at a young age. With his good looks and great voice, Justin is the ultimate teenage country heartthrob.
LAURA AND SOPHIE – Laura Fedor and Sophie Zalokar
AGE: Laura (18), Sophie (16)
HOMETOWN: Willoughby, Ohio
CURRENT HOME: Willoughby, Ohio
To look at Laura and Sophie is to see two high school teenagers who should be enjoying their summer vacation from school. Instead, Laura is missing her high school graduation and spent her last three weeks at home fighting with her parents who forbade her from doing "Nashville Star." The 18-year-old chose to go against her parents' wishes to spend the summer with her best friend Sophie as they try to pursue their dreams at a young age. With Laura still wearing braces and Sophie barely legal to drive, these teens are unlike anything else in country music.
HOMETOWN: Arlington, Texas
CURRENT HOME: Dalworthington Gardens, Texas
At age 31, Melissa is the oldest female contestant this season on "Nashville Star." A working mother with five sons, Melissa wants to prove that country music is about the songs and the voice, not about the size jeans you where. She's the "every woman" in pursuit of the ultimate dream and she didn't leave her family to lose the competition
PEARL HEART – Amy, Angela and Courtney Krechel
AGES: Amy and Angela (20), Courtney (17)
HOMETOWN: Florissant, Missouri
CURRENT HOME: Thompson's Station, Tennessee
The female trio Pearl Heart is a family affair with twin sisters Amy and Angela singing alongside their little sister Courtney. After watching their daughters perform together for years, Pearl Heart's parents packed up their bags and moved their family to Tennessee for their daughters to more seriously pursue their music career. By making top-12 of "Nashville Star," the Krechel sisters are hoping to prove to their parents that the move paid off.
HOMETOWN: May City, Iowa
CURRENT HOME: Madison, Tennessee
From a town of 45, Shawn skipped lunch at school to avoid finding someone that would sit with her or having to sit alone, because unlike her classmates, Shawn was spending her weekends earning money by performing in bars and not hanging out at the mall. Her parents encouraged her to make her own way and she rewarded them by hiring them to be part of her team as she pursued her dreams. She's worked on a hog farm, is a mechanic and a volunteer firefighter but the girl really just wants to be on a stage.
THIRD TOWN — Jeffrey Fairchild, James A. Kouns (aka Little Tony) and Tony Mosti
AGES: Jeffrey (37), James (29) and Tony (35)
HOMETOWN: San Antonio, Texas
CURRENT HOME: Las Vegas, Nevada
First, Jeffrey, "Little Tony" and Tony tried to make it in San Antonio, then Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and third, they went to Las Vegas where they found their name — Third Town. After their tryout for "Nashville Star," the three were told that they didn't make the show's top 12 and they returned to Las Vegas and resumed their lives of pounding the pavement in pursuit of their dreams. Then, the day before the first show taping, they got the call that will forever change their lives – they had made the top 12. Though each one performed in a separate show in Vegas, James, Tony and "Little Tony" dropped everything and headed to Nashville.
HOMETOWN: Cushing, Oklahoma
CURRENT HOME: USS Kitty Hawk
Tommy Stanley was working as an engineer on the USS Kitty Hawk and stationed in Japan when he filmed his video audition for "Nashville Star." Once finding out he'd made it to the Norfolk military audition, Tommy flew from Japan to Virginia with the hope of taking a leave from duty to pursue his music. He hasn't seen his father in a year or his mom in three years but he hopes to perform before them on the show.
This year, "Nashville Star" the longest running cable reality competition series moves into the spotlight on NBC. With a bigger stage to play, the expectations become higher and the competition tougher as each contestant will turn to the celebrity panel that will not only judge them during the live shows, but will also provide a unique mentoring aspect to the series.