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.
Former Country Idol Winner Joins the Judges Panel
Auditions for the Fifth Annual Country Idol Karaoke Singing Contest, hosted by the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association (AGRA), kicked off Dec. 15 and will culminate with a grand finale at the 30th Annual Road Runner Regional Rodeo in February.
In the meantime, eight more auditions are scheduled at Valley bars over the course of the next six weeks, so Echo caught up with the 2014 County Idol winner and this year’s newest judge Kyle McDonel to discuss his journey and his hopes for the newest generation of contestants.
Echo: How has your journey with Country Idol affected you?
McDonel: I competed in 2010 and 2011 and did well but last year I knew I had to step it up. So I did – and won.
Echo: What sparked your interest to audition for County Idol in the first place?
McDonel: I love country music and have been singing it all my life. I knew I could give it a good run and so I tried.
Echo: Why is it important for the LGBT Community to support events such as Country Idol?
McDonel: People support what they have an interest in. Country music has a whole different connotation than pop or other cultures of music so it might be harder for folks to find interest. County music for me has always been a no brainer so I support it when and where I can. It is a lot more diverse than people think and sometimes it is not given a fair chance to like
McDonel: Stage fright, self-doubt and I fought with courage and confidence for sure. I hope no one could tell.
Echo: How did you determine what songs you would sing? What was your winning song?
McDonel: I am a classic country fan. Most of the singers I sing are dead or dying, but the music lives on. I was not sure anyone knew the names of the artists I sang but I was sure the message was timeless. The mistake some singers make today is singing Top 40, but there are decades of hits that might be more suited for their voice. I won with two songs that have not been recorded in 50 years. Marty Robbins has been dead since the early ‘80s but I sang his song, “El Paso City” to the T.
Echo: What is your favorite part about performing/singing in front of these types of audiences?
McDonel: The reaction to my talent. Even though I invited several supporters to come out and cheer for me, I am sure I [gained] new ones, and that’s fabulous.
Echo: What is the primary component you’ll be looking for while judging the performers?
McDonel: Heart. If you just love singing contests and join every one that comes along, I can tell. Your performance will give you away. Beware!
Echo: Any advice you can offer this year’s contestants?
McDonel: Know the words and do not watch the monitor. Feel the music in your heart and you will receive my support for sure.
Echo: Anything else you’d like to share with Echo readers?
McDonel: I would like to say come out and enjoy the music. There are some very talented people in our community and it is always a good time witnessing the talent drop from their souls.