For area native, Shawn Mayer, making the final four of NBC's "Nashville Star" guaranteed her the opportunity to perform an original song on national television and a chance to celebrate with over 3,000 of her closest friends with a concert on the streets of her hometown.
Mayer had a whirlwind tour of northwest Iowa last week, complete with media visits, autograph sessions and a concert on a makeshift stage in her home town. With production staff in tow, Mayer smiled, signed, shook hands, and wiped away tears at the support and love poured out from communities where she had played in mall food courts, event grand openings and public festivals.
After arriving on a Harley Davidson, decked out in her leather jacket, Mayer took the stage and treated everyone to a show that punctuated the reason she's in the running for the Nashville Star's top spot. It was announced at the concert that a Cherokee radio station, in conjunction with a local travel agency had arranged for the Mayer family to travel to the show's finale in Nashville.
About 5.9 million viewers watched the drama unfold on the show last week at the Acuff Theater in Nashville, according to NBC, the network that airs "Nashville Star."
The show was to eliminate one more contestant from the final four last night. Phone lines were to open for the three remaining contestants the moment the show would go off the air. Those votes, which are toll-free from land lines, will decide which contestant of the remaining three contestants is named "Nashville Star."
The winner of "Nashville Star" will receive a recording contract with Warner Bros. Nashville and a chance to perform at the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
The show is described by the network as the original grassroots talent search to find America's next great country music star. It was the longest-running competition series on cable before moving to NBC in 2008.
The first five seasons of the series have launched the careers of promising artists including Chris Young, Buddy Jewel, Miranda Lambert, Lance Miller and Angela and Zac Hacker - the siblings who made it a family affair by coming in first and second, respectively, last season.
In a Spencer Daily Reporter interview, Mayer talked about her journey as the field was narrowed from 12 to five.
Q: The last time we talked to you, the season was just about ready to begin. So, did you think you'd still be going with just (a few) contestants left?
A: You know, looking at the competition, you always want to believe that you're going to be moving on to the next round, but I really didn't know. Honestly, I didn't know that I would make it to the top five. Now that I have, every week that I hear my name called, it gives me that much more strength to go out there and fight to make it to the next show, and the next one.
In all reality, starting this competition, I didn't know. I didn't know how to be completely confident every single week and fight to stay here. America has really given me the strength to go out there and really believe in myself.
Q: The performers aren't getting voted off in the order that some may have thought they would. Do you have a better grasp of that, knowing the process and seeing the performances live?
A: No. Actually, I was so scared last week - you know, bottom two - you never know who is going home. So it's always very nerve-racking on the night of the performance. You're sitting there and you're hoping you hear your name. Then when you don't and you find out you're in the bottom two, you're sweating pretty bad. It's great.
It really gave me an opportunity to step up my game, step up and walk out there and perform. George Jones was sitting in the audience and that was one of the greatest moments that I've had, to be able to sing for him, because I love George Jones. It was a great moment.
Q: The judges' comments for you after your performances on live TV have been been fairly positive (regarding her potential). They always seem to throw in a "but" (about the actual performance). With this last episode there was no "but." Do you take that as a sign that you're really hitting your peak in the show?
A: Actually, in most of the performances, I haven't really gotten a lot of good (comments) straight across the board. I usually get one judge that has pretty good things to say. Then the rest of them usually tear me up pretty good - rip me one.
You know what? It happened to be my night. It felt really great to have great complements straight across the board, with no "buts." It's really what I needed and it really helped me so that I didn't let the bottom two get to me at all.
Q: We've got to talk about that mentor switch, too. How much of that was just a practical decision by the show and how much of that was more of an emotional decision for you to find someone who is a better fit?
A: I actually - you know, I don't know, how should I say this? I rippled the water a little bit. I stirred things up a little bit. I actually brought it up. It was one of those things.... It was handled really well with both John (Rich) and I. We both handled it like adults... mainly was just a situation where I sat down and told him "John, no offense to you because the way you carry yourself and the way you communicate with people is what makes you John Rich."
It was just a moment in time where I needed to take my space, step away and get my head back in the game. I think he'd be great to work with. It just wasn't the right time and I needed to do this for me. That's what I did. I stood up for myself.
moment where I literally peeled myself off the floor, picked myself up off the ground, grabbed my guitar and sat down.
Q: Could you do a little bit of myth-busting for us? What are some of those behind-the-scenes tidbits that would surprise the viewers at home?
A: We all get along. We're not killing each other. There's no pulling each other's hair out or sabotaging each other's performances -- none of that. We actually all get along. We joke around.