The final votes have been tallied, and America has chosen 33-year-old Brad Cotter as this season's winner of USA Network's Nashville Star.
Cotter's winning moment came during Nashville Star's season finale that aired live from Nashville's BellSouth Acuff Theatre on Saturday evening. Cotter edged out stiff competition from runners-up George Canyon and Matt Lindahl to win the title and the Sony Music Nashville recording contract that accompanies it. "This has been a long, strange trip," said Cotter. "I wouldn't take anything for the ride. All the memories will be cherished for a lifetime. I'm living proof that God has a plan for His children, and no man can change His will."
Cotter, a singer/songwriter from Auburn, AL, who currently resides in Nashville, began his career singing gospel music. He recorded five gospel albums between the ages of 11 and 17 and enjoyed regional success before hitting the Nashville scene in 1993. In addition to publishing deals with EMI Music and Warner Chappell, he has had two unsuccessful label development deals, and before Nashville Star he made his living as a demo singer. He counts Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Percy Sledge, Wayon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard among his musical influences.
Cotter's debut single, "I Meant To," which he co-wrote with Rick Giles and Steve Bogard and performed during the finale, will ship to country radio on Monday, May 3. After the finale, the single was also made immediately available at www.walmart.com, where it can be purchased for the next thirty days.
Local auditions for the second Nashville Star edition, which was again hosted by Nancy O'Dell, co-anchor of the nationally syndicated entertainment news program Access Hollywood, were held from October to December in 25 markets across the country. Of the thousands who auditioned locally, one hundred contestants were selected to compete at the regional level, and twenty competed in Nashville in the season premiere. Throughout the season the competition was whittled down by judges' elimination and audience voting, as cameras captured the contestants' live performances and behind-the-scenes drama and humor that developed as they lived together in a house in Nashville. Returning as a judge this season was Tracy Gershon, Senior Director of A&R and Artist Development at Sony Music Nashville. Joining her on the panel were well-known country radio personality Billy Greenwood, and singer/songwriter duo The Warren Brothers.
The first season of Nashville Star launched the astounding career of Columbia Records' Buddy Jewell, who sold more albums than any other new country artist in 2003. His self-titled debut CD was produced by Clint Black and entered the Billboard Country Albums chart at #1, a feat achieved by only two other artists in over a decade. It has since been certified gold by the RIAA. Jewell's self-penned debut single, "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," was a top-five hit on the Billboard country airplay chart, along with his follow-up single, "Sweet Southern Comfort."