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HOME > Nashville Star > Nashville Star 6

'Nashville Star' champ Melissa Lawson: I expected Gabe Garcia to win

By Christopher Rocchio, 08/05/2008 

Melissa Lawson said she felt "a lot of disbelief" when she was crowned Nashville Star's sixth-season champ over Gabe Garcia during last night's live finale.

"We're standing there and of course it's that horrible music that they're playing.  I'm standing next to Gabe and was just telling myself, 'Gosh, I made it to the Top 2.  This is unbelievable,'" Lawson told Reality TV World during a Tuesday conference call. 

"I was really sure they were going to call Gabe's name.  That's what I was anticipating in my mind.  So when they called my name, it was so shocking.  I was so excited and there were so many things going through my mind all at the same moment."

The 32-year-old from Arlington, TX who currently resides in Dalworthington Gardens, TX became Nashville Star's sixth-season winner based on home viewer votes cast immediately following last Monday night's penultimate episode.

Lawson added the victory wasn't a solo effort.

"There was a moment that I caught my husband's eye and he was just beaming from ear to ear, and the boys were smiling," the mother of five boys told Reality TV World. 

"We do some sign language with them, so they were sending me the, 'I love you,' sign.  I just was so proud.  I knew at that second it wasn't just me that was winning, it was my kids too and my family and everybody that voted for me.  It was just such a special moment."

It was a moment that was a long-time coming for Lawson, who said she participated in "countless competitions" that proved to be fruitless -- including American Idol, which made her Nashville Star victory that much nicer.

"It is a very, very sweet moment," she told reporters with a laugh.

While it may be sweet now, Lawson said her lack of success subsequently had an impact on the way she approached Nashville Star.

"I think because I've been knocked down so many times there was still that part of me that was holding on, that didn't want to have to go through a level of disappointment.  I wanted to try to set myself up for that," she explained to reporters.  "It's so hard when you're invested heart and soul, 100% into something and you believe it.  But there's always that little tiny devil on your shoulder that's going, 'Nope.  Not this time.'"

But Lawson said she had an inexplicable feeling of victory as her Nashville Star journey started to pick-up steam.

"When I had gone to Austin and auditioned initially and I had made the Top 200 and when they gave me the call that I made the Top 50 and I was going to Nashville Week I just had this very overwhelming sensation of winning the competition," she told reporters. 

"So I told my husband, 'I'm going to tell you this because if I don't tell you this and I do [win], I'm going to be mad I didn't tell you this.  For some reason, I think I'm going to win this competition. It's just my gut.'  I left it at that and I went on."

But of course it wasn't that simple, as Lawson characterized it as a "struggle" that had her "fighting week to week."  There was even a few times earlier in the competition when she found herself standing on stage with the possibility of elimination looming.

"In the end, it was one of those things I really appreciated," said Lawson about the vulnerability.  "It just helps you not take any single moment for granted.  It helped me to really enjoy and take in every moment from then on because you just didn't know if you were going to go home or not."

After seeing her fellow finalists ousted from the competition by home viewer votes on a weekly basis, Lawson said her hunch of winning started to be more real.

"Once we made the Top 3, I was like, 'I think I have a good shot at winning,'" she said.  "I really knew in my heart of hearts it was going to come down to me and Gabe."

Nashville Star sixth-season judge and mentor John Rich also previously stated that he felt it was going to come down to Lawson and Garcia.  She agreed with the judges -- Rich, Jeffrey Steele and Jewel -- as to why Garcia was such a strong competitor.

"I think Gabe's done a great job.  They said last night about him being so consistent, and he is.  He's a very consistent singer.  He shows up every week and gives a good performance every week.  I'm proud of him," said Lawson.  "Gabe is literally the most laid-back, mild-mannered man I've ever met in my life... He's so calm and cool and collective.  I've so enjoyed meeting him because I think it's his personality that shines through his singing."

Lawson also echoed Rich's comments about sixth-season third-place finisher Shawn Mayer.

"Shawn has grown leaps and bounds in this process.  I'm so proud of her," said Lawson.  "Even though she's 21 and she's probably more like a younger sister age-wise she's really like one of my children.  I love that she takes everything in and that she's tried to turn it around for the better.  Most importantly, I just want her to stay confident.  That's a challenge for her.  She's really, really hard on herself."

One of the reasons Rich thought Lawson and Garcia separated themselves from Mayer is because the two had interesting backgrounds -- with Garcia being a Hispanic-American country singer and Lawson a mother of five who recently shed 70 pounds.

"If I didn't have those things, I may not have gotten on the show," said Lawson of her background.  "I'm grateful that the things in my life have brought me to have a back story.  That's overall what makes an person interesting -- where they come from and the way they live their life.  So that's a good thing."

For winning Nashville Star, Lawson received a Warner Bros. record deal, a performance at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, and a Toyota Tundra.

While Lawson's first single -- "What if it All Goes Right" -- made its country radio debut this morning, Lawson said she's yet to hear it.  However she's anticipating the moment.

"That's going to be a pretty surreal moment for me," she said.  "But at one time in my life my husband said to me, 'What would it take for you to feel like you have finally made it?'  At that time I said, 'I think it would be cool to be driving down the road and hear my song on the radio.'  Knowing that it is literally playing on over 100 stations across the country is a very overwhelming feeling."

In addition, Lawson is also already preparing for her upcoming trip to China.  She said other than when she and her husband honeymooned in Cancun 11 years ago, she's never left the country.

"It's kind of crazy.  The opportunity to sing in front of what is potentially 100 million people, I feel so amazingly blessed," she said.  "I think it's going to be a great journey and I'm really excited about going over and seeing a little bit of their culture."

Lawson will also working on her debut album, which will be produced by Rich, an unabashed Lawson supporter. She said the two came to a good understanding during the fourth week of the competition that should make their writing and recording sessions run more smoothly.

"Of course John had always been very gracious to me, but there was something that changed in my mind to where I was like, 'This is about me getting better as an artist and this is about John -- who is an artist -- mentoring me and telling me how I can be a better person in this industry,'" Lawson recalled. 

"I told John, 'Thank you for complimenting me, but I need you to tell me what I need to work on.'  He did... I really took that to heart.  That kind of changed the dynamic."

Lawson also assured her fans that she'll have "a lot of input" into her debut album.

"John and I are also going to do a lot of writing together," she said.  "I want to be able to sing music that comes from my heart and obviously I have a lot of fans out there that voted for me and like me for a reason.  I want to make sure that continues to come across in the album when we release it."

In addition, Lawson said she feels she'll have more success than the previous five Nashville Star winners for a variety of reasons -- the most obvious one being that she competed on NBC, not the network's USA sister station.

"I have a huge advantage over the previous five seasons in that I had NBC this year.  I found out this morning that there were over 5 million people that voted on the finale winner," she told reporters. 

"That's an amazing amount of people that are supporting this show and hopefully going to continue to support the single as it comes out and all the music that I've got in the future.  I think most importantly, I'm just going to stay who I am."

Lawson said she feels she was portrayed accurately on Nashville Star, which is what allowed viewers to connect with her and her music.

"With reality TV, there's always an aspect of not reality.  I feel very fortunate in that NBC really did portray me in who I am.  I'm just a mom that's working hard that had a dream.  That dream just came true last night," she said.  "I'm a pretty grounded person and I always want to stay that way.  I know where I came from and I'll never forget."

Part of where Lawson came from is her family, and she told reporters "there's going to have to be a lot of changes" for them. 

"There's no question in my mind about that.  We do have our house on the market, we have had for a few months now.  We will make a move to Nashville because I think it's imperative that takes place in order for me to focus on the music side and still give the kids the time they need from me as a mom," she explained.  "I'm going to have to have them here with me.  When I am on the road, I'm going to make sure every opportunity that I have that they can be a part of what I'm doing."

Lawson will hit the road this September with Garcia, Mayer and Coffey Anderson, and she knows she'll be missed.

"There's no doubt about it that it will be a challenge," she said.  "But I think all in all, life is full of challenges.  It's full of obstacles.  But it's our job to just go over those hurdles and keep moving forward.  I'm definitely not going to be an absent parent; I'm going to be right there with them.  I just may have to travel a lot more in the beginning, but in the end it's going to allow me more time to spend with them."

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