By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2003
he latest "overnight sensation" in country music, at least to those not in the know, is Buddy Jewell.
The Arkansas native has a huge advantage over other newcomers. Jewell won the Nashville Star competition on the USA Network in May seen by millions. And that earned him the chance to immediately sign a contact with Sony Nashville with Clint Black producing his debut disc out July 1.
But for those who thought Jewell hit the jackpot well before his time, consider this - he has plied his wares in Music City for 10 years, coming close to contracts several times before having a successful career as a demo singer.
So Jewell, affable during a telephone interview from Nashville, says he may be an overnight sensation "if you want to consider me a Rip Van Winkle."
But after years of trying, Jewell is not exactly complaining about his good fortune thanks to Nashville Star.
The event was somewhat akin to American Idol, save for the country crowd. A total of about 8,000 people auditioned to be on the show. Jewell auditioned in Nashville last fall at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"The reason I got involved was I saw the potential for the national exposure," says Jewell. "I thought, 'well, I've been here for 10 years trying to get a record deal. I haven't been able to get one yet. Here's another avenue."
"I was intrigued by being on a national TV show and seeing what America would think about my music," he says.
Jewell, 42, also thought the attention could possibly entice a Nashville label, which "would be willing to take a shot since I had that kind of exposure."
Jewell did not have illusions of actually winning the event when he started. "My goal was to make it onto the show," he says. "That was my first goal. That was the aspiration. Being an entertainer and all of us have an ego, some more than others, I've always believed that I was supposed to do (this). And I wasn't going to take no for an answer."
Jewell says he was "a little bit skeptical (about the concept) at first because of reality TV."
For Jewell, the chance to show his stuff was paramount. "I try to live my life. Hey if there's a door, if an opportunity is presented to me, I'd try to do my best and see what happens."
"I've been in town for 10 years, and a lot of times, things don't live up to people's expectations. I've learned to temper my excitement and everything else. There have been other times when I've been close to be being signed by other record labels, and they didn't pull the trigger for whatever reason."
Jewell didn't have to worry about that when he took the vote from the national audience with Jewell taking the contest over the other final five contestants - Miranda Lambert, John Arthur Martinez, Brandi Gibson and Brandon Silveira.
Jewell did not exactly have any time to bask in his big win. In fact, he was in the studio the following Monday and Tuesday with Black, took a day off and was back finishing tracking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
For the uninitiated, that is breakneck speed to say the least.
In fact, at one point, Jewell cut two songs within one hour.
Most singers get the chance to pick their own producer and have a bit more time to figure out what songs are going to be recorded.
As for picking the songs Nashville Star judge Tracy Gershon, who also is involved in the A&R Department (they sign and develop artists) at Sony Nashville, singing and advising performers, Black and others in A&R listened to potential songs for the album.
"We only had the week of (May) fifth to find songs," says Jewell.
"We had to have our minds made up by that weekend knowing what we were going to cut."
With a July release date looming, timing was of the essence.
Jewell cut 13 songs with 11 ending up on the final product.
The album starts off with "I Wanna Thank Everyone," which, although he did not write it, pretty much sums up Jewell's musical life of trials and tribulations to get where he is.
The first single, "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)" has been getting a good amount of airplay. Jewell first wrote the song about seven years ago and rewrote it three years later.
"Actually in the course of conversation, she asked if she got to heaven, if she could help pour the rain," Jewell says of his daughter, now nine. "When I remember thinking I wish I could look at the world through innocent eyes that way. As adults, we lose the ability to look at the world in a really simple way. There's a scientific explanation for everything or at least we think there is. I didn't have any aspirations of it being a commercial success. It was something I wanted to write about for my kid."
"She's really tickled to death," says Jewell of the song. "I don't think she really understands about charts and record sales. She's listened especially to country radio to know it's a big thing for us going on right now. She's really proud of her song."