Photo: The Hollywood Reporter
'American Idol' brought us Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Danny Gokey and a host of other music stars, and now the producer of that show, Nigel Lythgoe, is creating another talent competition geared specifically to country music.
'CMT's Next Superstar,' will be a joint venture between Nigel and his son, Simon, who is also a producer on 'AI.' But the father-son team say that this show will be different from any other televised talent search.
"It's not just going to be another 'American Idol' production," Nigel insists to the Hollywood Reporter. "From my point of view, I want to change it up totally."
Simon adds that the differences will be apparent at the outset. "We're changing locations all the time, shooting in Nashville, Memphis and Texas," he reveals. "Every challenge is different. Every guest judge will be different. On 'Nashville Star', they didn't have media challenges. We're giving them radio training and putting them through photo shoots and music video challenges. We're putting them on a tour bus. You're really going to get to know these contestants really well, just by being with them 24-7."
The show will tape 10 episodes beginning in April, with the winner announced during the CMT Awards in June. It's a medium, Nigel promises, that will feature true ability and authenticity. "Country music is all about storytelling, personalities and putting yourself into the songs" he explains. "This show is not about going to a set, it's about being in a location that has history to it. We're down and dirty in the heart of Nashville."
The aspiring singers on the show will face challenges much like those which established artists face every day. "We're putting the onus on the contestants, where they can really make the song their own," Simon explains. "We will pick the genres and they have to then turn it into a country song, but make it their own. So if they want a fiddle, they can have it. If they want a steel guitar, they've got it. They can go their own their path, but they are responsible for how they perform. We'll give them the tools, they have to take control of it. We're not the run-of-the-mill, studio-based, glitz and glamour show."
The contestants will also have to get used to spending time together on and off stage. "We're putting them into a music mansion outside of Nashville where they will live together and work together," Simon notes. "There will be rehearsal studios in the mansion as well. It's not a hundred percent locked in yet, but the one we're looking at is a famous person's house."
No word yet on who will act as judges for the upcoming TV show, but the producers insist the process of elimination will keep viewers glued to their sets. "We will have a guest judge each week who specializes in a particular field," says Simon. "If we're shooting a music video, which is one of the challenges, we will show all the backstage stuff, the director, the casting, how they produce it. Then we'll stream it to film students who vote to determine who the bottom two contestants are. Otherwise the judges decide."
The winner of 'CMT's Next Superstar' will have a single released to radio immediately following the CMT Awards, and will also be a part of the CMT tour, which hits the road in the summer.
THR: Simon, what have you learned from your father about television?
Simon: How important a person's personality is when you're trying to find a star. I was the first producer to drive nine hours to Carrie Underwood’s hometown, which was the quietest place I've ever been to. But to see that and to draw Carrie's personality out with Nigel in the edit suite – he will hone that personality and make a star out of it. It's not just about vocal ability, it's about America falling in love with that star. And that's exactly what we're trying to do in this series. We want America to fall in love with the person just as much as, and they'll see that through the song and performances, it's not just about vocal ability.