If the USA Network's Real Country finds even one artist who is able to jump the numerous hurdles that block them from stardom, the show will have accomplished its goal.
The series debuts Nov. 13 with Shania Twain among the executive producers. Twenty-one artists in various stages of development vie for a grand- prize package that includes $100,000 and a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Among the competitors are six-time Texas Regional Radio female vocalist of the year Bri Bagwell; Jamie Floyd, co-writer of the Grammy-nominated "The Blade"; and Tony Jackson, who has been heavily advertised on RFD-TV.
"I want to see talent that has done the whole process of finding out who they are," says Twain, drawing a distinction between Real Country and American Idol. "I think we can do more for them as artists on the panel."
USA Network has had previous success in country talent competitions. Nashville Star, introduced in 2003, provided an early showcase for Miranda Lambert, Chris Young and Kacey Musgraves, though each of them developed in different ways after that experience.
"That's the beauty of this business," says Real Country panelist Jake Owen. "You can hope and you can dream, but nobody has a road map."
Taped at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium, the Real Country set takes on a blingy, honky-tonk atmosphere. There is no pre-set notion of who might succeed -- Twain designed the show to encompass everything from traditional country to modern bro-country, putting the emphasis on individuality.
It's an ideal that all of the panelists, including Travis Tritt, are passionate about. It's also a precept that Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash presented to him.
"To hell what anybody else thinks," says Tritt. "Just be you."