These days, there are plenty of reality singing competition shows creating names out of up-and-coming artists. Take for example rival programs like American Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent: These shows have become a launching pad for stars like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Lauren Alaina, Scotty McCreery, Gabby Barret, and more.
But there was one particular show that came on the scene in 2003 that focused primarily on country music hopefuls. And, it was called Nashville Star. The televised program, which aired on the USA channel, only ran for six seasons. But, during that time, it managed to produce a few of the biggest and brightest stars in country music that fans are familiar with today.
Here are five country artists who got their start on Nashville Star.
A Tennessee native, it makes perfect sense that Young would be an alumnus of Nashville Star. The chart-topping artist, who began playing music at an early age, was crowned the season 4 champion of the show in 2006. Although Young auditioned for the now-defunct program in Houston, Texas, it’s clear that he kept true to his roots as he’s been riding high on his recent “Famous Friends” collaboration with Kane Brown.
After winning Nashville Star at the age of 20, Young, beating out fellow competitors Casey Rivers and Nicole Jamrose, scored a contract with RCA Records and released his self-titled debut album. He has since gone on to produce numerous hits including, “Tomorrow,” “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song),” “The Man I Want to Be,” “I’m Comin’ Over,” and more. In 2017, Young also became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Lambert has come a long way since storming onto the country scene in 2005 with her debut single, “Kerosene,” from her major-label debut album of the same name. But it may come as a surprise to some folks that the 38-year-old Texan kick-started her career on Nashville Star. Lambert competed on the show’s inaugural season in 2003 and ended up getting pretty far. But she didn’t win. She placed third behind runner-up John Arthur Martinez and winner Buddy Jewell.
Despite losing out to two other artists, Lambert’s time on the show was not wasted. In fact, she caught the ear of on-air judge and Sony Music executive Tracy Gershon, who persuaded the label to sign her. Since ending her run on Nashville Star, Lambert has become one the most decorated artists in country music, releasing several albums, winning countless awards, and launching the successful girl group, Pistol Annies with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe.
Musgraves likely had no idea that she’d ever win a Grammy, let alone six of them, when she entered the Nashville Star competition in 2007. The “Space Cowboy” hitmaker was 18-years-old when she arrived on the television show during its fifth season. But her time on the reality sing-off series was cut short as she only made it to seventh place. Musgraves, who was a member of the country music duo Texas Two Bits before appearing on Nashville Star, fell two spots behind fellow competitor Whitney Duncan and also lost out to winner Angela Hacker.
Even though she didn’t come out on top, Musgraves has managed to find success without Nashville Star, landing a Top 10 hit with her debut single, ‘Merry Go ‘Round,’ and earning numerous awards and accolades. She also won all four of her nominations at the 2019 Grammy Awards thanks to her critically-acclaimed Golden Hour album.
Long before joining the cast of Nashville Star, Jewell was a seasoned singer. In fact, he was making demos of hit songs like “Write This Down” and “The One” before George Strait and Gary Allen got a hold of them, respectively. Jewell, who moved to Nashville in 1993 from Arkansas with hopes of becoming a household name, won the first season of Nashville Star. A fan-favorite on the program, he even beat out fellow contender and superstar Lambert.
After claiming victory on his season, Jewell signed onto Columbia Records and released his self-titled album, which debuted atop the Billboard Country Album Charts. His superstar success was quick but short-lived, as his record scored two Top 5 hits with “Sweet Southern Comfort” and “Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey’s Song). Jewell hasn’t yet reached that same level of success since his debut record release. Despite all that, he did manage to produce several follow-up albums and even began a new venture as the owner of the Peace, Love & Little Donuts shop in downtown Nashville.
Before her stint on Nashville Star, Duncan already had been featured on late legend Kenny Rogers’ 42 Ultimate Hits collaboration album for the song “My World Is Over.” But the show introduced her to an even bigger audience as she made it to fifth place. Duncan appeared on Nashville Star alongside Musgraves and placed ahead of the “Biscuits” singer, who finished in seventh.
After competing on Nashville Star, Duncan scored a deal with Warner Bros. Records and charted with two singles, “When I Said I Would” and “Skinny Dippin.’” She also took on other reality television roles, including Survivor: South Pacific in 2011 and The Amazing Race in 2014. These days, Duncan is still in the spotlight. After founding former group, Post Monroe, and then parting ways with the group four years later, she returned to music to embark on a solo career and plans to release new music in 2022.