Deadline extended for Dolly-themed singing contest

Apr. 09, 2014 @ 11:03 PM

The entry deadline for the Mountain Soul Vocal Competition has been extended to April 16. In the competition, which honors the songwriting of Dolly Parton, contestants sing a personalized rendition of one of Parton's original tunes.

Judges will review the entries, and those who are selected as finalists will perform May 17 at the Bloomin BBQ and Bluegrass Festival in downtown Sevierville.

"We thought this would be a good way to let a few more people send in an application," Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Marketing Manager Amanda Maples Marr said. In the past, applications have been submitted from several states, including Georgia, Ohio, Iowa and Kentucky.

Marr said she is always excited to hear the different musical styles at the event.

"You hear some incredible singers there," she said, naming Emily Sunshine Hamilton. "She took second in the kids' division. She went viral online, and she was on the Today show in New York."

Emily had "a gritty sound," Marr said. "A lot like June Carter."

Creativity is emphasized in the competition. Rather than imitating the style of Dolly Parton — whether vocally or in their appearance — contestants are encouraged to use their own style.

Parton has written more than 3,000 original songs. The competition is limited to original Parton songs, not songs Parton sang and did not write. Choosing a song that is not a popular choice, Marr said, could benefit contestants.

"We used to outlaw 'I Will Always Love You' and 'Jolene,' because too many people sang them," Marr said. "Last year we changed it and said you can sing it if you want, but if there's six people doing that song, you might want to reconsider. When judges hear the same song over and over, it gets to the point to where they nitpick."

Contestants are split into two categories, for ages 13 and older and ages 12 and younger. Among the entries, 30 will be selected as finalists, 20 from the older category and 10 from the younger category.

Submissions can include two different songs, but finalists must choose which song to perform live at the festival. During the live performance, singers can be accompanied by a recorded track or musical instrument. The accompaniment may not include vocals. One other person playing an instrument is allowed, but the instrumentalist may not sing.

First prize in the older category is $500 and a Nashville recording session at Sound Wave Studios, plus accomodations; second prize is $300, third prize $200. The first place winner in the younger category receives $100 and two season passes to Dollywood, second prize is $50 and two day passes to Dollywood, and third prize is $25 and two day passes to Dollywood. First place winners in both categories receive a guitar autographed by Dolly Parton.

Application information is at bloominbbq.com. The entry fee is $10 for ages 13 and up, $5 ages 12 and under. Applicants should submit a CD, cassette, VHS or DVD recording of themselves singing the song or songs of their choice. These materials must be sent through the mail, postmarked no later than April 16.

jold@themountainpress.com