It will take more than just a good voice to win the new country music talent competition, "CMT's Next Superstar."
Contestants also have to prove their songwriting skills, musical chops and media savvy through weekly challenges on the new show, premiering Friday night.
"This is not a shiny-floor show," said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe in a recent interview. "This is a get-down-and-dirty show. If we want you to go out to a biker bar, that's where you're going to go. You're not just in Hollywood on a Los Angeles stage."
If you think that's a dig at "American Idol," consider the source. Lythgoe is the executive producer for "Idol," too. He has teamed with his son, Simon, also an "Idol" producer, to launch the new show, because as he put it, "Country deserves its own program."
The two are well aware of the country music talent show predecessor, "Nashville Star," that aired on USA Network from 2003-2007 and on NBC in 2008, before it was canceled. But they aren't worried about comparisons. In fact, producers considered suing "Nashville Star" at the time because of its similarity to "Idol".
"This is a completely different show," said Simon. "We change venues every single episode. We have challenges that put the contestants to the test in how they interview on radio. We put them to the test in their marketability for example. Their songwriting is a huge, key factor in this series."
Five women and five men made the final cut after a nationwide search. The youngest is 22 and the oldest, "Waitin' on a Woman" songwriter Wynn Varble, is 50. The contestants live together in a house in Nashville that used to belong to Kenny Chesney, and parts of the show are filmed there. Producers dubbed it the Music Mansion.
"When people go on tour together, they have to live, sleep and eat together," said Simon of the rationale to put cameras in the house. "A lot of the time, they actually help each other. They work off each other. Other times they drive each other nuts."
While competing on a reality talent show can be a major career launch, like it was for Carrie Underwood when she won "American Idol" in 2004, the decisions artists make afterward determine their longevity. Miranda Lambert came in third on "Nashville Star" in 2003, and Chris Young won in 2006. However, their success didn't come to fruition until years later, after a lot of hard work and staying true to themselves.
"I think the big thing about any of these programs, whatever the program is, it acts as a springboard," said Nigel. "It's a platform for a career, it does not guarantee stardom. That's down to the public. That's down to the records they release. It's down to the public buying those records. Just because the public picks up a telephone to vote for you doesn't mean (they're) going to buy your record."
Rotating guest judges will join Emblem Music Group owner Matt Serletic throughout the 10 episode series to send one person home each week. Viewers will determine the ultimate winner, and that person will get a record deal with a label that will be announced soon.