Michael David Carnell, the 20-year-old son of David and Jennifer Carnell and Chris and Lana Deen of Sikeston, is one of 30 individuals representing cities across the country who will compete in the first weekend of January for an Embassy Records recording deal.
It began unexpectedly while visiting family in Nashville over Thanksgiving weekend. During a tour of the Gibson Guitar Bluegrass Showcase retail store, Carnell's father spotted a sign promoting an Embassy Records talent search scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. the following day. "I called Michael and asked him, 'Can you make it?'" David Carnell recalled. "People pick up and move there just hoping for an opportunity like this."
Carnell said he was initially hesitant: "I thought it was going to be some 'American Idol' thing - I didn't want to get into a contract that I couldn't get out of."
Once he did decide to compete, Carnell didn't have big expectations, figuring he could possibly place high enough to win a guitar or something. "Some people knew about it and prepared for months in advance," he said.
The event included a wide range of performers from solo artists and songwriters to duets and full bands all competing against each other. Signed up as a songwriter, Carnell played his original songs.
Carnell, who writes rock music, said the competition included many different types of music. "That's what I felt was neat about it," he said.
Some of the performers were so good, Carnell said it was a bit intimidating. "There was a girl who was 13 with the voice of a diva," he said. Another band that was competing came straight off a County Music Television stage to compete.
Shortly after competing, however, Carnell got a call asking him to come back at 4 p.m. Of the 25 competitors, the record company called five back for the second audition.
During the second audition session, the company's representative asked finalists about previous experience and other background information. "Michael was the first one he started asking questions," his father proudly noted. After being spotted reclining with his feet up on a table Carnell also ended up with nickname.
When the record company rep announced the winner, Carnell didn't even realize he had won until his family went wild. "He said, 'Hey 'Lazy Boy' - you're going to represent Nashville," Carnell said.
"He said that I had a really unique and passionate voice," Carnell said. "He said my playing was unique, I had a really good style and it was all my own."
Carnell said they were impressed that he was not only an accomplished songwriter but had some guitar ability as well. "That's because I used to play lead guitar," he explained.
Also, unlike many contestants who were tense, Carnell looked comfortable both off and onstage. "I know how to draw in an audience and keep their attention," he said.
Carnell's father said he believes it had a lot do with his son's attitude, as well: "He was nonchalant, he was there doing what he loves to do."
As Carnell was advised to be "road ready," he is now looking for sponsors to help with the equipment and traveling costs. "We're just looking for some support from his hometown," said his father who is handling the finances.
While he is presently working in Sikeston, Carnell hopes to write, record and play music for a living.
"I'm not getting a big head about this," Carnell said, "but then again, I have worked my butt off for this. I just want to get my music out there. I want them to enjoy what I've created."