By ADAM SCHRADER
Published in The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 16, 2015
Kaylee Rutland, a Marcus High School graduate, is now an up-and-coming country singer and songwriter.
The 20-year-old debuted with her first EP, Kaylee Rutland, in 2012 and a single “Into The Circle” featuring Colt Ford and Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling country star Jamie O’Neal in 2013. She released her second EP, Good Day to Get Gone, last summer. In June, neighborsgo reported that she was working with O’Neal on a new music tentatively set to be released later this year.
She is also competing in Nash Next competition, an online talent competition in its first year. Nash Next, who produces the competition, is a new record label under the Nash Country umbrella of Cumulus Media. Nash Country has signed the likes of Reba McEntire and Martina McBride.
Rutland said she’s excited about the Nash Next contest.
“It really connects in today’s market with how we engage and interact online,” she said. “The entire experience has been so fun and I’ve learned a lot about the different deadlines, social engagements and the quick pace of entertainment.”
Briana Mendoza, who is on Rutland’s public relations team, said Nash Next is an innovative online talent competition that has never been done before.
“But similar to an online American Idol in that they’re looking for America’s next big star,” Mendoza said. “So far it’s pretty awesome.”
The contest is comprised of six challenges total, with four remaining. Rutland is No. 1 on the leader board.
The Challenge started June 15 and ends Dec. 6. It was open to solo modern country artists and modern country bands. Entrants were U.S. citizens or a permanent legal U.S. residents, at least 16 years old, and not employees or immediate family members of any Cumulus Media subsidiary companies.
During the audition period, artists created profiles on a web platform made specifically for the competition. Like other social networks, the artist’s mission is to engage with fans and get people to visit their stuff and vote for them by Aug. 7.
The platform gave musicians a score on how much engagement they received. Organizers selected the top-100 scoring entrants during the audition period as competitors.
Mendoza said Rutland rocked the audition period, catching the attention of contest organizers and partners before the competition truly began. Rutland released some songs she had been working on for an album earlier in the summer exclusively on Nash Next to give her a boost in popularity.
The first challenge was to do a cover video of one of three songs. There were two days of voting. The judges’ opinion was 70 percent of the score and ranked the top 85 for the challenge, cutting the bottom 15.
This week, Rutland finished the end of the second challenge – a Twitter challenge where she was tasked with creating a jingle for Nash Next. She remains in first place as contestants go into the third trial, to cover a Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande song.
Radio station 99.5 The Wolf in Dallas has been promoting her throughout the competition with tweets saying “She’s from Dallas & she’s really talented! Let’s help her out Wolf Fans!”
If Rutland holds on to first place through the end of the sixth challenge, she will receive a recording contract on Nash Next.
Rutland said she also enjoys the competition because of the other contestants and would still be happy to see one of them win.
“All of the contestants are so talented,” she said. “It’s fun watching and learning from each of them as well.”
In the meantime, Rutland is still going to school at Belmont University in Nashville and performing shows like at GrapeFest in Grapevine and Festival at the Switchyard in Carrollton on Nov. 7.