OPEN HOUSE

Twelve newcomers will become roommates – and competitors – on the new Nashville Star reality TV series

Twelve strangers sharing one stage and one dream – to become the next Nashville star.

That's the premise behind the latest reality TV show, the USA Network's Nashville Star, which airs each week on Saturday night at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

But these dozen dreamers also have to learn to share a living space for the eight weeks they're competing against each other for a recording contract with Sony Music Nashville.

Executive producer George Verschoor gave Country Weekly an exclusive tour of the Nashville Star house, which was still being remodeled at this issue's press time.

"We wanted to have something on Music Row, because this is where everything happens in country music, in these three blocks of Nashville," says George. "We wanted them to feel, when they walked out the door, like they were right in the heart of the music industry."

And they are. The house – on Music Row within walking distance of record companies, nightspots and recording studios – is a brightly colored, spacious, newly redesigned three-story brick haven where the contestants will bond with each other over the course of the competition.

"The basic idea is to have a hangout for these 12 people, where it's all about the music and sharing space. We have a production designer in Nashville who is incorporating a lot of the known icons of country music. She's been taking photographs and will create images of Nashville that you'll see in the house.

"It's going to be a mixture of the old and the new, of the traditional country as well as the pop and modern look," continues George. "The furnishings are going to be a combination of both. It also exemplifies the style of these 12 people. Some are traditional and some are pop. Some are from the country and some are from New York City."

Such diverse backgrounds will make for interesting television. The contestants – six males and six females – were not assigned roommates. When they entered the house for the first time on March 5, they were told, on the spot, to choose their rooms and with whom they'd share them.

"You find out about personalities pretty quickly by who you want to live with," says George. "And then you find out about each other really fast once you share a small space together."

With an age range of 19 to 42, there are bound to be personality and lifestyle differences, and maybe even real fireworks.

"I grew accustomed to putting strangers in the same living space and seeing what happens," says George, who produced the first four seasons of the hit MTV series The Real World. "And I'm sure something will happen, because it always does."

Ready to catch the happenings on film will be a camera crew, stationed in the basement. "On this show, we're not going to have any hidden cameras," states George. "There will be cameras in the rooms that are used so we can see who is where, but we don't record from them. So there are cameramen who will actually come in from the basement, with cameras on their shoulders and film."

Although the contestants will have to get used to being followed by a camera during the week, the majority of Nashville Star will be footage of the live performances, held every Saturday night at the Roy Acuff Theater in Nashville. The first few performances are voted on by judges. The home audience will vote – via phone or Internet – for their favorite singer from the remaining group. The person who receives the smallest number of votes will be eliminated in the next episode. But beginning with episode five, eliminations are decided solely by the viewing audience.

"This show is primarily a live show," explains George. "It's not going to be half Real World and half performance. In an hour show, you may see five or six minutes of this house. The show is about the music, and about them trying to pursue their dreams of succeeding in Nashville. We're trying to provide a space for them so they can achieve that. They can support each other, or they can not. It's hard to tell."

George walks into the kitchen, where the group will be responsible for cooking their own food, washing their own dishes and taking the garbage out. Between getting a sneak peek at tomorrow's star cleaning the house and bringing down the house onstage, he's sure America will be tuned in every week.

"These are real musicians," he stresses. "It's not a karaoke contest like some other shows. Even if you don't love country music but you just love music, I think you're going to like this. You're going to start rooting for the person you want to win.

"Country music fans love to know who the people are, not just who the song is," he adds. "You're going to get to know who these people are, behind the scenes. That's what I'm trying to do – tell the story of who these people are."

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