A few months ago, Nick Brownell could be found singing in Columbus bars in front of hundreds of people.
At 9 tonight, he'll be singing on a Los Angeles stage in front of millions.
Brownell is one of 11 who could have what it takes to win ABC's newest reality show, The One: Making a Music Star.
"I was stoked," he said about nailing his auditions and making the cut.
But music has always been in his blood. One of six brothers, Brownell grew up in Sandusky hearing his parents tell stories of how he used to sing along to the radio as a kid. "My mom always said, 'I know you are going to be a big star one day,'●" he said, adding that several cousins and an uncle are musicians.
He first picked up a guitar as a junior at Perkins High School in Sandusky after a younger brother lost interest in guitar lessons.
"I would just go in the basement and bang on it and got better and better," he said. "After a year, I played in my high school talent show. After I got a response from that, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
He wasted no time starting his dream. In his free time as a senior in high school, he played in a local Sandusky bar and garnered "a huge, huge following," he said, earning him the title of "most musically inclined" in his high school yearbook.
After graduating in 2003, he moved to Columbus to pursue his dream in a college town as a solo artist and with a newly formed band, the Nick Brownell Trio. But because his soulful blues/rock sound "didn't do anything there," he started looking at other opportunities.
When a buddy came across a Web site asking for those who thought they could be the next singing sensation, Brownell was skeptical at first but ended up sending them an e-mail, expressing interest.
Two months later, the singer/songwriter got invited to a private audition in Cleveland, then to two more try-outs in California with 49 other musicians. "I honestly didn't think I was going to make it because there were so many talented people out of the 50," he said. "But I started making it round after round. That was crazy. It was unreal."
Throughout the show, viewers are given a behind-the-scenes look at what the contestants are like off-stage because they're filmed 24/7 as they live together and train for their upcoming performances.
Brownell said he most likes the exposure that the show affords him and doesn't even mind the cameras, though he said he hates wearing a microphone all the time.
"Really, I'm a novice to this game. Most of these people have been in the game for years and I've never even been in the recording studio," Brownell said. "But I'm having a blast. I don't want to leave. Everyone in Ohio thinks I hate Ohio, but I just don't want to come back yet. I want to make it to the top before I come back."
All 11 contestants completed their live debut performances during the show's season premiere on July 18.
Viewers then had the opportunity to vote for their favorite contestant. On Wednesday's show, the bottom three vote-getters were revealed to be Michael Cole, Jadyn Maria, and Jackie Mendez. After a "sudden death" performance among the three, the judges voted for one contestant to move on to the next round.
The fate of the remaining two contestants stood in the hands of their peers, who cast their votes on the performances and sent Maria packing.
All remaining contestants battling it out for a recording contract will sing live in front of America and a studio audience each Tuesday before one is sent home the following Wednesday.
"I'm just going along for the ride, you know?" Brownell said.
"Wherever it takes me."
The One will be named on Sept. 20.
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