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Volume 24, Number 5 — May 2017

Southwest Virginia Woman wins Country Showdown

Kandice Hutton
Kandice Hutton

July 01, 2014

ABINGDON, Va. A Southwest Virginia mom got one step closer to living her country music dream Saturday night when she took home the win in the first-level competition of the Country Showdown, a nationally televised country music performance contest held each year.

"Both my parents were in a band, so I grew up around music," said winner Kandice Hutton, 30, of Wise. "My family made me [enter this contest]."

As the winner of the local Country Showdown competition, which drew contestants from three states, Hutton will receive a $3,000 recording session at Blountville, Tenn.-based Crooked Stick Recording and will go on to compete at the next level in October. The winner there will move on to a regional contest in New York, whose winner will be in the televised finals.

The event had about a dozen accepted contestants who came from three states: Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It was held at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway in Abingdon. The runner-up was Kingsport-area band Southern Rebellion.

When Hutton went onstage to accept her prize, her son Evan and nephew Henry, both 4, ran to hug her; she also received hearty congratulations from the crowd of family and friends who had come to show support.

"Do you want to know how she learned to sing?" asked her mother, Patricia Ray. "MTV with a hairbrush in front of the mirror."

Ray said Hutton sang her first solo at age 15 and, even then, blew the crowd away. She said she's always known her daughter could take her talent to the next level, and has waited 15 years to see it happen.

"It's been a long time coming," said family friend Patricia Surber. "We knew she could do this."

A few folks from the crowd also expressed their support for their local winner as she advances to the next level of competition.

"We'll be listening to you," said Debbie Yates of Konnarock, Va., whose daughters also competed Saturday, "and we'll be rooting for you."

Tiffany Hickman, sales manager at Marion-based radio station FM94 WMEV, which hosted Saturday night's competition at Heartwood in Abingdon, said the national prize is $100,000.

"We're excited to be a part of an event of this kind that showcases phenomenal local talent," Hickman said. "We are blessed to come from a region pouring with musical talent, and we are just so excited to be the channel to connect the community to this talent."