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Country artist Buddy Jewell's smile lights up his whole face. And he's still smiling, despite losing the major-label recording deal he'd dreamed of for years.
"I look at it like this: God gave me that first record deal. If He wants me to have another one, He'll give me another one," Jewell says. "I thought I had exhausted all my avenues for getting a record deal, then God gives somebody this idea to do a reality show based on country singer/songwriters, and there's the door. And I walked through it."
Some might say he ran through it. Over 8,000 people tried out for the first season of USA Network's country talent competition Nashville Star, with Jewell among a dozen finalists selected to compete in the nine-week TV series. In 2003 viewer votes propelled Jewell, then 41, to stardom as the show's first winner. The prize, a recording deal with Sony Music Nashville/Columbia Records, resulted in a self-titled debut CD that went gold (over 500,000 sold), spawning two hit …