DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders|
Kassie Miller of Somerville, a Brewer High School graduate, competed for a $25,000 prize in the reality series Coyote Ugly.
Kassie Miller getting musical career going after ‘Coyote Ugly’
By Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer
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No less an authority than 6-feet, 6-inch tall, 250-pound Trace Adkins walked in to give pointers to prospects during "The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Saloon Search" audition in Nashville.
The country music star looked down on 23-year-old Kassie Miller, who is 5-feet, 4-inches tall and weighs 125 pounds.
The former Somerville resident and a 2000 graduate of Brewer High School sang him a Grechen Wilson song a cappella.
"You're awesome," Adkins said. "You sang a lot like Grechen."
Miller said she considered the comment "quite a compliment, coming from someone like him."
Liliana "Lil" Lovell, who opened the doors to the first Coyote Ugly Saloon in 1993 in New York, opens her 15th location May 17 on Beale Street in Memphis.
Meantime, she has been busy looking nationwide for the Ultimate Coyote bartender through an original taped series that began in April over Country Music Television. The winner gets $25,000.
Miller, who has lived in Nashville the past five years, decided to compete. Most everyone knows how well she sings.
She has already appeared in one of Adkins' videos, "Songs About Me," filmed at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. But how good is she as a bartender?
"If you can tell me what color the drink is, I can make it," she said. "And I can make you like it."
May 26 finale
Miller said the Coyote grand finale airs May 26 from New Orleans.
"Yes, we know who won, and yes, we're signed to secrecy. Keep your fingers crossed for me," she said.
Rolling back the clock, there's a possibility most of the world would never have heard of her if not for Ken Shelton of Decatur, who has published Hot Stuff the past 11 years.
"The first time I ever saw her was one day five years ago, when I dropped off a magazine at Bronze Bodies Tanning Spa on Beltline Road, where Kassie worked," Shelton said.
"She sang for me a cappella and blew me away."
Shelton drove her to Nashville, where she auditioned for Ed Russell, who first produced Lee Ann Rimes.
"He was floored, too," Shelton said.
"He worked with her on an artist development deal and cut demos to get other labels interested. Then he wanted to lock Kassie into a long-term agreement. She refused, and I think that was smart."
After graduating from high school, Miller enrolled at Judson College, an all-female Baptist school at Marion and majored in music.
"I first sang in the junior high choir at Cotaco," she said. "I continued at Brewer, joining the choir there. Even at Judson, I didn't realize I had potential."
She left Judson after her freshman year, worked in Decatur and spent a semester at Calhoun Community College.
"I was still only 19 when I moved to Nashville to get serious about country singing," she said.
"I first worked as an assistant manager at a clothing store before getting a job singing in bars on Printer's
Alley. I did some of the performances with house bands, others karaoke. Then here comes Coyote Ugly. "
Lovell selected Miller as one of two finalists from Nashville.
"We left Nashville by bus, picking up six other finalists from other cities for more televised auditions," she said. "We headed to Austin, Texas, then to San Antonio, Denver and, finally, to New Orleans."
Lovell selected the Crescent City for the last show as a way to help revive her cornerstone New Orleans bar, where only six employees returned to work after Hurricane Katrina.
"We're planning a colossal reopening celebration and we're going to put it back on top with only the best coyotes," she said.
Looking for label
Always with an eye toward a recording contract, Miller continues to write songs and "look for a good management team to shop me to the labels."
She's also still having a lot of fun. During the first weekend in June, she'll appear at the first annual Reality Show Convention in Nashville.
"I'm really looking forward to that. I'll get to meet all kinds of different stars from all those shows," she said. "I'm scheduled to appear June 4."
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