CAIRO — This summer, the Twin Counties look like Chelsea Country.
Aspiring country singer Chelsea Sulkey, of Cairo, is on her way to making it to the big time. Sulkey is among the top 15 nominees for the national Taste of Country Riser contest.
Country radio stations owned by Townsquare Media nationwide asked local artists to impress with original songs to show they are ready to break into show business, according to a statement from the Taste of Country website.
Sulkey and the other finalists were chosen by the stations’ staff. Online users can vote every day until June 18.
Sulkey won the regional version of the Hometown Risers contest through Albany’s country station WGNA in January.
Sulkey and her band will perform at the 25th annual Countryfest at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 7 at 5 p.m. alongside country stars Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay, Maddie & Tae and Carly Pearce.
Sulkey’s band features rhythm guitarist Josh Byerwalters, drummer Tim Coletti, lead guitarist Benny Sloyan and bassist Mike Persico.
“Being handpicked by Taste of Country is crazy, ’cause they believe in us,” Sulkey said Wednesday.
Proud to be one of the 15 finalists in a tough competition, Sulkey said her competitors are excellent musicians. An interview with the winner will be aired nationally on Townsquare Media stations.
“Just now, it’s giving us a lot of exposure,” Sulkey said. “You’re kind of making your big break with this contest.”
Sulkey submitted the original tune “Gone” for the regional contest and it’s the same song used in the national competition, she said. A new, sharper video of the song was shot for the national contest and uploaded to YouTube on May 13.
“It’s the one that means the most to me,” Sulkey said. “If I believe in it, maybe other people will.”
Sulkey and her band will premiere new material at Countryfest. The band has several performances scheduled this summer including the Music in the Park series at Dutchmen’s Landing in Catskill on June 28.
“We’re booked every weekend this summer,” Sulkey said. “It’s cool singing our songs and having other people sing along.”
Sulkey writes about her own experiences and hopes her songs connect with listeners like she has connected with songs by other artists.
“I want to be able to do that for other people,” she said. “I write about things other people can relate to.”
This summer will be busy for Sulkey. She and the band are working on recording an extended-play record with a possible late summer release date and Sulkey is heading to Nashville in August to meet with record producers and musicians.
“That’s where you need to be,” Sulkey said of the country music mecca. “I’m going to take a couple of tours of the recording studios there.”
Sulkey encourages other aspiring musicians to keep reaching for their goals and work through adversity.
“No matter where you grew up, anything can happen,” Sulkey said. “If you work hard enough it will come true.”
Coletti and Sulkey have been friends since age 12 and at a recent concert the singer told the audience about how they continue to perform together and have remained close, Coletti said.
“It’s something when putting in perspective blows my mind,” he said. “You lose touch with a lot of friends when you grow.”
For Coletti, the band’s success to date has been a surreal experience. The band has been asked to perform more shows since the January regional contest.
“To have gotten as far as the first contest back in January, it was humbling,” Coletti said. “We immediately started getting lot more recognition.”
The band is rehearsing for Countryfest, making sure it will be the finest show they do, Coletti said.
“We want to look back on it as our best show,” he said.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM