Gardnerville resident Chad Holdren is on the brink of seeing his lifelong dream come true.
Holdren, 30, won the first round in the Texaco Country Showdown in Reno on May 27.
"I couldn't even breathe. Every single contest I've done, if I haven't won, I've lost to a girl and I was competing against a girl," he said. "I couldn't be more proud. I got to win in front of my dad. The feeling was ecstatic."
The Showdown is a nationwide country music talent search with a grand prize of $100,000 and a recording contract.
Over the years, Garth Brooks, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley have competed in the Country Showdown. At the 1983 National Final, Martina McBride and Neal McCoy competed against one another, only to lose to The Jim Arnold Band.
In front of three judges and a large crowd, Holdren performed "I Don't Want the Night to End" by Luke Bryan, and "Springsteen" by Eric Church at the Nugget Casino in Sparks to win the local round.
"So far, I'm the only winner from Nevada," he said. "It was a pretty packed house. It was awesome. I'm the most comfortable on stage. Singing is my life."
The 2000 Whittell High graduate moves on to the next leg in the competition Aug. 11 performing at Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California.
"The nerves are starting to kick in, but I'm more excited than nervous," he said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to perform on a Saturday night in Southern California. I'm really, really excited."
If Holdren wins in California, he will progress to the West Regionals and then on to Nashville for the final competition.
"I'm absolutely stoked," he said. "If I win the big one, the 100,000 bucks, the very, very first thing I'm going to do is buy my dad a new work truck. He just works so hard, and has worked for so hard to keep me in this game that I call music that it's my time to say thank you to him."
Discovering his musical talent in high school, Holdren chose to pursue country music after listening to Garth Brooks CDs for hours and hours as a teenager.
"Pretty much listening to every single Garth Brooks CD got me started. He's my idol," Holdren said. "I like songs that have stories in them. I don't want to invest my time in a song that I don't know what it's saying. I'm familiar with every single thing country music has to talk about."
Not a rookie to singing competitions, Holdren auditioned for season two of American Idol in Pasadena, Calif., in 2003.
"They don't tell you, you have to sleep on the streets for four days. I made it past the first round and ended up getting pneumonia and had to come home," he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm a big believer in fate and destiny. Obviously I wasn't ready to do that."
Rubben Studdard and Clay Aiken were the finalists that year.
More than anything Holdren said he wants to win the recording contract for his family, and in memory of his mother who died in 2007.
"My mother loved to hear me sing. It's one of the things that ties me to her still," he said. "She came with me to Karaoke many times. It was always a lot of fun with my mom. My ultimate goal is to take care of my family."
Holdren's family has supported his dream of becoming a country music singer from the beginning.
In 2004 Holdren's mother and brother moved with him to Nashville, Tenn., while his father stayed in Lake Tahoe and supported them.
When his mother began having heart problems, the family returned home.
"It was simply amazing to always have their support. My mother would drop everything and anything that she was doing just to make sure that I was ready to do whatever I was doing music-wise at that time," Holdren said. "My father worked almost seven days in a row just to make sure that he could send us cash whenever we needed it, so to have a father and mother like that, who would almost do anything to see their child's dream come true is pretty much all any kid can ask for."
During 18 months in Nashville, Holdren sang with the lead singer of Emerson Drive, Jason Aldean and Wade Hayes in impromptu jam sessions.
"Jason was still in the process of getting discovered, so when we sang together it was just like two kids putting on a honkytonk show," Holdren said. "Needless to say, it was incredible to even get to say I sang with him knowing how big Jason has gotten over the years."
For now, Holdren pays the bills by working in the front office at the Tahoe Keys. However, he has much larger plans for his future.
"I would have to say that a year from now I could easily see myself relocated to Nashville," he said. "I fully believe in fate and I am sure that no matter what happens in LA, I'm for sure going to be around the country music scene for the rest of my life. That's how passionate I am about this."
To hear Holdren sing, visit www.reverbnation.com/chadholdren or find him on Facebook. He also fine tunes his singing skills by participating in weekly Karaoke at Buckaroos and Jethro's.
For more information on the Texaco Country Showdown, visit www.countryshowdown.com.