CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- A lot of people were watching to see if an Edgar County native would bring home one of country music's biggest awards. Brett Eldredge was nominated for Best New Artist.
Unfortunately, the 27-year old lost to Kasey Musgraves. Friends say the Paris-native has been singing since he was a boy in church. He always landed lead roles in school musicals, and after school, he followed his dream to Nashville.
Despite the loss, his hometown says it's proud. This year, Brett's song, "Don't Ya," hit number one on the charges. He's on tour now and will be in Springfield, December 7.
PARIS -- A lot of people in Central Illinois are going to be watching the County Music Awards Wednesday night. Edgar County's own Brett Eldredge was nominated for a big award. He's up against four other acts to become CMA's Best New Artist.
Even though he's a fresh face around the country, people in his hometown of Paris already know his voice. He's been singing for them since he was in grade school. They're excited to see if he'll win. They hope he does, but even if he doesn't, they're proud to see how far he's come. They say this is just the beginning of the road for their rising star.
When Brett Eldredge opens his mouth, people can't help but listen.
"When he was younger, he'd get up on stage and sing Frank Sinatra and the girls from 12 - 82 would swoon," said Brett's high school drama teacher Dave Kirsch.
Now he's all grown up and the response is still the same.
"When he sings Frank Sinatra today, everybody stops and listens," said Kirsch.
Brett started singing at church.
"That's all he wanted to do," said Brett's vocal coach Judy Carroll. "He would say, 'do you want me to sing in my child's voice or my old man voice?'"
He started taking lessons from Carroll after that. She says Brett was pretty laid back.
"I'd say, 'Brett, you need more breath support. Let's work on that.' And I'd look back and he'd be down in the couch, so that was the kind of personality he has," said Carroll.
When he started school at Paris High, Brett spent a lot of time on stage, earning lead roles in musicals like Oklahoma, Copacabana and Grease.
"He was very polished," said Kirsch. "He knew how to command a stage. You knew that's what he wanted to do."
Brett's taken all he learned at home to a much bigger stage. He's ready to show the world his fun-loving personality and also his softer side.
"He knows the storytelling in country more than you might get in some of the other genre," said Kirsch.
Whether he comes home with an award or not, people who know Brett say he'll always be a winner to them.
"The whole town is proud of him," said Carroll. "They just love him. It's kind of like he's ours. He belongs to Paris."
After college, Brett moved to Nashville, but he still has family in Paris and visits when he can. And he definitely hasn't forgotten his roots. Brett brought his brother and some friends from home along to be in his latest music video.
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