Photo by Heather Middleton
By Valerie Baldowski
After years of practice, country music enthusiast, Ty Bates, will have a chance to share the spotlight with a well-known country singer -- Jake Owens.
Bates, 24, of Hampton, is the grand prize winner in LongHorn Steakhouse Restaurants' online video talent contest, "Sing It Like Jake."
He won the competition with a videotaped performance of Owen's song, "Startin' With Me."
As part of his grand prize, Bates will receive a trip to Nashville, on Dec. 7, the opportunity to ride with Owen on his tour bus from Nashville, to Vero Beach, Fla., and the chance to perform live, on stage, with Owen during Owen's Vero Beach concert.
The contest was promoted by Darden Restaurants, owner of the LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants, said Jennifer Izzo, an account executive with Costa DeVault, a public relations firm working for Darden Restaurants.
Bates said during the competition, representatives from LongHorn kept him informed of his progress. He was elated to learn from the company that he was the top winner. "I was super excited," said Bates. "They've been awesome throughout the whole thing, letting me know, and doing press releases ... I probably did four radio interviews last week. I did one or two yesterday, and I will do another one tomorrow. Hopefully, they'll just keep on calling.
"I'm so excited to be the grand prize winner, and I'm really looking forward to being on stage with Jake and his band," Bates continued. "This is an amazing opportunity, and I couldn't be here without the support from my friends and family."
From Oct. 11, through Nov. 7, more than 70 contestants submitted videotaped performances of their favorite Jake Owen songs on LongHorn's Facebook page, said Izzo. Visitors to the page voted for the performances they liked best, and the winner was chosen from 10 semi-finalists across the country, she said.
Some of Owen's songs include: "Yee Haw," "Don't Think I Can't Love You," "Eight Second Ride," and "Always Be My Angel."
One of Bates' first experiences of being in front of an audience came when he performed in a talent show as a seventh-grader at Eagle's Landing Middle School. "I've been doing this music, probably 10 years I've been singing. I'm young, but we started early, singing at pageants and stuff around here at the high schools, I guess, when I was about 14."
After graduating from Eagle's Landing Christian Academy in 2004, Bates got a job as a subcontractor, wiring casinos for audio and video. He later went to work for a construction company. Between construction jobs, he began looking for an opportunity to break into the country music business.
"I've always been practicing, but I entered the real world and did some work, and it was all on the road," he said. "We [my family and I] were still trying to do the music thing, and then, one day, we got a call from one of the labels, and I quit my job."
Bates said he then formed his own band, the Ty Bates Band, and began performing.
What he likes best about country music, he said, are the stories each song tells. "You can write a song pretty much about anything, and the songs stay around for a long time," he said. "If you get a good one, it's not a one-and-done deal. You can get into the business and stay in there."
Bates has a new CD, entitled "Ty Bates," scheduled for release Nov. 26, at the Hard Rock Cafe in Atlanta. "I like writing songs, because I can just drive down the road, and a line pops into my head, and I'm like, 'well, I can make a song out of that,'" he said.
Ty Bates' mother, Frances Bates, said the opportunity is long overdue for her son. "I'm just glad it's finally paying off for him, because he has worked hard," she said.
Frances Bates said Ty Bates showed "a lot of perseverance, just hanging in there." Since he began performing on-stage, her son has gradually become more outgoing, she added.
"The thing with Ty is, what's surprising, he's really shy and quiet," his mother said. "He's coming out of that a lot. He's finally getting to where, now, he's enjoying the attention a little bit more."