Canadian singer/songwriter Jessica Ridley swept every talent category to win the Bud United Presents: The Big Time contest and take the opening slot on the massive iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
Ridley’s road to victory was chronicled Saturday (Jan. 21) on ABC-TV premiere episode of the new series. She competed against Nashvillian Justin Nault and Laura Jeanne of St. Albans, England.
The three finalists were picked from thousands who auditioned via Budweiser’s online casting call.
Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Narada Michael Walden and Clear Channel Radio program director Julie Pilat served both as mentors and judges. Clear Channel sponsors the iHeartRadio Music Festival.
Now living in Nashville, the Canadian-born Ridley demonstrated her musical mettle in a two-day marathon that began with each contestant singing his or her country’s national anthem a cappella in an empty Las Vegas stadium. The point was to show how well they could project their voices in a large arena.
Belting out “O Canada,” Ridley won this round, as she did the next one, which required the contestants to write, within an hour, the words and music for a 30-second commercial for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. They were given an additional 30 minutes to teach the song to a band of studio musicians and record a demo of their commercial.
In the final test—their third of the day—the contestants had to select, rehearse and sing a cover song before a live audience at the Canyon Club showroom in downtown Las Vegas. Pacing the stage like she owned it, Ridley delivered a sizzling version of Toto’s “Hold The Line,” and took the top prize here, as well.
With Walden and Pilat there to encourage and drive her on, Ridley spent the second day rehearsing for the tone-setting opening slot she would occupy that evening the iHeartRadio Music Festival. The Sept. 23-24 extravaganza spotlighted 17 major performers, including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Kenny Chesney, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Nicki Minaj.
Prior to making her opening debut, Ridley was lavished with words of advice and encouragement from such other festival headliners as Jane’s Addiction and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.
Ridley wowed the crowd of 17,000 at the MGM Grand Hotel with her two-song opener of “Hold The Line” and her Nine North Records single, “Flaming Red.”
“It was the best feeling on the planet,” Ridley exclaimed backstage. “Walking out on that stage felt like coming home. This is the beginning of something even bigger than I thought imaginable.”