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Kathy Kelly, founder of the Winery Music Awards, recently took

ROUND ONE FIGHT! :  First-round competitors (left to right) Kerri Dopart, Rocky Gaines, Debra Arlyn, Shannon Curtis, and Kimberly Jean will vie for the top title through originality, musicianship, and, yes, their appearance and marketability. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WINERY MUSIC AWARDS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF WINERY MUSIC AWARDS
  • ROUND ONE FIGHT! : First-round competitors (left to right) Kerri Dopart, Rocky Gaines, Debra Arlyn, Shannon Curtis, and Kimberly Jean will vie for the top title through originality, musicianship, and, yes, their appearance and marketability.
# the time to discuss the competition's origins and the direction she sees it heading. The awards began in 2005, skipped 2006, and will begin their second year June 9.

NEW TIMES How did you come up with the idea for the Winery Music Awards? Were you watching American Idol?

KELLY Actually, I don't watch American Idol that often. I guess I do when I have some time, but I think that the idea of the competition came to me when Steve Cass in 2005 said he wanted to have a band come to his winery just to do a jam session, and I said you've got to give them a good incentive if they're going to play for free. I said, 'Why don't you make it a competition?' and he said, 'Yeah.'

NEW TIMES What did you have in mind when selecting the judges?

KELLY The judges that we've selected, one, have got to be actively involved in the music industry, and that means being a producer, a marketer, anything like that. Some of the judges represent the wine industry, but the marketing aspect of it so they know the wine consuming market. So the judges are pretty much mixed across the board for entertainment, music, and wine.

NEW TIMES What criteria are the musicians judged by?

KELLY They judge the artists one, on originality. Singing the same song as someone else is not going to get you to stand out. And that's worth 30 points. Musicianship is how well they know their craft, how well they use their knowledge of their craft, and how well they arrange and perform their music. And that's also worth 30 points. And then, the last is marketability. Are they marketable? Would someone want to see them perform or buy their CD? And they have to have a broad appeal because the wine consuming market is anyone between 21 and 54 who enjoys the finer things in life and music is part of that lifestyle as well as wine. Would that artist appeal to that specific demographic?

# NEW TIMES One of the critiques that American Idol has received is that the competition is really about the way the musicians are packaged, instead of about the actual music. And the Winery Music Awards site states that marketability is the most important factor in selecting a winner. Have you received criticism for this?

KELLY Marketability is like anything. Would you want to invest in a house if it was dilapidated? No, because you don't want to put money into it without getting a return on your investment. And we're in a consumer market. This is what capitalism is all about. So, if I'm going to ask a record label to put marketing dollars behind the winning band, you want to have a band that is appealing. You want to have a band or an artist that knows their craft well and has a nice stage presence. That is what marketability is about.

NEW TIMES So are you saying that marketability actually has something to do with musical talent and not just appearance?

KELLY Appearance is also part of it. I don't care what clothes they wear, but it's all part of the package, yes. Is the whole package appealing? And is it marketable? And that is very subjective. All of the judges may have a different perspective on what marketable is, but that's why we have a lot of them.

NEW TIMES How did you select this year's hosts? Did you feel that they were the best representatives for the local wine industry?

KELLY Andrew Firestone, being brand new to the market, was very willing to participate. Firestone, they are a great company. They have great wine. He brings a little bit of a younger skew, which is where the wine consuming market is trending these days. It will be appealing to see him perform live too, especially since he's also been on The Bachelor, so the girls want to see him and have their pictures taken with him.

NEW TIMES And his co-host?

KELLY Janie Terrazas. Basically I cast her as co-host because I felt that he'd need a kind of sidekick, and I think that the balance of the male and the female works very well, especially since he was on The Bachelor.

NEW TIMES What can you say about the 2005 winners, Threes and Nines?

KELLY Their CD is almost done. They have been in and out of the studio several times doing their recordings and I think that they're planning their release pretty soon. I think it's going to be out in July or August. Since that time, they have gotten a number of different opportunities. We had one of their songs, "Fireworks," on What About Brian, that TV show. So they're getting out there, they're getting gigs, and they're performing.

NEW TIMES Threes and Nines is comprised of underage musicians who can't legally drink. Do you think it's problematic for a band that can't drink to represent the wine industry?

KELLY No, there weren't any problems with it. They had their parents' consent, which is what we do if they're under 18. And no, they did not drink at all because they don't. Because they've won the competition, it hasn't caused any problems because they performed best. They got the judges' votes. They won because they have certainly the most originality. Their musicianship is not as high as their originality but their marketability was very high so that's how they won it. And they don't drink at all. They're kind of clean-cut boys.

NEW TIMES What is your long-term goal for the Winery Music Awards?

KELLY I think I'd like to see this really become the Sundance for musicians based on the Central Coast. And what that means is that, as this expands, I'd like to expand it to artists within particular genres because right now it's all genres across the board. I'd like to expand it so you could have just jazz as a genre, you could have adult contemporary, you could have rock, you can have country, you can have all different genres where we can have winners in different categories because it is very difficult to pick one winner out of all those bands.

NEW TIMES Your web site refers to the Winery Music Awards as "the Sundance of the Central Coast." Do you think the Film Festival might deserve that title?

KELLY That's their film festival here. I'll probably refine that a little more on the web site, say something like "the Sundance for musicians" because at this point it is just music but, who knows, maybe at some point in the future we can make film a part of it. It's all entertainment, you know. Music is a very important part of entertainment, even for movies.

INFOBOX: Five competitions, lotsa wine

The Winery Music Awards consist of four elimination rounds and one final competition. Elimination rounds take place June 9 at Maloy O'Neill Vineyards, July 14 at Stacked Stone Cellars, Aug. 11 at Booker Winery, and Sept. 15 at Silver Horse Winery. The final competition and awards presentation are Oct. 7 at River Oaks Hot Springs and Spa. Tickets to the elimination rounds cost $40, and tickets to the final competition cost $60, which doesn't include the cost of food and beverages that can be purchased at the competition. For more information and tickets, visit www.winerymusicawards.com.


Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach hates, hates, hates American Idol. Text a pledge that you never voted for that nonsense to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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