Amanda Maples Marr

Organizer, Mountain Soul Vocal Competition

The contest honors the songwriting of Dolly Parton—is she directly involved?

No, this is just something the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce does—the finals are part of our Bloomin' BBQ & Bluegrass festival in May. Dolly's our hometown girl and we're proud of her. We hold the finals right beside the bronze statue of Dolly downtown.

Do people need to start now on audition tapes?

Not necessarily, but some contestants from last year are already starting again. An entry can be as elaborate or simple as someone wants. We're looking for people who have a great sound to their voice and can really take a Dolly song and make it their own.

Is the contest growing?

Yes, it's in its fifth year and we split it into two divisions—12 and under, 13 and up—in 2007. The most entries I've had is about 40, but we'd love to have more. First prize in 13 and up is $500 and a recording session in Nashville, so it's a great opportunity,

Does anyone dress like Dolly?

No, and it would hurt them more than help them. It's all about going out there and making that Dolly song your own.

But not "I Will Always Love You"?

I had to outlaw that after the first year. Half the people who entered sang that song. Now they have to dig a little deeper and find something else. It doesn't have to sound country. A guy came out one year and entered "Bargain Store"—he sounded just like the Doors. It was awesome. Another guy sang "Jolene," but he kind of shifted the pronouns up a little and [changed] one word. Instead of "Don't take my man," he made it, "Don't take my dad."

Do a lot of guys enter?

We don't have a lot, but they are welcome. Please come out!

For more information, 1-888-889-7415 or