Entertainment

Cover Me Canada puts young talent to the test

Cover Me Canada host Nicole Appleton says she'll be identifying with each of the eight contestants of the TV talent competition as they take to the stage Sunday night.
Jordan Knight, a judge for Cover Me Canada, looks ahead to the new CBC talent competition. 5:15

Cover Me Canada host Nicole Appleton says she’ll be identifying with each of the eight contestants of the TV talent competition as they take to the stage Sunday night.

The former singer with the All Saints says she knows all about the struggle to make it in the music business and she'll be agonizing over each nerve-wracking performance before a national audience.  

"The first few seconds that they’re on stage, I’m going to be overwhelmed. I’ll be close to tears, I know what they’re going through. I have to kind of curb my nerves and anxiety for them," she said in an interview with CBC News.

"I’m going to be their friend, I’m going to be there with them."

Nicole Appleton, host of Cover Me Canada, says she identifies with each of the eight contestants. (CBC)

The eight contestants have a cross-section of musical styles, from rock to folk to jazz. Appleton was on hand as the eight were chosen, but was bound to secrecy on who made the final cut. She only will say Cover Me Canada has drawn out an amazing range of talent from across the country.

"It’s almost professional. These kids have never performed live before; they’ve never been in this situation before, but they’ve got such great charisma, such great drive, such great talent," she says.

For their initial auditions, the contestants were asked to cover one of four Canadian classic songs — Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot, Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane, Run to You by Bryan Adams or Black Velvet by Alannah Myles.

During the 10-week competition, they’ll be covering a different Canadian song each week and they’ll often be working outside their comfort zone, trying to put a fresh stamp on a song that might originally have been quite different from their own style. Each will have one week to pull it off, working with producers such as Hawksley Workman and Gavin Brown.

Voting rules

They perform live on each Sunday’s show, then the judges and the Canadian public have a chance to vote. The competitor with the greatest level of support from Canadians — on Twitter, Facebook or other social media — is granted immunity from elimination. But the judges make the final decision.

The judges are:

  • Jordan Knight, frontman for New Kids on the Block: Knight has a hiatus from touring this winter and is coming into the judging looking for both musicality and star quality.
  • Ron Fair, the Los Angeles-based producer who discovered Christine Aguilera and the Pussycat Dolls. Fair has a background that spans music from jazz to funk to rock and has been a record company executive.
  • Deborah Cox, a Toronto singer who had a smash hit in 1998 with Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here. Cox is still writing songs, recording and producing and will star in a Broadway production as Josephine Baker in 2012.

"Myself, Jordan and Don, we have three different perspectives of being in the industry," Cox said.

As a judge, Cox won’t see the contestants until the show begins, but she’s already decided what kind of judge she wants to be.

'Honest, direct, but still encouraging'

"I always liked people who are honest, direct, but still encouraging and that’s the kind of judge that I want to be. That’s the kind of person that I am," she said. "I never want to discourage anyone who chooses the arts as a path because it’s hard enough to make it in this business or even get ahead."

Cover Me Canada is unique because it focuses on Canada’s musical legacy, she said.

"The hardest part is covering a song you’ve heard a hundred times and you’ve heard a great rendition of. How do you as an artist make this song interesting to listen to again and in a different style?"

The contestants are competing for a $100,000 cash prize and a recording contract for their first original single.

Cover Me Canada debuts Sunday on CBC-TV at 9 p.m. (9.30 p.m. NT)