Jun 28, 2011 10:37 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - By any normal pop culture calculus, little-known, Lafayette-born singer-songwriter Lelia Broussard had about as much chance of appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone this summer as, say, BeauSoleil fiddler Michael Doucet.
Lelia Broussard is one of two unknown artists who have a chance to be on the Aug. 18 cover of Rolling Stone.
But thanks to luck, pluck and a fortuitous contest, Broussard has a 50-50 shot at adorning popular music's most prestigious cover.
Broussard and hirsute Canadian blues, rock `n' boogie quartet the Sheepdogs are the two finalists in Rolling Stone's first-ever "Choose a Cover" competition. The winner will grace the magazine's Aug. 18 edition and receive a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Fans can vote at RollingStone.com through Friday, July 1.
A RS cover nod both results from pop culture cachet, and boosts it. Over the past year, qualifiers have ranged from Bob Dylan's 70th birthday to "Jersey Shore" star Snooki's improbable rocket ride.
The contest, a brilliant bit of music industry synergy, is a partnership between the magazine, Atlantic and sponsor Garnier Fructis. Atlantic talent scouts helped select the initial 16 contestants, at least some of whom the label was considering signing anyway.
These are not "American Idol"-style, sing-in-the-shower amateurs, but seasoned, if unsigned, acts. Both the Sheepdogs and Broussard have criss-crossed North America and released indie albums. Broussard even inked a publishing deal, often the precursor to a full-blown recording contract.
"They wanted to have bands that have been working for a long time," she said over the phone from Los Angeles recently. "They didn't want to prep the girl from Wal-Mart that had a nice voice."
The RS cover appearance will give Atlantic a head start promoting a relatively unknown artist. For Broussard, the contest has already fast-tracked a career she assumed would advance more organically.
She grew up on Marie Antoinette Street in Lafayette, where much of her family still resides. Around age 10, she moved to Philadelphia when her mother married a man from Pennsylvania, and started playing guitar and writing songs. At 17, she set off for New York City and hit the club circuit, attending the "school of rock."
A publishing deal enticed her to Los Angeles for a couple years, but she's now living in New York again. For years, she's supported herself as a musician, touring in a van and cultivating a dedicated online fan base. She raised $15,000 via Kickstarter.com to fund her 2010 indie album, "Masquerade."
Recorded in New York with producer Dan Romer, "Masquerade" is a polished, confident collection of original material. The title track and "Satellite" are pop radio-ready. Shades of Sheryl Crow and Feist turn up in the mix, but Broussard manages to sound like herself.
"I wanted people to like it, and to get to a new place in my career," she said of her initial goal for "Masquerade." "But I've learned to not have huge expectations. I wanted to let it happen naturally."
The Rolling Stone contest altered that approach. Since advancing to the finals, she and Sheepdogs have embarked on a whirlwind of showcases and special appearances. Both acts recently performed at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee. She's been mentored by the members of Lady Antebellum. Kid Rock counseled the Sheepdogs.
A prolific writer, she has a batch of new compositions ready to go should she win and land a deal with Atlantic. She'll find out the results days before the winner is publicly announced Aug. 2 on the Jimmy Fallon show.
"It's going to be a hair-pulling ordeal to wait that long to find out," she said. The prospect of walking by a New York magazine kiosk and seeing herself staring out from the cover of Rolling Stone "is insane. I get totally freaked out sometimes when I think about it. It's a huge thing. It's the pinnacle. Everyone dreams about that. But I didn't really think that was something I'd be able to do."
The contest "is an amazing opportunity to be able to do this, and still be the artist I want to be."
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