Ready for the country? 

Whatever happened to that crazy blonde kid from the Cold Mountain Rhythm Band with the wide grin, a picture of a tomato taped to his hat and a washboard around his neck?

He went to Nashville to become a star.

Matt Lindahl isn’t following the same hard road as other hopefuls, playing in dive bars and working three jobs. Instead he’s shacked up with a host of other country musicians, playing on some of the biggest stages in the country, and making a name for himself on the USA Network’s reality television show Nashville Star.

He’s already a star in Missoula, and local followers have not forgotten him. Every Saturday they tune in as he sings beneath the lights. A crowd even gathers regularly at Flipper’s to cheer their buddy on.

“Everyone I talk to is aware of the show. I always knew it was going to happen on some level for him,” former bandmate Paul Donaldson said. “It was just a matter of time.”

Donaldson doesn’t go to Flipper’s on account of his young son. But he does tune in every Saturday, cell phone in hand, to vote for Lindahl.

“America is supposed to pick the next Nashville Star. I try to call as many times as I can,” Donaldson said.

While life for Lindahl may not be the typical coming-of-age country music experience, he did run his Mazda into the ground on his road trip to Nashville. Lindahl guesses he had about 250,000 miles on the car, but doesn’t know for sure because the odometer hadn’t worked in three years.

Sounds like a country song.

“I feel like I’m at a music camp,” Lindahl wrote us from Nashville. “I can’t tell you how surreal the whole thing is.”

In his Missoula life, Lindahl has also performed in several plays with the Montana Children’s Theater, and that actorly experience may help him in Nashville.

“He’s got a great charisma. That’s what makes him excel,” MCT Program Coordinator Joe Martinez said.

Donaldson agrees.

“If the judges are looking for someone with integrity, who is genuine, then they’ll pick Matt,” Donaldson said. Of an original 20 contestants, Lindahl is now among the final six.

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