by Lynn Meredith
When singing duo Mary Noren and Kyle Miller of Maple Park heard that Country Music Television (CMT) was holding auditions for its American Idol-type show, “Can You Duet?” they decided to take a shot. Noren and Miller not only went to the audition, but they showed that they can duet (do it). They made it to round two before being cut from the competition.
“We heard about the auditions on the website and thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Kaneland alumnus Miller said. “It was last minute.”
The two Northern Illinois students had enough encouragement from friends and family who had heard them sing together to make the eight-and-a-half hour drive to Nashville. The auditions were held by CMT and the producers of “American Idol” to find the next great country music duo.
“It was the possibility of getting it,” Noren said. “Everybody told us we had a good sound and were unique.”
A month before, they had submitted a video of themselves performing, but the pair is almost sure no one saw it before the audition.
“We got to the Wild Horse Saloon at 7:30 (a.m.), and there were 2,000 people in line ahead of us,” Miller said.
In total, there were close to 5,000 people who came to Nashville that morning to get noticed by the judges. Miller and Noren beat out all but 150 by the time they were selected for the second round.
The crowd was divided into groups of 12 couples, sent to different rooms where judges from CMT gave each duet just 30 seconds to make the grade. The Noren and Miller duet was the only one from their group to be selected for the second round.
“I was soaring after making it past the first round,” Noren said.
As the pair waited out in the hallway for the start of the second round, they could hear other duets singing.
“Nobody really told us what we were doing (next). We didn’t know until we went into the booth,” Miller said.
They were ushered into a curtained-off booth where they saw one judge, two production engineers, and two other people sitting at a table. This round, the pair was asked to sing a song from start to finish. They sang “Looking for a Good Time” by Lady Antebellum. Then they were asked to sing another.
“You’re in line all day and then you just have 30 seconds. To make it to the second round made it feel worth it. We got to sing a couple more songs,” Miller said.
Noren was asked by the judges to sing a Carrie Underwood song.
“They heard us for our harmony. Then they were interested in hearing what range I had. I had put on the paperwork that one of my strengths as a musician was my range, and they wanted to hear more of that,” Noren said.
The pair was unique in a couple of ways. First off, most of the couples they encountered were from the Nashville area or surrounding states. Most were surprised that Noren and Miller had driven so far. Also, most of the couples had one partner who played the guitar.
“We did ours completely a cappella,” Miller said.
The performance was videotaped by CMT. The producers said they would review the tape and notify the duo by phone if they made it to the third round held the following weekend.
“I think it was narrowed down to 50 for round three,” Miller said. “They have two days of workshops with 12 pairs on the first day and 13 on the second.”
Even though the pair did not make it to the third round, they don’t regret anything.
“It was a lot of fun doing it. Everybody was really nice,” Miller said.
Now that they have a taste of performing, they plan to continue. They are working with a guitarist, and plan to expand into a band and look for bookings in the DeKalb area. They intend to stick with the country rock sound.
When they reflect on the experience of going to Nashville and putting their talents forward, they see how far they came.
“We said it would be okay if we didn’t make it past 30 seconds,” Noren said. “But after going through it, we would have been really bummed (if we didn’t make it to round two).”