Two midstate acts competing in Georgia Lottery music search

Two local music acts are among 12 finalists competing for a prize from the Georgia Lottery that the artists say is better than money.

Chosen from hundreds, narrowed down to 80 and then cut to 12, only four acts can be named winners of a statewide music competition Friday. Two of the remaining 12 acts are from Middle Georgia.

Julius Ray Wilson or “Young R” of Juliette is competing in the hip-hop/rap category, and Macon-based band theKey is a finalist in the rock genre of the Georgia Lottery’s All Access Music Search.

The 12 finalists will perform, and winners will be announced during a live broadcast Friday from Atlanta. The finale will be shown locally on WMGT-TV beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Grand prize winners will receive a three-day trip to Los Angeles, including a four-hour recording session at the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood.

In the music industry, an opportunity like that large-scale exposure and networking could be the equivalent of, well, winning the lottery.

“Money can be spent just like that,” said Wilson, who describes his sound as energetic feel-good music. “It’s the connects who I can meet and who can help me get to the next level.”

One winner will be named from each of the four genres rock, rap/hip-hop, pop/R&B and country.

“For us, it would be a telltale sign of whether or not this is something we can pursue full-time in the future,” said Jonathan Wisdom, a member of theKey. “We all kind of feel a calling to music. This will show us if people are enjoying the music, people are liking it. We’ll see if this is something we can support ourselves with.”

The band comprised of Clay Scott (lead vocal, acoustic guitar and main songwriter), Rachel Scott (keyboard), Ryan Cunningham (bass), Josh Harnevious (drums) and Wisdom (electric guitar) formed in 2008 while the members were all students at Mercer University.

They describe their music as “modern day ’90s.”

“It’s mostly our take on pop music, a sound that embraces the modern music scene while adding its own flavor reminiscent of the ’90s,” Wisdom said.

The lyrics, however, are rooted in the band’s faith.

“We are all Christians, so what we do is we write our music based on our faith, based on our experience,” Wisdom said. “We write it in a way that people can relate to it. We want our faith to show through our lyrics.”

Wilson, who is currently working on his MBA at Georgia College & State University, said he met members of theKey while he was a student at Mercer. Competing in different genres, the local performers are rooting for each other.

Both acts first auditioned in Macon, when an open call was hosted at the Marriott City Center in October. Only 20 acts were selected from the Macon location, while other auditions were held in Atlanta, Columbus and Savannah. Those 80 acts 20 from each region then battled in Atlanta for 12 slots.

The 12 finalists have lobbied for online votes for weeks, spreading the word through social media networks and local news outlets. Online voting ended Jan. 5.

They will now perform in front of a live studio audience and a panel of celebrity judges, including singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins, producer/songwriter Dallas Austin, Clay Cook of The Zac Brown Band and R&B recording artist Monica. The show will be hosted by “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent Kevin Frazier.

Each act will perform a 90-second set, and all of the finalists will come together for a collaboration of “Georgia on my Mind.”The winner will be determined based on both the online vote and judges’ opinions.

Wilson was scouring Macon Mall on Wednesday, looking for the perfect outfit to wear on the show.

He decided to keep it simple, nothing too flashy. He settled on a pair of jeans to wear with a shirt emblazoned with his logo Young R. Win or lose, everyone tuning in would remember the name, he reasoned.

“Either way, it’s going to be a good look, a lot of publicity,” he said.

The show will air in other regions on WSB-TV (Atlanta), WSAV (Savannah), WRBL (Columbus) and WJBF (Augusta). The live finale will begin at 7:30 p.m. in all markets except Atlanta, where it will begin at 8 p.m.

For more information on theKey and Young R, visit www.thekeymusic.com and www.youngrlive.com, respectively.

To contact writer, Caryn Grant call 744-4347.