‘Karaoke Kristin’ counting on local support in CMT singing competition

The sight of Kristin Ballah singing karaoke in local bars is nothing new – the Fergus native is known to many as “Karaoke Kristin” or simply “the karaoke girl.”

“I swear, a lot of people don’t even know what my last name is,” Ballah said with a laugh.

But Sept. 17 will be an entirely different experience altogether. At 7pm, Ballah will be appearing on the big screens at local bars on the Country Music Television (CMT) show Karaoke Star. As one of 10 finalists chosen from among over 250 who auditioned in Kitchener in June, she will be vying for the title of 2009 CMT Karaoke Star.

But first, she will be relying on votes – particularly from peo­ple in Fergus and Welling­ton County – to get her to the national finals next month in Alberta.

“I want to go to Banff,” she  said simply of her goal of winning the Kitchener audition. “I’ve never been, and I really want to go.”

Voting begins immediately following the show at 8pm on Sept. 17 and ends Sept. 23. Ballah is hoping county residents take advantage of the limitless voting at www.­cmt.ca.

“Vote, vote, vote,” has been the advice she’s passing on to anyone who will listen.

Billed as the search for Canada’s best karaoke singer, the show is now in its third season and also featured stops in Kelowna, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Halifax, and Charlottetown.

The national winner re­ceives $10,000, though Ballah never even mentioned the prize money.

“It was just an awesome experience,” she said. “The fact that everyone was so good [in Kitchener] and I made the top 10 is pretty satisfying in itself.”

In fact, she called the talent at the audition at Dallas nightclub in Kitchener “unbelievable.” She began singing as a little girl and has entered count­less vocal competitions, but said she’s never seen such talent in one competition.

She entered the contest two years ago, but wasn’t chosen as a finalist. This season, she is encouraged by comments from CMT personality Casey Clarke, who told her she was the best opening performer from across the country.

Some might consider drawing the opening slot bad luck, but not Ballah. She’s sung first so often at contests, it is now second nature to her. And it did not hurt that she knew one of the song choices – Stay by Sugarland – like the back of her hand.

She sings it regularly while running karaoke – at local bars like the The Goofy Newfie, D’s Sports Bar and Grill, in Fergus and the Metcalfe in Elora – as part of her business, Sing and Sound DJ. She has also sung it in person at the Goose and Gridiron, Breadalbane Inn, and The Brewhouse in Fergus.

“It was totally lucky,” she said of the song choice. But regulars at the karaoke nights say the song doesn’t matter – Ballah is just a great singer.

“I come from a very musical family,” she said, adding she has recorded a CD of original music that receives play at a few local bars. She told the Advertiser her dad, Kier­an, who has sung locally for 30 years, was a big influence on her.

She is hoping that legacy, combined with her talent, ex­perience and love for music,  will be enough to convince locals to cast as many votes as possible for her over the next six days.

Whether watching at a local pub or in their own home, those interested should tune in early, because Ballah is the first contestant at 7pm (some bars will be replaying the show at 11pm).

For more information about the show or to cast votes, visit www.cmt.ca.