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Still reaching for the stars

"Nasvhille Star" finalist Ashlee Hewitt said she shed "tears of joy" when she was eliminated from NBC's "Nashville Star" and that, even though her time in the singing competition is over, she's already seeing what it could do for her music career.

"Nasvhille Star" finalist Ashlee Hewitt said she shed "tears of joy" when she was eliminated from NBC's "Nashville Star" and that, even though her time in the singing competition is over, she's already seeing what it could do for her music career.

"Being eliminated last night was for the best," Hewitt, a Lancaster, Minn., singer and songwriter said Tuesday during a telephone interview from Nashville. "It was meant to be this way, and I think great things are going to come for me."

Tonight, Hewitt, 20, will sing from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at a benefit at the Lancaster golf course for the local drive-in restaurant owner, Tracey Brewer, for whom she used to work and who needs a kidney transplant. Later in the evening, she'll sing a concert at her family's ranch to thank her fans and supporters, she said.

Judges' praise

A wholesome, sexy blonde with a sweet voice, Hewitt seemed a favorite of the Nashville Star judges, singer Jewel, songwriter Jeffrey Steele and John Rich of the country duo Big & Rich. Some media had her picked as the show's eventual winner.

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She made it from the original 12 to the final five, and Monday night ("Original Song Night") at Nashville Star, sang her own "Mike's Hard Lemonade," winning praise from the judges.

"You're the one artist out of this whole show who's really felt like an artist," Jewel said.

Unfortunately for Hewitt, viewers of the show who voted thought differently and voted her off the show. Hewitt said goodbye with tears streaming down her face. Host Billy Ray Cyrus helped soften the blow.

"You're going to be a big star, young lady," he told Hewitt. "You're very, very talented."

After the show's exit interviews Tuesday, Hewitt was scheduled to fly into Grand Forks later in the day and arrive in Lancaster today, she said.

"I want to support Tracey Brewer and to give back to everyone for voting for me and supporting me," Hewitt said. "It's sad that I left last night, and I was so disappointed. But I wanted to perform my original work, so that was cool. And I am so very happy right now."

Hewitt grew up in a home-schooled family of 13. She started singing in church and often performed with her sister, Katrice, before moving to Nashville. Her Christian faith is an important part of her life and who she is, she said.

Others' experiences

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Still, the song she wrote and sang Monday night, "Mike's Hard Lemonade," like many country tunes, was on the funny and worldly side, about a young girl who strayed from the straight and narrow for romance.

"She's got a hickey on her neck from the night before," Hewitt sang. "They went a little too far in the back of the 4 by 4."

Hewitt said the song came from a time when she worked at a bar and grill in Hallock, Minn., and on the conversations she had there with other young women who liked to drink Mike's Hard Lemonade and talk about their lives and experiences.

"I don't drink, and I probably won't when I'm 21, so I don't party at all," she said. "I sing country music about other people's stories, and this is what happens when things like that can go on. I think a lot of girls can relate to it."

Hewitt doesn't swear in her songs and tries to keep inside what's right and wrong, she said. She's not interested in portraying herself as something she's not.

Keeping the faith

Faith in God also helped her cope with the disappointment of being eliminated from "Nashville Star," she said.

"All week (before Monday night's show) I prayed for it," she said. "I wanted it to be in God's hands. Yesterday, before I went on the show, I was really calm. The reason I was crying so much (at the end) was it was such an awesome experience. I met so many great people. I was crying tears of joy."

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Hewitt said she plans to remain at the family ranch until the "Nashville Star" finale Aug. 4. She was happy to leave the show with such encouraging words from the judges and is grateful for their help. She's made contact with people in the music business who are interested in working with her, and she plans to pursue her dreams for a successful career, she said.

"I can do it," she said. "The opportunity is right there for me. It's all up to me from this point forward."

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com .

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