"Cowboy" Takes a Chance on CMT
POSTED: 2007-12-08 :: LAST UPDATED: 2007-12-19, 14:53 ET

Jai Patel Steven "Cowboy" Flaughers (Akron, Kent State) has been singing all his life, even before his earliest memories. According to his mother, his singing debut occurred at the age of four at a little hot dog stand in small-town West Virginia.

Almost 30 years later, Cowboy made it to the Top 16 on Country Music Television's Music City Madness Video Contest held this fall through the CMT web site. His music video premiered at the Cleveland Film Festival and on computer screens across the nation as friends, family and people he's never met before voted for the music video that was almost a year in the making.

When he's not working at his full-time job providing print and promotional products to businesses, Steven "Cowboy" Flaughers seeks every opportunity he can to sing and perform, and he hopes to one day launch a successful music career. "I love my job. The only thing I'd trade it for is selling music for a living," he says.

"I've been singing since I was little. I grew up singing bluegrass, singing in church, in school choirs, and I tried to do musicals whenever I could. When I went to college, I planned to study music until I realized that there's no class where they can teach you how to sing country music, you just have to do it," he says.

Steven joined Sigma Nu at the start of his college career at the University of Akron. He says that's probably where he got the nickname "Cowboy". While still a candidate, he had signed up to perform in a singing contest held at the student center. After telling a few brothers, word spread quickly and the next thing he knew, the entire chapter was in attendance.

He left Akron in 1997 to join the Army. Before leaving for basic training, his mom asked him to make a demo tape, which she proceeded to send out to anyone she could find. His demo caught the ear of singer/songwriter Larry Saltis (who starred in the 1987 television remake called the "New Monkees"). Larry wrote a letter to Steven saying he really liked his demo and wanted to collaborate on some projects once his military service was completed. Together they eventually wrote three original country songs, one of which, Wish Upon You, became part of Steven's entry in the CMT Music Video contest.

He first heard about the contest in 2006, while in Alabama on business. One of the entry requirements was to have an original song. With that piece already in place, his plan was to go home and, using a handheld video camera and a few friends, create a video for his contest entry.

When Larry suggested that they ought to do it right, Steven decided to forego entering in 2006 and film the video professionally for the 2007 contest. Larry introduced Steven to director David Manocchio who had won awards for his films at the Sundance Film Festival. Together they selected a storyline for the video and went to work finding an actress and a film crew.

After the long, drawn-out (and expensive) process of preparing, filming and editing for most of 2007, they completed the video in early October and submitted it to the CMT Music City Madness Contest. The cost was almost $10,000 more than Steven had anticipated, but he says he was very pleased with the end result. "Seeing the finished product was amazing. So many people were part of the project. Friends, family, fraternity brothers and even our old chapter sweetheart appeared in the movie theater scene. In the end, it was incredible to have so much support throughout the filming and the contest," he shares.

More than 600 music videos were submitted to CMT. Steven's Wish Upon You was chosen as one of 64 eligible for public voting on the CMT web site. The winning prize was a trip to Nashville with the opportunity to record two songs at CMT's Studio 330 along with an audition for Sony BMG Nashville A&R executives.

He was pretty confident about making it through the first round; however, in round two Steven was up against DeWayne Spaw, a country music entertainer with a significant following. Fortunately, Steven came out on top in that pairing, making it to the Top 16. "It was a big deal. Local radio stations and newspapers were calling to interview me. It was really exciting," he shares.

During the contest Steven says he hardly slept. He and his family and friends voted round-the-clock, and he worked diligently to send the link to everyone he knew, promote it on YouTube and record thank you messages to share with his supporters. "I was getting e-mails from people I'd never even heard of who wrote to tell me they loved the video and said they were voting for me and sending it to their friends," he says.

Although he didn't make it to the Top 8, Steven isn't discouraged; in fact, he's excited about the many opportunities resulting from his participation in the contest. He recently opened for Ricochet, has offers to play with a few local bands, including the Curtis Brothers Band, and during the month of December, his schedule is booked with other performances, including a "Thank You Show" for his local fans for their support during the contest. In addition, the chance to have his music video premiere at the Cleveland Film Festival—the first time a music video has ever been shown there—is just another feather in his cap.

He still hopes to make it big some day. He's working on press kits, trying to get some private auditions and looking forward to the next contest he might enter. "This is truly a passion of mine and rather than let this get me down, I'm just going to keep on trying," he says.

Steven "Cowboy" Flaughers is a proud 2004 graduate (and former team mascot) of Kent State University, where he affiliated with the Sigma Nu chapter after returning from military service. He served as Commander of the chapter and, in 2001, won the Talent of the Year award while attending Sigma Nu's College of Chapters in Lexington, Va.

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