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Country music star Carrie Underwood with Bryce Verlinden, a United Township High School graduate who got to sing one of the singer's songs with a live band and the country-music superstar singing backup vocals at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

 On June 5, on the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, Bryce Verlinden realized what two weeks earlier was just a dream.

The 22-year-old United Township High School graduate got to sing the Carrie Underwood hit "Before He Cheats" with a live band and the country-music superstar singing backup vocals.

Verlinden then ascended to Cloud 10 when he met the 35-year-old Oklahoma native whom he's seen in concert 12 times.

"I wanted to puke, to be honest with you," he said. "I thought, I'm gonna make a fool of myself, to have this 'American Idol,' someone I look up to. You're performing their song in front of them.

"But once I got up there, saw Carrie letting loose, I'm gonna have fun," he said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Verlinden, a 2017 Iowa State University graduate who's marketing director for Chick-fil-A in Ames, Iowa, was among more than 500 people nationwide who entered the "Carrie-Okie Contest."

Underwood fans were invited to submit a video of themselves singing karaoke of one of her songs. The 2005 “American Idol” winner, who's sold more than 65 million records worldwide, personally picked four winners to come to a private party at the Grand Ole Opry.

"I did it kind of half-jokingly; I'm kind of tone deaf," Verlinden said. "The opportunity -- you just couldn't pass it up."

Verlinden said he likes to do karaoke and has seen Underwood in concert more than any other artist among the 324 concerts he's seen. He keeps an Excel spreadsheet listing all of them.

He had visited Nashville several times before for the CMA Fest, but had never been to the Opry. All four of Underwood's selectees got to perform. The first song Verlinden sang was Underwood's "Last Name."

"They had the words on a giant screen in back," he said. " I didn't need them for one of my favorite songs."

He said the audience voted him as one of two semifinalists, but he lost the final round to a singer who got to perform a full duet with Underwood.

"She still performed background vocals for me; that was pretty cool," Verlinden said. "We had a private meet and greet."

Singing at the Opry was "euphoric," he said,.

"It was crazy to be on the same stage as people like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, legendary names in music," Verlinden said. "You step in that circle and -- whoa -- you just feel this energy come over you, overwhelmed."

Verlinden said his first live concert was at age 6, when he saw Janet Jackson at the then-Mark of the Quad Cities. He's seen Lady Antebellum nine times, and said his favorite show was Queen and Adam Lambert last summer in St. Paul, Minn. This year he plans to see Fleetwood Mac in Des Moines, and Beyonce and Jay-Z in Minneapolis.


Business Editor/Night City Editor