06/09/2008 at 12:00 AM EDT
There were cowboys, farm girls and an active duty member of the United States Navy among the acts who made it through three rounds of auditions to the finals, but it was a mother of five from Texas who brought the audience to their feet, put a grin on host Billy Ray Cyrus's face and left judges Jewel, John Rich and Jeffrey Steele almost speechless at the taping of the premiere episode of the sixth season of Nashville Star.
"Wow!" exclaimed Jewel.
"Naughty, naughty, naughty!" said Rich (who told another contestant, "There's a good chance someone on the Grand Ole Opry would beat the crap out of you"), offering Melissa Lawson a guarantee that her dream would live another day. "The look in your eyes when you came on stage was like fire! Someone is going home tonight but it ain't gonna be you!"
Taylor Swift, the night's guest performer, offered some advice to the hopeful country stars after singing "Picture To Burn" with her band on stage at the Roy Acuff Theatre in Nashville. "Be an individual. Figure out what's different about you and make your competition your inspiration."
Lawson took the lesson to heart, singing a steamy version of Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About." Her inspiration comes from her five boys -- ages 9 months to 8 years -- who are being cared for by a support team led by her husband back home in Texas while she savors the privacy of her own room in the cast's wing of the mammoth Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
"This is the first time in eight years I've had more than three minutes to put my makeup on!" she said. When told that his mom had made the finals, 7-year-old Harlan asked, "Does this mean we get the good life?" Sounds pretty good so far.
Nashville Star premieres Monday at 9 p.m., on NBC. --Kay WestJohn Russell/NBC