SPRINGFIELD — A Tolono man who is particularly good at singing Michael Bublé and Travis Tritt music will soon share a stage with country superstar Reba McEntire.
Matthew Cloud, 21, defeated 17 other competitors on Sunday afternoon to take the first prize at the Karaoke Finals competition at the Illinois State Fair.
After impressing the crowd with his rendition of Bublé’s classic tune “Feeling Good” on the Grand Central Stage, the Tolono man crooned a karaoke rendition of Tritt’s “Anymore.”
Just a few years ago, Cloud was performing in musicals like “Grease,” “Legally Blonde” and “Guys and Dolls” as a student at Unity High School.
Now, he is preparing for his senior year at Elmhurst College, where he is majoring in music business.
“My main goal is to work for a music label or a recording studio,” Cloud said. “But my ultimate goal is to perform.”
Cloud said he has been singing karaoke since he was in sixth grade.
“I found different karaoke tracks and began singing them privately,” he said. “When I was in the eighth grade, I got into Michael Bublé music, and he has been my go-to singer ever since.”
Cloud said his mother nudged him to sing the Tritt tune.“My mom loves Travis Tritt and always wanted me to sing country,” Cloud said. “My mom talked me into doing it and got me onto the stage with his music.”
This is Cloud’s second time in the music limelight. Back in 2014, when he was a sophomore at Unity, Cloud reached the judge’s table for the NBC TV show “The Voice.”
Cloud admitted being nervous singng on the Illinois State Fair stage.
“You always get the jitters, especially with all the talented people here,” he said.
What was his reaction when Cloud learn he was the winner?
“I was very shocked,” he said. “Honestly, I thought any of the talented people here could have won. I am glad to have been selected as the champion.”
All the participants in Sunday’s competition received tickets to Sunday’s Dan + Shay country music concert, with Cloud getting to meet the duo in person.
But, as the state fair champion, Cloud will perform three songs prior to the sold-out Reba McEntire concert before 14,000 people at the fair on Aug. 18.
Meanwhile, Andrew Metheney, a 2016 graduate of Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, successfully defended his title in the hog-calling contest at the Illinois State Fair.
Matheny used four different perfectly executed hog calls to take home the top prize, all while wearing a shirt reading “The Pig Whisperer.”
Contestants were judged on creativity, appeal and audience reaction.