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Sharing a stage with superstars

Lake Oswego's Chad and Rachel Hamar of the band Cloverdayle open at a big- time venue Tuesday night

He's the reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year for four years in a row. She'll forever be known as the 13 year old who stole the country charts with her 1996 song 'Blue' and then went on to sell 37 million albums.

These country superstars, Kenny Chesney and LeAnn Rimes, are well known throughout the nation. And the opening act at their Tuesday concert at The Amphitheater at Clark County was Lake Oswego band Cloverdayle.

And it's all thanks to Chesney's The Next Big Star competition.

The contest was started by Chesney to find the most deserving local acts and give them an opportunity to open his show in their hometown. The contest teamed up with Portland radio station KWJJ (99.5 FM) to find an act that could rev up a crowd of 18,000 at the Ridgefield, Wash. outdoor venue.

On May 14, Cloverdayle earned its shot at the big time by wowing a packed house of enthusiastic fans eager to breathe in a night of concentrated country music.

Married couple Chad and Rachel Hamar of Cloverdayle - he's a guitarist, she's the singer - along with the rest of the band performed two original songs and their rendition of Janis Joplin's Bobby McGee. Then they waited for the results to be tallied.

'The judges chose Cloverdayle because they were great performers, very exciting and what we understood was the type of band that Kenny Chesney wanted to open for him,' said Fox-12 weatherman Andy Carson, who judged the competition along with one of Chesney's representatives and Mike Moore, program director at KWJJ.

'I would want to go to the Kenny Cheseny concert just for the opening act,' Carson said.

Moore agreed.

'Rachel is a terrific singer,' he said. 'It will be exciting for local country fans to see a local band perform on the big stage.'

Commanding attention

Comfortable in their signature denim jeans, flowing blond locks and electrifying stage presence, the band commanded attention like they do on center stage each week at SouthLake Foursquare Church in West Linn. Their demeanor mimics their honest song lyrics about life, hope and friendship.

As the opening act for a show on Chesney's Poets and Pirates 2008 tour, the Hamars will share their original music on the same stage as the musicians that inspired them to write the songs.

'We are fans of both (LeAnn Rimes) and especially Kenny Chesney. We have his entire catalog of music and it has inspired us in our own songwriting,' Chad said.

Cloverdayle's new single, 'Let It Go,' was inspired by Chesney's signature easy, breezy country songs - reminiscent of summers on a big front porch.

A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, Cloverdayle also fuses pop, soul and R and B elements to create songs with thick melodies, intricate parts and relatable messages.

While the duo has changed its band name throughout their 10 years performing - Sheer Bliss, Evengate, Chad and Rachel - their sound has only become stronger.

Under the name Sheer Bliss, the Hamars beat out pros like Phil Collins, Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne and No Doubt to secure the No. 1 position on the New Music Weekly Adult Contemporary Radio top 40 chart with their single 'See You in the Clouds' from their debut CD Living on Dreams.

But the couple has been living out their own dream for years - touring nationally, leading the SouthLake Frontline youth band at their church and sharing their love of music with their students.

They teach dozens of music lessons a week at their Lake Oswego home; Rachel teaches voice and piano while Chad sticks to the guitar and drums.

Their new band name is only an extension of their growth musically and as a couple.

What's in a name?

After a recent stay at a beach house on the Oregon Coast, the couple took a drive and came upon a little town called Cloverdale and jotted the name down on a piece of paper.

'We wanted to make it our own and that's why we changed up the spelling by adding the 'y,'' Rachel said of the different spelling. 'After the fact we found out that this beach house - where we'd done the majority of our songwriting for the past year and a half - actually had a Cloverdale mailing address when all along we thought it was Pacific City. Go figure.'

Also exciting is the fact that Cloverdayle will be entered into a national contest to open for Chesney at three Midwestern concerts in September in addition to $25,000 cash and the opportunity to audition for Sony/BMG records, Chad said.

With their music 10 years in the making, the Hamars said they are and always will be, 'just fans of music.'

'Really, what influences and inspires us is great songs, the writers of great song - like Diane Warren and Jeffrey Steele - and great performers,' Chad said.

The Hamars had a new five-song Extended Play CD available for purchase at the concert, their first released music since 2003.

The Hamars said Chesney's contest opened even more doors for them. They have been asked to open for country band Lady Antebellum on July 2 at Duke's Country Bar and Grill in Gresham. Lady Antebellum just won the Best New Country Band award at the Academy of Country Music award show and their single 'Love Don't Live Here' was No. 1 on country radio.

'We bought their CD the day it came out because we fell in love with the single,' Chad said. 'We're at a loss for words about these wonderful things.'

Chad and Rachel said they hope to record a full-length CD in the near future.

'It's been too long since we put out new music,' Rachel said, 'and we've got enough new songs to do two records.'

While center stage next week or in a few years, music will always be a priority for the couple.

Chad said their musical goals are, 'to entertain, inspire and pray that we are blessed to do this for the rest of our lives.'

For more information about Cloverdayle and to hear songs, visit www.myspace.com/chadrachelmusic.

Cloverdayle

Cloverdayle is Rachel Hamar on the microphone, Chad Hamar on the guitar, Tim Ellis on lead guitar, Rob Stroup on drums, Jamin Swenson on bass and Carl Smith on percussion.