For years, local country singer Caity Lynn Fisher performed around Baltimore and dreamed of moving to Nashville, Tenn.
But her plans to leave her home in Glen Burnie and head west with musical partner Jennifer Van Meter kept getting waylaid.
This spring, Fisher finally made it to Music City to compete on the TV show Can You Duet. On the reality show, created by the producers of American Idol, several teams of two singers vie for a chance to win a record deal with Sony BMG. The next episode airs at 8 p.m. tomorrow on CMT.
Fisher and Van Meter played in the local country and folk group Eighty1South for nearly seven years.
They were considering calling it quits when one of Can You Duet's producers sent them a MySpace message last fall asking them to audition. They first traveled to Nashville to try out as a duet in early January, got a call back and made the trip again the next month.
But judges Naomi Judd, Brett Manning and Aimee Mayo decided only Fisher could advance on the show.
Choosing between staying to compete or going home with Van Meter was one of the hardest decisions Fisher has ever made, she said. The two had been so close for so long - Fisher only started singing country because Van Meter gave her Sara Evans' album Born to Fly in high school.
"I was seriously thinking about not going on and saying, 'Well, we wanted to do this together, so I'm out,' " said Fisher, 23.
"At the same time, [Van Meter] was looking at me like I was nuts. I asked her what she would do. She said, 'I would go on, and that's what you're going to do.' "
So Fisher stuck with the show, where she was teamed with singer/guitarist Will Snyder. Though the two were complete strangers, they struck a chord with the judges and advanced to become one of the final four duos. Tomorrow, the trio of judges will narrow the contestant pool down to three pairs.
Fisher and Snyder didn't have a particular practice routine to prepare for their performances. They might stay up for most of the night rehearsing a song or only spend an hour on it, she said. Creating a dynamic with someone she'd never met was one of the toughest parts of the show for Fisher.
"It was hard getting to know someone and trying to forge this chemistry with them in a very short period of time," Fisher said. "It was very hard work, but it was also very rewarding."
Can You Duet was taped in March and began airing in mid-April. Over the course of the month, Fisher met and worked with a few of the songwriters she admires. That was one of the biggest bonuses of being on the show, she said.
"It's like being at a puppet show and seeing who's pulling the strings," she said. "The writers are really what make Nashville go around."
Fisher moved into a home in Nashville shortly after the show finished taping. She has since settled into her new surroundings - even picking up a lilting Southern accent, which fades in and out when she talks.
"It's horrible," she said, laughing. "If I catch myself, it turns off immediately. But I swear to God, there's something down here - the Southern twang comes out in you."
Country music, with its heartfelt, engaging stories, is therapeutic for Fisher to listen to and perform. Few other kinds of music compare, she said.
"There is something so emotional about a woman singing country music," she said. "It makes it easier for me to express myself."
Since Can You Duet started airing, people have recognized Fisher when she goes out. She'll be in a bar and get approached by fans of the show three or four times a night, she said.
"It's weird," she said. "It's so weird."
Seeing Fisher on TV is bittersweet for Van Meter. But she's not surprised at Fisher's success on the show. And the two are still close friends, even though the distance makes it hard to get together and play music.
"It's neat to watch all this unfold," Van Meter said. "I'm so proud of her. This is her element. This is where she needs to be."
Though she can't tell how it ends, Fisher is pleased when she looks back at her performances on the show. So are members of her family, who get together every week to watch it in a Glen Burnie bar.
"At the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you're doing," she said. "And at the end of the day, I was happy with how I came off on the show."
Though the show and her move to Tennessee happened in a matter of months, Fisher doesn't feel as though she's on the fast track. She paid her dues with nearly a decade of gigs around Baltimore and is now finally starting to see some rewards for her work.
"It was pretty much seven years in the making," she said.
Can You Duet airs at 8 p.m. tomorrow on CMT.