By Alisha Hockensmith/Assistant News editor

“I hope they’re ready for me in Nashville, because chocolate-covered country is on its way.”Richar Hazzard, 23, is quite confident in his ability to make it to the top.

Last week’s Eastern Idol winner jumped off the stage when his name was called for first place. His performance of “Who’s Your Daddy,” complete with dancing and a cowboy hat he tossed into the crowd, was one he considers bad.

“I’ve come off stage (before) and been like ‘wow,’” Hazzard said. “I came off stage Friday night and I was like ‘Oh my God, I hope I win.’ That was not like a wow situation.”

Hazzard’s performance was one of the many he has given since childhood. His first experience singing was in fifth grade in front of 500-600 people.

“I was petrified,” Hazzard said. Since then, he’s lost his on-stage shyness.

Hazzard’s first contest performance singing country music was in a residence hall karaoke contest, where he placed first. He also won a karaoke contest at A1A in Lexington.

Monday Hazzard auditioned for Star Search in Lexington.

Hazzard may be secure in his ability, but his family hasn’t always believed in his singing talent.

“They used to tell me I couldn’t sing at all,” Hazzard said. “They used to say ‘oh you sound so bad.’ But you know what, I did … I was horrible.”

It takes practice and real desire to make it, Hazzard said.

“Kids tell me, ‘I want to be a singer, but my parents tell me I suck.’ I’m like, don’t listen to them.”

Hazzard grew up in Kimball, W.Va., a small town in the southern part of the state.

He joined the Army National Guard at 16 “because they told me I could sing and get paid for it.”

In 2001, Hazzard went on a world tour with the U.S. Army Soldier Show.

“It was an incredible experience,” Hazzard said. “I was like a star for a year.”

Hazzard’s six-year term of service in the Army ended Oct. 9, 2002.

He has been at Eastern since spring 2000 and will graduate this May with a bachelor’s of music with a vocal emphasis.

Hazzard’s love for music is big and so are his plans for the future. He has already written around 40 country songs.

“It (country music) is probably the catharsis to a melody,” Hazzard said. “You just ring your soul out.”

Hazzard reportedly had a $500,000 record deal in the process, but his contract fell through when the United States went to war with Iraq. His investor, an Iraqi, pulled all his money out of American investments, Hazzard said.

“I could not believe it,” Hazzard said. “I was absolutely devastated.”

Hazzard might have lost his contract, but he’s looking forward to a very successful future.

“(I’m going to) sing country music for a living,” Hazzard said. “I’m going to make it; no doubt.”

You have to make up your mind, he said.

“I’m deeply religious,” Hazzard said. “Everything happens for a reason, and unless God reaches down into my throat with his bare hands and yanks out my vocal cords, I’m going to be a celebrity.

“I have made up my mind. I am going to be a star.”