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Paisley Van Patten, a 23-year-old country singer and songwriter from Salt Lake City, will compete against other Utahns at the Utah State Fair's Texaco Country Showdown Final.

Van Patten describes herself this way in her true-to-life song "My Sanity":

My real dad's name is Bob, or Joe, nobody really knows

[I am] the product of a one-night stand on a cruise ship down in Kokomo …

Grandpa got locked in the pen, Grandma said two years would go by fast

He used to read me Winnie the Pooh and tell me stories through the hole in the glass

Amazingly, the wavy-haired brunette's family has no problem with Van Patten's airing of her unorthodox upbringing straight out of a, well, country song. "I have a kick-ass family," Van Patten said shortly after winning the local contest sponsored by country station 101.5 FM The Eagle.

Van Patten, a Utah native and Brighton High grad, has already spent several years in Nashville. She moved home to Utah for the past year, earning money as a waitress, while hoping for her next big shot at country fame.

The winner of the fair's state finals earns $1,000 and will represent the Beehive State at one of five regional finals. That's the last step before the prestigious Texaco Country Showdown National Finals at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Regional winners will compete for the grand prize of $100,000 — and the notice of all the record labels in Tennessee.

"If I can make it as far as I can in Utah, then I'll go back to Nashville," Van Patten said. "They say that when you're 26, you're too old. But I have three years left."

Van Patten left Utah at 17, right after her high-school graduation, and worked to establish herself as a writer and singer. After a while, the process became too "emotionally damaging," and she found she needed to take some time off. "Nashville was cutthroat, dog-eat-dog," she said, adding: "When you go to a restaurant, the waiter has more talent in their left hand then you do."

She found some success in Nashville. She was the voice of NBC's "Today" show's 2010-11 theme song "Your Day Is Today," created by Greg Barnhill, an Emmy- and Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter who has become one of Van Patten's biggest champions.

Winning the local competition on July 30 was a big boost to her confidence. Judges raved after seeing her charisma and charm during a rendition of "My Sanity," a song she wrote when she was just 17.

"She is extremely talented," said Alan Hague, vice president of programming at Simmons Media, who was one of the judges. "Hopefully, she can blow [the other finalists] away."

Another judge, local film critic and entertainment writer Luke Hickman, was equally impressed. "She had everything you hear on pop-country radio," he said. "She had style, charisma, a persona. She already seemed like a country star."

She's not a country star yet. But perhaps on Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Fair's Grandstand, audiences will see one born.

Twitter: @davidburger —

2011 Utah State Fair Grandstand Entertainment

Today, 7:30 p.m. • Fictionist, gate admission, seating ticket required

Saturday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m. • David Crowder Band, reserved seat ticket includes gate admission, $20 in advance, $25 day of

Sunday, Sept. 11, 6 p.m. • Salt Lake Men's Choir, free with gate admission, seating ticket required

More online • Visit for complete scheduleFair gate admission • $10 adults; $7 seniors/youth; free for children 5 and younger. 'My Sanity'

You can hear Paisley's song "My Sanity" at