The search is on to find Tampa Bay's next star!  In an evening filled with "Unbreakable Smiles", Tori Kelly kicked off Wild 94.1's Tampa Bay Talent Search (#TBTSearch) Tuesday at the Hard Rock Cafe inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.  

The Tampa Bay Talent Search is a local effort to find the most talented singer/songwriter in the Tampa Bay area.  Ten finalists will perform live Tuesday, September 8th in the Hard Rock Cafe before a panel of 10 judges composed of Capitol Records, Warner Brothers, Columbia Records, Def Jam Records, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa executives and Wild 94.1's Morning Show Host Orlando Davis. The #TBTSearch winner will receive $2,500 in cash and $1,000 in music gear from Paragon Music.

Rising pop star Kelly, who found fame on YouTube and American Idol, has a special relationship with Davis and is excited to help find Tampa Bay's next star. She made an exclusive appearance to give contestants some "Treasure" in a Q&A session with Davis, followed by an acoustic performance.  Songs included Unbreakable Smile, Funny, Should've Been Us and Nobody Love.

Kelly, who posted her first video on YouTube at the age of 14, candidly shared with fans that it's been a lot of hard work to achieve her dream. "It doesn't feel's been a process...I've had to work for's been a long time".

She also gave some insight about how she gets through the inevitable low moments. Kelly was signed when she was 12 but it ultimately fell through. She was heartbroken but knew, even at that young age, "I wasn't going to be happy if I wasn't singing".  What clicked for her? "Allowing myself to write about the low moments. Allow the times when I'm uninspired to get inspired and turn the low moments into highs".

Kelly was certainly having a high moment when she belted into her hit song Unbreakable Smile on her acoustic guitar.  

Aspiring songwriters may not think it's "Funny" when first starting out but Kelly says this is when music really clicked for her.  "I knew I wanted to sing my own words, not others. Actually creating music changed my whole mindset, it made me more excited to share my own words and my own feelings".  

Orlando Davis has a long term relationship with the casino and is known in the Tampa Bay community for his many philanthropic efforts.  He's excited about the Casino's many initiatives to promote local live music and wanted to help find Tampa Bay's next star because "we don't cure cancer, we're just DJ's, I don't feel like I should be here without helping."  

Davis helped assemble "the perfect storm" and is bringing in an uber talented panel of judges for the top ten candidates as well as a coveted prize package for the winner.  Davis says although there is only one winner there are no losers because all of the top ten candidates have the opportunity to perform in front of the record label and, just like American Idol, each contestant has the opportunity to be signed.  

Aspiring singer/songwriters, don't miss out on this contest or you'll be thinking, as Kelly sang, it Should've Been Us.

Kelly closed out the show with an encore performance of her hit song Nobody Love.  There was certainly a whole lotta love in the Hard Rock house for Tori Kelly!

Think you could be Tampa Bay's next new thing? Applications for the #TBTSearch are being accepted NOW!  

Fifteen year old singer/songwriter Natalie Claro has already submitted her application for the #TBTSearch.  She participated in the Hard Rock Cafe's Tampa Bay Acoustic Music Festival in June and is now representing Hard Rock Energy as a Brand Ambassador.  She is nervous but excited to participate in another local music contest.  "I don't know how much to express what a great experience the Tampa Bay Acoustic Music Festival was. I wouldn't be where I am right now if I wouldn't have gotten into the festival."  Claro is practicing her song Own the Night non-stop in case she gets the chance to perform in front of the judges. 

Are you ready to enter the #TBTSearch?  If you're a solo acoustic singer/songwriter living in the Tampa Bay area, submit a brief bio and YouTube link to a performance that showcases your musical background.  The music can be original or a cover but it must be clean.

Hurry! The deadling is noon Thursday August 27th! Visit the WiLD 94.1 website for complete contest rules and information. 

Many thanks to Tori Kelly, Wild 94.1, Orlando Davis, the Hard Rock Cafe, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa and all the other sponsors and people who made this unique performance happen. We can't wait for the Tampa Bay Talent Search Finals on September 8th at the Hard Rock Cafe!  We wish everyone Good Luck!

Photo Credit: Photography by Leonardo Arbonies Photography