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Courtney Tomlinson, Karaoke Champ

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web convo

Tomlinson, a Sag Harbor resident, won East Hampton Bowl’s annual karaoke competition, and now he’s headed to Reno, Nevada to represent the East End in the International Bowling Karaoke Contest on June 25 and a chance to win $10,000.

Congratulations! How does it feel to be headed to Reno to represent the East End in the karaoke competition?

I view it as a pleasure, a great opportunity to make the East End, my home, proud. I dedicate it to my wife and my mom, who have passed on. Every time I sing, I express myself. I can hear them around me and with me. That’s why I sing. It’s what my wife left me with. She used to listen to me, and coach me, and tease me. You practice, and you become better.

What goes into choosing the perfect karaoke song?

For me it’s about a song that will motivate the guests that are there. And it has to match my voice. It must be a song I can carry voice-wise, and it must have a meaning. It must stand out. I must be able to identify in some way or other with the artist. Some people look at karaoke as just a way of having fun, but for me it’s more than that. It’s just like singing a song, but the machine is there. Whatever you do, do it with all your might or just don’t do it at all.

Do you use costumes and drama to enhance the performance?

(Laughs.) I was doing Tom Jones and I wanted to depict him, and the song was talking about being deceived by a woman. I thought about this guy crossing the street to her house. A guy in the dark, waiting and watching his girl cheating on him.

I’m not sure if I’ll use costumes in Reno. It all depends. I’ll bring things along, but I’ll allow my instincts to tell me. That night [I won at East Hampton Bowl] I did three simple changes. When I did Rod Stewart I changed into a casual but elegant outfit. And then for “It’s Not Unusual,” I changed again into more laid back. And then Tom Jones. I was just having fun with the song. And the audience was with me. If you’re not motivating the audience, something is wrong.

What are the top five karaoke songs of all time?

“Drift Away,” “Rolling on the River,” “Desperado,” and then a Bob Marley, maybe “Is This Love”? I can’t leave out my Jamaican there, man. “Sweet Caroline” – that never gets old. And “Don’t Stop Believing”. Can’t leave that out.

But yeah, you gotta have fun with it. It’s not about just picking up and singing. Practice the song. Don’t go up there and make a mockery of someone’s song.

Also, through everything, remain humble. We have a saying in Jamaica: The humblest calves suck the most milk. My mom always said if you humble yourself you will make it in life.

I want to thank all those who have supported me and who have shown and given me their friendship even during my weakest hours, when my wife and my mom died, I want to say thanks to them.