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Saturday night the Bartender's Ball performing act, Gran Torino has something to celebrate.

Saturday night the Bartender's Ball performing act, Gran Torino has something to celebrate.The nine-member band from Knoxville, Tenn. is close to signing a major record deal, recording a new album with a famous producer and is currently working with Kid Rock's former entertainment lawyer. If that's not enough to celebrate, the band will be running a commercial in December on MTV to promote its current album, Gran Torino 2, which has already sold over 20,000 copies. According to trumpet/saxophonist Scott Pederson, the commercial began airing last week in Raleigh and will continue until Dec. 24, airing three to four times a day. If you can't catch the commercial because you don't live in Raleigh, tune into a rerun of the Real World New Orleans where Gran Torino's single, Moments With You was featured. The group has completed several new songs, but only two of them, Darkness and Come Lower, can be heard at performances until a record deal is signed. "The record companies don't want anybody bootlegging them," Mr. Pederson said. "We can get away with playing a couple, but as far as playing all of the new songs, they pretty much told us not to." That's okay with the band. Mr. Pederson agreed that they don't want anything interfering with a label contract. However, the band will release one of its new songs to the Internet site, Napster. Gran Torino is supportive of the MP3-swapping program, and Mr. Pederson said that all of the band's songs are already available on it. The band will leak one of the unreleased tracks onto Napster in the near future. "We haven't decided when, but it's definitely going to happen," Mr. Pederson said. While playing too many of their new songs to a live audience may hurt their future, the band members feel that releasing just one song early through Napster can be helpful. "We're going to do it for 12 hours, follow it and see what happens," Mr. Pederson said. The certainty of a record deal lies in the question of "when and how much," Mr. Pederson said. Lead vocalist Chris Ford, guitarist Stephen Dexter, bassist Todd Overstreet, keyboardist/trombonist Dexter Murphy, trumpet player Pee Jay Alexander, saxophonist Jason Thompson, drummers Whit Pfohl and David Heyer and Mr. Pederson are looking for the deal that can satisfy all members. "We could have had (a deal) already but the offers aren't quite where they need to be for a nine-piece band," Mr. Pederson said. "(We want) something that's going to ensure that we won't have to do anything else forever." The band is also pleased about recording its new album, predictably titled Gran Torino 3. Mr. Pederson said there's a good chance that the band will be able to work with producer George Drakoulias, the executive producer for bands such as The Black Crowes and the Beastie Boys. Gran Torino averages 185 shows per year and is constantly in a state of "semi-touring," according to Mr. Pederson. "Now we don't have to play as much because you know when you make more, you play less," Mr. Pederson said. This is a temporary break for the band. Mr. Pederson said Gran Torino will go on a "big tour" after it gets signed. The tour will happen sometime during the first or second quarter of next year.

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