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In a current economy that trends rejection and tough times, former school mates Casey Clark and Southey Blanton found that patience and persistence are key to their growing success. “It’s a process of playing the odds,” said Clark. “You go into the music industry knowing and hearing it’s a tough field, but that’s a myth I like to dispel.” After graduating college, Clark and Blanton went on to pursue their dreams and make use of their talents. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, you are told, ‘No,” said Blanton, with regard to auditions in Hollywood since his move in July 2009. Blanton’s message speaks to several people filled with uncertainty in a difficult job market. “I think the whole thought of being an actor in most places is considered a little crazy,” he said. “You have to really want it, and that’s true in any career … you keep training to achieve that one percent. Chasing down the task is part of the fun, and once you find exactly what you want to do, you realize it.” Blanton, a 2005 graduate of the University of North Carolina, moved to Hollywood with his wife Nicole last year to chase his acting dream. Recently, he stars as Big Money in Progressive Direct insurance’s commercial alongside Stephanie Courtney, better known as “Flo.” “A big national commercial like that is a goal that most commercial actors [in Los Angeles] aspire towards. Booking something like that lets you know you’re doing something right,” said Blanton. When asked about his most surreal experience, the actor reflected on his work with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker in “The Great Debaters,” where he played a white labor organizer. During conversations with Washington, Blanton said the prolific actor was down to earth, “chatting about life as if he had known the entire cast for a long time.” Once skeptical of the possibility of creating a name for himself, Blanton now views Los Angeles as a competitive city with a talent pool where he can take part and compete. “When directors see 450-500 guys a day, you have to bring a nuance to [the audition] or make it your own, so that it’s not boring,” Blanton said. “A way to stand out is to be creative.” As the professional actor awaits the release of his national commercial with Progressive, he recognizes his escalating success, and looks for more roles to fill. Similar to Blanton’s experience, Clark’s realization of growing success came from hearing his song “Movie Scene” on Kiss 95.1’s show “Give the Band a Break.” Out of 300 song entries, the popular radio station played his song from his recent, independently released CD “Shades of Love – EP.” “‘Movie Scene’ describes the feelings that are involved when you’re on top of the world with somebody you are attracted to,” said Clark. “It is a figurative song, with lyrics demonstrating how you feel like you are ready for anything when you meet someone special.” Clark’s album didn’t come together overnight. It took practice and patience. “Everything I do is meticulous,” he said, regarding his relationship-driven album. “My point is to move people musically and lyrically, using sounds that evoke emotions.” Clark, who writes music in all genres, is a firm believer that pursuing an interest can lead to happiness. “Find a way to do something you love, and you’ll never work a day again in your life,” Clark said. He continues to write, play and record music, and hopes to release a full-length album in the future. To learn more about Clark or Blanton, visit www.caseyclarkmusic.com and www.southeyblanton.com.