"I'm not coming into this hoping for 1st runner-up," said a confident Jennifer Nettles right before taking the stage for the first time as a 'Duets' celebrity mentor. The Sugarland lead singer, along with superstar singers Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke and John Legend, scoured the country to find the best voices in America for the new ABC reality singing competition. And exactly does the big-voiced Georgia native look for in the perfect duet partner?

"To be able to perform on stage, you have to know they have your back. And you have their back," said the singer. "It's a mutual exchange." Nettles certainly knows the importance of a give-and-take nature in a dynamic duo, considering her main gig as one-half of the hugely successful country duo Sugarland with pal Kristian Bush.

Nettles took the stage first with the soulful J Rome to perform Sugarland's seductive hit, 'Tonight,' which served as the third single from their 'The Incredible Machine' album. The young singer first wowed Nettles during a private audition at New York City's famous club the Bitter End.

“He’s got the soul, he’s got the voice and he’s got the emotion,” said Nettles of J Rome's impressive talent. The two earned universal praise from the remaining three judges, giving them an early first place finish that they were able to maintain throughout the entire eight performances.

J Rome later admitted he was still recovering from complications after a tonsillectomy. "I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t do anything,” J Rome revealed when asked about the painful ordeal. With his stellar performance, he seems to be making a full recovery.

Later in the evening, Nettles commanded the stage with hometown hopeful John Glosson for a duet on Sugarland's Grammy Award-winning tune, 'Stay,' which was also unanimously praised by the show's judges. "You’re like an angel — you sounded so pretty,” a zealous Clarkson proclaimed immediately following the performance. Legend shared Clarkson’s enthusiasm, saying, “It sounded crystal clear! You blended with Jennifer so well.”

Remaining judge Thicke was also full of praise, telling Glosson, “You’re singing with a beast over here,” said the soul singer. “When I told my mom I was doing this with Jennifer Nettles, she said, ‘Now that’s a real singer.’”

Glosson first impressed his 'Duets' mentor after a private audition performing the hymn 'How Great Thou Art,' which moved Nettles to tears. The famous singer decided to revisit members of her old singing crew Clovers and Company during a trip home to accept the award for Alumni of the Year at a local 4H ceremony. Nettles and Glosson share the hometown of Douglas, Ga.

“Music comes through my soul, through my heart,” Glosson said in a clip just before taking the stage. “I try to mean every word of it.”

After all eight performances were finished, Nettles placed impressively, with J Rome at the top spot, and Glosson landing at No. 4. It seems as though Nettles has a considerable lead over the competition -- and one young hopeful will get eliminated during next week's episode.

"It was super stressful and hard. There's a wealth of talent in this country," admitted Nettles on her task of finding America's best talent. What did you think of Nettles' top two choices? Let us know what you think!