Aug 14, 2012
I've talked about my childhood and introduced you to my family. Now let's get down to the nitty gritty and I'll show you where my professional music career really started.
SOUTH PLAINS COLLEGE
My older brother, Clay, had attended a commercial music school about 100 miles from our hometown, so I was very intrigued with the possibility of actually getting credits for singing and performing. He actually went there during the same time Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks attended. The school is also home to the likes of LeAnn Womack, Heath Wright and many of the musicians in the Texas Music Scene today, including Les Lawless of the Randy Roger Band, Preston "P-Tone" Wait of the Josh Abbot Band and Jeremy Watkins from Stoney Larue's band.
I auditioned and received a partial scholarship to South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, just outside of Lubbock. My sister was attending Texas Tech at the time, so I knew I could piggyback on her party hook-ups. However, I soon found my own buddies and feel right in line with the other dorky musicians from SPC.
(Kyle Wylie, Jerrod Niemann and I after a SPC Thursday Night Live performance)
I loved every minute and was involved in as many ensembles I could fit into my schedule. That included Thursday Night Live and the Touring Ensemble that visited area high schools preaching the SPC gospel.
(Touring Ensemble, the famous Cary Banks in the white hat. My favorite professor!)
The summer following my 2nd semester at SPC, I auditioned and was cast as 'Sadie' in "Texas, Outdoor Musical Drama" in Palo Duro Canyon, TX. It was one of the most grueling summers I can recall, performing 6 days a week including rehearsals, voice lessons, dance classes and an extra matinee performance every Sunday.
("TEXAS" Musical Drama, I'm in the back wearing a frumpy purple dress)
I then went on to Texas Tech University in Lubbock for a short stint, until I decided to just take the plunge and move to Nashville to become "the next big country star". Ha! That, of course, wasn't quite what God had in store for me.
Like most aspiring artists, I ended up waiting tables at a number of restaurants, dated all the wrong guys and played about 2 gigs a month. That's really all I could afford at the time since "paying gigs" in Nashville are virtually non-existent, because "The blonde girl behind you will always play for free, so why should we pay you?" So, I sucked it up and was lucky enough to find some great musicians that played for cheap and I performed 1 full band show a month and usually another acoustic, songwriter swap on top of that. I even got to perform at the famous Blue Bird Cafe!
(The Billy Block Show at Cadillac Ranch on Broadway in Nashville)
Most crowds merely consisted of my close friends I met in Nashville and to this day, those relationships are still my dearest! I was so blessed to have met amazing and driven women that supported me 100%. They never let me give up on my dreams and even today they remain my biggest fans!
(With my besties Hannah Garber, Laura Nabors, Karen Light, Kelly Eagon and Loretta Tyree)
In 2006, I was approached by a friend who was a Production Assistant at Country Music Television (CMT) with the rear opportunity to audition for a host position for an online program for CMT.com called 'Loaded'.
(On the set of 'CMT Loaded')
I remember going in for the interview on a Tuesday and by that following Friday, I was in the CMT 330 Studios filming. That's truly how fast it happened!
They also made me host of an additional online program called 'Wide Open Country' and I even got to fill in for Katie Cook on the nationally televised program, 'CMT Insider' during the 6 weeks she was on maternity leave!
(On the set of "Wide Open Country')
I had an absolute blast! It was the first time I was treated like a super star by wardrobe stylists, hair and makeup teams and producers who got me all dolled up before appearing on camera! It was also the biggest learning experience to date! Learning how to read a teleprompter, recording voice overs, giving the producers what they were looking for and working with other personalities. I got to work directly along side Lance Smith when we co-hosted the televised program called 'Karaoke Dokey'. Check it out! Here's a reel of a few clips from my days at CMT. Don't let the brunette hair throw you off! Clairol Nice 'n' Easy paid me some good cash to make the change :)
(CMT Personality Reel)
I even got to walk the Red Carpet for the CMT Music Awards in 2007 and 2008. I don't want to sound all braggy here, but I am truly proud of the time I spent there. Everyone I worked with was so professional and big supporters of my music endeavours. I was able to meet some of my favorite country stars too!
As time went on, changes were being made and there was less of the budget being put towards the online programs and although we were trying our best to keep the ball rolling, our work was significantly reduced to awards show coverage only. I did get to interview Taylor Swift before she was TAYLOR SWIFT for the 2007 CMT Awards. Early 2008, the online programs started airing without hosts. I was disappointed, but also saw it an an opportunity to focus full time on my career as a singer/songwriter.
(Showcase at Exit Inn in Nashville)
I started writing pretty much every day with anyone and everyone I could lock in a writers room. I got to write with some top notch Nashville writers including Jim Lauderdale, Clay Mills, Blair Daly, Pete Sallis, Tia Sillers, Mark Narmore, Walt Aldridge and Randy Scruggs. Along with their brilliant talents, I had co-written just enough songs for a full record, but that didn't come until after the life changing experience that turned my whole world around.
The summer of 2008, I came home to Texas to visit my brother, Clay, who lives in Austin and he took me to my first Randy Rogers Band concert at Ziegfest in College Station. My jaw feel to the muddy ground below me as I witnessed over 5,000 screaming college kids singing along to every word of every song they performed.....in the rain!
(Randy Rogers Band)
That's the moment I realized that I could either stay in Nashville and keep beating my head against the wall OR I could move back to my home state and see what this Texas Music Scene was all about! Plus, I didn't see any females besides Miranda Lambert causing a stink on the Texas Charts.
So.....I sold my house, sold my car, quit my job and moved home to Texas!
In my next post, I'll tell you all about my journey when I hit the Texas Music Scene. June 6th, 2008!
HOME SWEET HOME!