I've never really written my whole story with music out.. it's long. too long :)
I always wanted to be a performer and didn't think I could. But it's what runs through my head at night and is the first thing I think about in the morning.
So here's my story...
My grandmother was a singer. We still have old recordings of her singing at NBC studios in the 50s of songs she wrote. My mother is a singer & songwriter and my dad has written some songs too. I wrote my first song with my mom when I was three - called "Oh, I love my Emmy Lou." My mother went to Nashville when we were kids to pursue songwriting, but decided living in Baltimore near the family was the best choice for us kids. We (my brother, sister and I) had a remarkable childhood and for that I am forever grateful. We were actually all named after musicians and their songs - there's James (for James Taylor), Sarah (James Taylor's "Sarah Maria"), and I was named after singer/songwriter Emmy Lou Harris.
Our family is quite big. We have these music nights called "hootenannies" where the whole family sits around and sings songs and plays guitar. It's THE BEST. We are known for our hootenannies. My mom sings, my uncles, my cousin Dan (he's not my cousin) - who is the ish who also has made me love music and believe in this calling more. The first songs I had the guts to sing in front of my family as a little girl was "There's Your Trouble" by the Dixie Chicks. The first concert I ever went to was The Dixie Chicks with my best friend at the time. When I saw them at the Baltimore arena, I KNEW I wanted to do that one day. I just knew. I didn't know how, and sometimes I still don't. But I will do whatever it takes. And see what happens.
As I got older I fell in love with Pop and R&B/Soul. Songs like Janet Jackson's, "All For You," with Jermaine Dupri and Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" stand out as songs that were hugely influential. The guitars, the beats, the soulfulness and danceability. Then, I heard Justin Timberlake- that's when I absolutely knew I had to be an artist. Anyone who you meet that is my friend knows I love JT. I loved his first solo album (2002) - his tracks with Pharrell were the soundtrack to my life. Then Usher - when I heard "Yeah" (it was March 24/26th 2004- don't remember which one), but hearing that song I was like - I have to do that. I have to make a song that does that.. that makes somebody feel that way. I also have had that similar feeling with many Taylor Swift songs - Begin Again, Sparks Fly, Last Kiss (I also love her a lot), Katy Perry too (Firework, It Takes Two, Not Like The Movies, Teenage Dream), Beyonce (with Love on Top). Patty Griffin's "Moses." I sort of love everything.
In high school, I really wasn't into Country music because Pop/Soul was really what I wanted to do. I sang in Baltimore, around Maryland - I did the National Anthem for the Orioles, at M&T Bank Stadium, University of Maryland, and other local colleges and minor leagues. I sang in musical theatre whenever I could too, sang at the hootenannies or at my grandmother's piano. I literally tried out for American Idol 4 times between high school and college, then The Voice, X-Factor, America's Got Talent. I remember my Dad driving me to my first American Idol audition, just before we hit the crowd of 20,000 people standing in line.. I heard Taylor Swift come on the radio.. it was her song "Tim McGraw." I remember driving up the NJ Turnpike, and we were like wow, who is that, she is so good. :) funny, now to see all that she's accomplished.. and how much she has and still inspires me.
So, I set my sights on Berklee College of Music to go study music and songwriting after high school. I had gone to their summer program as a junior in Los Angeles and was really wanting to continue there or NYU.
But the thing is, I didn't get into NYU and I didn't get into Berklee. So, at that point I thought maybe I'll just move to NYC and not go to college. So that summer, I went to New York and lived at NYU to do their summer internship program in the music business - my sister and I went together. I never actually got an internship either- I was apparently too young (only 17 and couldn't even get into shows so no one would hire me). But I was able to get a job at a bakery in Union Square and took hip hop dance classes at Broadway Dance Center, and started sneaking into this R&B club in New York that I heard some of my idols went to and if you stayed late night you might get a chance to sing.
After our summer was up, going to college seemed like the right thing to do - and it was. It was really important to my parents too, so I tried to listen to them. I was so afraid going to college meant giving up, but it wasn't that - it was only building. So that fall I went to the University of Maryland in College Park and joined the gospel choir. One night I was walking down the street and met a rapper. His name was Andrew (producer name - Know-Flow the Knox Smith). I heard him singing and said, "you sound like Barry Manilow" but meant "Barry White" with his very baritone voice. Anyway, that night, I sang Mary J. Blige's "I'm Goin Down" and from then on we started writing songs together. I'd have a song or piano loop and he'd put a beat to it. So we started writing and performing together. That same year, I re-applied to Berklee and finally got in! But it's weird how stuff works out, I was so grateful to have that time with Andrew, writing songs in that way. That same year, I also wrote a song, my first full song with a producer in Baltimore- John Grant, called "His Eyes." The song ended up getting played on WPOC 93.1 in Baltimore - a country station and became Top 5 in the "New Discover" Contest. It was funny, I was so into soul and pop but there country was opening it's doors to my music.
My first year at Berklee, a producer in Australia wanted to work with me - he maybe worked for Def Jam but it fell through. I would play shows in Boston, New York, Virginia and LA and was invited to perform for BMI at a Pop/Rock showcase in 2008. I sent my music to them and they picked it. I had just released a song called "Baby" with a music video that they seemed to like. . A radio DJ in Japan got a hold of my music video for Baby and started to play the song in Japan.
Then I got a chance to perform before a Brad Paisley concert at Nissan Pavilion in VA. I was on the side stage at the entrance.. At the end of our set it started raining and gusting wind..My dad & uncle ran for the stage and threw a tent over all the equipment. Once it cleared, we could hear Brad starting his set on the big stage over the hill.. couldn't see him, just heard his voice, and I was like we have got to get over that hill one day.
Since college, I've been traveling and living this "Gypsy" life. Traveling everywhere to perform. Which is what I named my new EP - "Gypsy." I am in LA writing this, and ran into a friend from Nashville just yesterday who asked, "are you an actual gypsy?" Funny.
My hope is to bring people together through music. I've learned so much about life through this journey already - about never giving up, finishing what you started, self belief, the power of music to teach and heal, and that for every seeming heartbreak there is a silver lining and always a chance to try, fail, learn and try again.
My favorite artists & songwriters (the list continuing to grow) ~ Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Mary J. Blige, Patty Griffin, The Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Taylor Swift, Irving Berlin, Henri Mancini, Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, Adele, Ryan Tedder, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyonce, David Ryan Harris, Sarah Buxton.