Where I come from, the folks are southern proud. To us, every high school football game felt like the super bowl, and family get-togethers didn’t exist without fried chicken ‘n biscuits. Heaven forbid you’d find us anywhere else on Sunday (or Wednesday night) except the front row pew of the Baptist church. My Granddaddy was a Southern Baptist preacher, and I can remember going to his revivals as a kid. We'd hear stories about his younger days in missionary work and leading crusades in Brazil and Africa.
My grandmother started teaching me piano at age 4, and there was always music in the house. I have two sisters who both play and sing, and my parents (bless their hearts) tirelessly shuffled us to and from piano recitals, chorus concerts, theater productions, and singing competitions. I honestly don’t remember a day that I didn’t rush up to my room after school and lock the door. I would blast my favorite song and sing as loudly as I could into my hairbrush, convinced even at 8 years old that I was practicing for my career as a famous singer. True story!
I never quite fit in at school, and throughout my elementary and middle school years I was relentlessly bullied. Even within my family and faith community I felt disconnected. What was being preached and what I felt in my heart just weren’t lining up. I just remember always being scared of God, like I was doing everything wrong. I never felt safe to be real or be myself. Music gave me a chance to escape the pain of feeling like I was a mistake, and at age 12 I picked up my first guitar. I couldn’t put it down! Writing songs made me feel better. As long as I had a guitar in my hand, I felt like a hero. And, the better I got, it was easier to focus on the music instead of the fact that I couldn't fit in.
I went on to receive some of the highest honors for musical achievement in the southeast and was awarded my high school chorus scholarship (although I almost screwed that one up by orchestrating an elaborate senior prank, haha). I was even invited to perform a song I had written for my graduating class at our commencement ceremony. That fall, I moved to Nashville to attended Belmont University. I don't know why I never realized high school grades and test scores had something to do with getting into college, but apparently they do! I always thought I could have been a straight A student if I could ever put down that damn guitar. I was not initially accepted into Belmont. But, I wouldn't take no for an answer. So, I wrote a letter to the admissions office stating why attending Belmont was so important to me. They must have felt sorry for me, because they granted me an audition with the school of music. Mission accomplished! I got in! I worked hard, excelled in college, and was fortunate enough to have participated in a number of elite showcase and ensemble opportunities.
Music had finally made me “cool” (or so I thought). But, I learned that performance based love is a dangerous thing. It plants the seed inside that maybe we aren’t good enough just the way we are. I got really good at hiding, running, and pretending. And, those character flaws are not cool. They destroy relationships and make it way too easy to make bad decisions. It was so hard to break free from those family ties of faith, what I was told about God, and all the other expectations that befall a true southern girl. I wanted to live a life of true authenticity, but I couldn’t stop making decisions that hurt myself and the people closest to me. That story started showing up in my music very early on.
Right after college I signed a record deal and publishing deal and spent most of my 20's locked into dirty contracts. Yes, I was a signed artist. But I had never felt more alone. Despite being shelved, I set out out on the road without the help of my label to grow my fan base. I booked myself at every dive bar and BBQ joint America to make ends meet. You might say I sang my way to Victory. In 2011, with the help of a road angel who has asked to remain anonymous I finally had enough money to buy out of my contracts. Free to chase my dreams again, I released "Live at Eddie's Attic" and continued touring more than 250 dates a year.
Not much had changed except that I owned my own songs again and could finally write and release new music. As an independent artist, I handled everything alone including booking, promotion, graphic and web design, PR, and managing the travel itineraries. There have been twists and turns, hills and valleys, light and shadow. And, I have slipped into the very darkest of places. There have been others along the way to ride in on white horses making big promises. This business has broken my heart so deeply and so many times that on more than one occasion I’ve caught myself praying desperately for a way out. I can remember sleeping in rat poop in a Maryland basement, getting my wallet and all my gig money stolen in Mt. Zion National Park, and my tour bus catching on fire in California. Just when I thought I was getting somewhere, I literally had to watch my dream burn to the ground right before my eyes. Literally. It’s fair to say that in some seasons, music has been more of a burden than a blessing. But, I am so grateful for what all these years have taught me. I know it sounds crazy, maybe borderline psychotic to say that I wouldn’t change anything. But to spare myself the pain would be to spare the lessons, and I’m not so sure I didn’t need every single one. All of those experiences, collectively, have made me the person and artist I am today. And, all that pain has given me something to talk about. Life has given me songs, and there is a truth in my music that cannot be fabricated.
It’s my greatest hope that my fans will be able to find a piece of themselves in my story and that my songs will help to heal their hearts as much as it has healed mine to write them. Today I look at my life, and sometimes I just have to pinch myself. I have amazing fans that that I get to share an incredible journey with. Some of them have been here since the beginning, and I still know them by name. I have an amazing team that believes in me, and most importantly I believe in myself. I am so grateful, and I look forward to many more years of making music and memories with you. And if you take nothing else away from my story, remember that you really can do anything you set your mind to.