Growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, it never occurred to me that the songs on the radio that I was obsessed with were actually WRITTEN by someone…a songwriter, a human being. Hell, it didn’t even occur to me very often that the people singing them were actually people!! Whitney Houston seemed like some kind of angel who just flew to the top of a radio tower and busted out “I Will Always Love You,” flawlessly, for the very first time and THAT WAS IT. When the tune made its way to my boom box, it was my song in the soundtrack to my life. I had no clue that Dolly Parton had sat down and wrote it all out. NO CLUE!
Looking back, I’ve lived a lot of my life with NO CLUE … stumbling around in a little world of my own, because what was there to think about?? I grew up in a “normal” family who lived in a “normal” town! Parades at Grandma’s house and singing to the radio were the extent of my career as a childhood performer. My parents said that I would throw a fit if they turned the car off in the middle of a good song.
After failing MISERABLY in sports camps and dance classes, my parents enrolled me in piano. I was finally good at something outside of school and eventually picked up the flute too. I never had a problem making friends, but I did spend a lot of time feeling like I didn’t fit in… I wasn’t cute and I didn’t like P.E. class… I liked music and I would’ve much rather stayed in my room all day, writing down lyrics to my favorite songs than play sports with the cool kids.
I got involved in the Lawrence Children’s Choir at age 12 and immediately fell in love with it. I had a little bitty soprano voice, but because I could hear harmonies so easily, they put me in the alto section. I remember losing myself in all those voices and believing that I was a part of something that was truly beautiful.
The first time I ever sang solo onstage with a band was during my junior year in the high school talent show. I worked up a skit to go along with Patty Loveless’ “Blame It On Your Heart” and it was such a riot. I just beat this guy up on stage for allegedly cheating on me and my backup singer was the girl he cheated on me with! I stood backstage with that cordless mic, listening to the crowd and thought, “I LOVE THIS!! And why am I not nervous??”
While I was so into Patty Loveless, George Strait and Faith Hill, it was in my senior year that I discovered songwriting. The very first songwriter that I fell in love with was Stevie Nicks. Here was an actual female performer who wrote her own material about her life! Each song that I discovered was like a magical window into her own private world. She could rock out and then sing country ballads, but it was all so uniquely “her.”
Stevie Nicks’ lyrics were like poetry, so I started to write poetry of my own… full of angst and confusion, mainly related to my poor mother. The more I became interested in artistry and disinterested in choir and school activities, the more nervous she became. She and I had a lot of “normal” mother/daughter issues surrounding her “normal” expectations of the kind of young lady I should be.
When I met Stevie Nicks right after my high school graduation and she told me to “take (her) place,” I considered it a sign from the heavens to get the heck outta Dodge. My parents cried when they dropped me off at Belmont University in Nashville, but I couldn’t have been happier to say goodbye! I was finally free to chase my dreams as fast and as furious as I pleased!!
I started a Southern rock jam band with my boyfriend at the time and we called ourselves Stoik Oak. We were all about having fun and acting like rock stars! For three years, we toured all around the southeast. It was during that time that I learned to sing ALL NIGHT in, literally, the worst of conditions. I’ve had bloody lips from drunk college boys falling into my microphone stand. I’ve had cuts in my feet from stepping barefoot in glass. I’ve sang for four hours over two drum sets with lousy monitors that I couldn’t hear myself in. We did it night after night and loved every damn second of it. But all good things must come to an end and so did Stoik Oak, due to creative differences.
Life was changing fast and I was extremely distracted by my new hunka hunka guitar playin’ fiancé. He moved us out to the redneck boonies to live in a one room cabin just 30 feet from the Cumberland River and 15 feet from the neighborhood landfill. I was so young and I thought my whole life would be perfect if I could please him, so I did stupid things like make him breakfast in bed every morning. Let me tell you, his whole day went wrong if the eggs weren’t scrambled right… and if his day was ruined, SO WAS MINE. It didn’t cross our minds that we should break up, so I just got real good at scrambling eggs!
After a year and a half long engagement, we had a big wedding in Kansas right before my 23rd birthday. We had a month-long honeymoon in a 16 passenger van with our 2 dogs and no air conditioning, but it wasn’t long after that I realized a truth, deep within my soul: I didn’t care if his eggs were scrambled right and I didn’t care if he ever ate eggs again!
It was upon this realization that we decided the marriage should end.
And it did end… a very ugly ending, at that (though we are now friends and still talk from time to time). I, ironically, moved into a little apartment on Love Circle, overlooking the city of Nashville. I stayed there for 6 months, licking my wounds, when my old friend John Rich called me up to take me to dinner and make sure my head was on straight.
At that dinner, he drilled me about how I could be a country star if I just believed it and went for it. I told him my reservations – I have a raspy voice that is totally out of step with the other women on country radio and I HAVE TO write about my own life and make it real. I told him “I don’t want to candy coat myself.” “EVEN BETTER! PERFECT!” he said. “That’s why people will like it. Because it’s unique and you’re being yourself.”
I didn’t jump on the train immediately, but I did tell Leslie Tomasino, my publisher, that I would like to network with the Music Row writers. I just wanted to see what would happen and to my surprise, my new co-writers and mentors totally accepted my vocal style and song ideas.
Song for song, this record came together with the help of my amazing producers and I’m so proud of the people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. These songs are the pictures in my head. They are my own memories and feelings and they ring true for me today as they probably would’ve if I had heard them when I was 8 years old.