Artist Preview: Country Showcase 2018
Written by Katie Knipper
Madeline Enna had just finished her audition for Country Showcase when she got the call her aunt had passed away.
But Enna, performing in Saturday’s Country Showcase, said performing is exactly what her aunt would have wanted her to do.
“It’s like she got up there and went to bat for me in a way,” Enna said.
Despite the loss, this opportunity could not have come at a better time for the senior music business major.
“I was coming kind of close to putting away my guitar for a while, but this definitely reignited that fire,” Enna said.
She said her aunt is one of the main reasons she got into music, along with her family constantly listening to music when she grew up.
“I was always the kid that watched CMT instead of ‘Sesame Street,’” Enna said. “I had a VHS of Shania Twain that I watched every day, and I wanted that to be me.”
Enna describes her style as old-school country with a western influence.
“The more traditional stuff runs really deep in me and with my family,” she said.
Enna draws inspiration from artists like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt.
“I’ve always been an old soul, and I identified with older music,” she said.
To prepare for the showcase, Enna is rehearsing with her band, planning coordinating outfits and trying her best to not get sick.
“The nerves are over at this point – being in the show is the reward,” she said. “I perform, and I either win or I don’t. But I’m really honored to be in such a mix of artists.”
Written by Alyson Merkle
Nick Boyd, a senior commercial voice major, is excited to have the opportunity to share his music and perform at Belmont’s annual Country Showcase.
Originally from western Illinois, Boyd started at Belmont as a music business major. However, the decision to take voice lessons freshman year led him to his true calling.
“I took an elective voice lesson with Dr. Kelly Garner. She kind of convinced me that if you’re serious about music, you should switch to commercial voice,” Boyd said. “I think that really switched a gear in my head. Like, ‘OK, you’re doing music now.’”
Boyd grew up with a love for *NSYNC, Michael Jackson, The Eagles and even Michael Bublé. But after coming to Belmont he started to discover an appreciation for country music and eventually incorporated it into his sound.
“When I started writing, I got into country because of the lyrics,” Boyd continues, “I didn’t start listening critically to music until I started writing music. I feel like that’s why I loved mainstream pop. I still love mainstream pop, but I listen to it differently.”
Boyd’s soulful blend of influences combined with unique piano tracks made him a good candidate for this year’s Country Showcase.
“It’s my senior year; I’ve always wanted to do it,” said Boyd. “I’ve had friends who have done it and it’s brought them great things. I think part of being at Belmont is applying yourself. There’s a lot of awesome opportunities here that you don’t get at other schools.”
Ultimately, Boyd wants to bring the joy of music to his fans on Saturday. That’s always been his goal.
“Music has been able to help me,” said Boyd. “I want to make music that’s going to help others.”
“That’s kind of my motto.”
Written by Sara Scannell
Senior marketing major Grace Gonzalez wasn’t sure which showcase category she fit into, so she applied for all of them.
She was thrilled when her Americana, alt-country style of music landed her a spot in the Country Showcase.
“It was definitely surprising and very exciting,” said Gonzalez. “Because as an artist you get so used to rejection, it’s nice every once in a while to get a yes.”
Gonzalez — who started playing music at age 5 — is influenced by artists like Brandi Carlile, Lori McKenna, Dawes and Simon and Garfunkel. She recalled the first song she wrote was called “Can You Feel The Rhythm,” which she performed with her cousins in a band called Blue Ladies.
“Songs are definitely how I express myself — it’s my outlet,” said Gonzalez. “I love having honest songs and the songs I usually end up writing are from emotions in my life.”
Songwriting is especially cathartic for Gonzalez, who has Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder — an extreme form of PMS that can cause drastic mood changes.
“I know that for half the month I’m going to be extremely emotional,” said Gonzalez. “So now I channel that into my songs. For a while I thought it was a terrible thing, but I realized actually it’s great for songwriting — I’m going to be psycho for a month and can use it for some songs.”
“I try looking at it like a superpower instead of a weakness.”
Gonzalez is looking forward to using her “superpower” to connect with fans at the Country Showcase on Saturday.
“I’m honored to be in it,” said Gonzalez. “One of my songs is called ‘Red And White Blues’ and it’s all about what’s going on in America and spreading love.”
Gonzalez is also glad to get to share a little girl power, as one of three women performing Saturday.
“I know Anna and I just met Madeline and they’re strong, awesome women,” said Gonzalez. “I’d love to see more women like them in the industry in general because they’re good people and that’s promising.”
Written by Caroline Cathey
Anna Vaus was born into her love for country music.
“Music was never a weird thing to do in my family,” said Vaus. “So I always just wrote songs and played shows and performed for my parents and made them sit down while I sang and did dances.”
Vaus — recipient of the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Scholarship and winner of ASCAP Writers’ Night in 2017 — recently signed a publishing deal with Black River Entertainment. Along with all of these accomplishments, she also performed at the CMA Music Festival in June.
Vaus can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in performing and writing music. She remembers getting her first guitar and learning to play Taylor Swift songs in her bedroom, long before she ever started playing in front of a crowd.
“I had an alarm clock that would wake me up every day in middle school that would play 2000s country music,” said vaus. “Country first and foremost has always been it for me. I was raised on it.”
Her dad has played a huge part in inspiring her career, giving her all the tools she needed to discover who she wanted to be as an artist.
“He had been in Nashville before I was born doing music, especially when I was a kid. He was touring as a children’s country artist. As I got older, my dad started to show me old records, and I got really into some of the old music that I love,” said Vaus.
In high school, Vaus decided she wanted to make music her future, and that’s what led her to Belmont. When it comes to songwriting, Vaus is especially passionate about telling a story and conveying emotion through her music.
“My heart beats like crazy when it comes to storytelling in songwriting,” said Vaus. “That is something that is huge to me – to tell a story and to tell the truth. To be real. Being genuine is what makes my world go round. I love telling stories, even if it’s dark and twisted or if it’s light hearted. That’s what drives me as an artist.”
Vaus is especially excited to tell those stories in Country Showcase.
“This is something that I have tried out for since I was a freshman,” said Vaus. “This is a great way to end my college years, and I am really excited.”
Photos courtesy of CEMB Showcase Series. Taken byTrevor Mellone.