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Artist Preview: Pop Rock Showcase 2020

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Jackson Wooten

Written by by Lilly Owens

Growing up only 10 minutes from Belmont’s campus, senior music business major Jackson Wooten started playing music in high school as an activity that would later turn into a career choice.

“Music is awesome,” he said with a smile. “I played in a high school band but I never took it super seriously.”

He attended his first showcase during his senior year of high school and decided that Belmont was a place that could help get him where he wanted to be.

“Belmont has a unique experience with all of the connections to the music industry they provide,” he said.

He credits his specific music style to his interest in folk and indie and started listening to bands such as The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons before turning towards artists such as Justin Vernon and Iron & Wine.

The spacious Curb Event Center stage will be unfamiliar to Wooten, but he is ready for the experience and hopes that it will make him more comfortable performing other shows with larger crowds.

The exposure that the showcase will bring him is important, but he is excited to perform for people he’s gone to school with other the last four years — including the people who don’t even know him.

Wooten is excited for his upcoming record that was just funded by the help of a Kickstarter campaign, and is ready for everyone to hear his music and to continue his journey into the music industry.

“It’s a journey, not just for me but also for the people listening and everyone involved,” he said. “You find your voice, slowly but surely, and I think I’ve found mine.”

Alejandro Sierra

Written by Sarah Crawford

Alejandro Sierra will bring an uncommon flair to the Showcase stage this weekend.

He moved from his hometown of Quito, Ecuador to Nashville for Belmont’s songwriting program. He grew up listening to his father write and rehearse songs before starting to write his own at age 12 in English, his second language. His father became a mentor to him in songwriting and led him to find his sound.

He enjoys blending Latin American rhythms with a Nashville songwriting style. This unique approach can be heard in his songs like “So You Don’t.” His musical inspirations like Ben Harper and Héctor Lavoe are also drawn from both cultures.

“I think the songs that I’m playing at Showcase really capture that fusion and the Nashville influence,” Sierra said.

In his third year of living in Nashville, Sierra views the city as unique in the sense that songwriting is intertwined in the culture. While other cities have different professions that define them, creativity and songwriting are the defining factors of Nashville.

“To be surrounded by that can be a little overwhelming, but it’s inspiring,” Sierra said.

After many rehearsals with his bandmates, he’s looking forward to having fun on stage at showcase.

“Being able to bring them up there and take what we’ve been creating onto a big stage will be satisfying,” Sierra said.

Annie DiRusso

Written by Kendall Crawford

Growing up in a household filled with Frank Sinatra, junior songwriting major Annie DiRusso communicates best with an electric guitar in her hand.

“Music is just the way that I can speak,” said DiRusso. “It’s the easiest way for me to express myself.”

The New York native has spoken through song since she was twelve, scribbling lyrics in journals and coupling chords until she feels she has something honest to share with the world.

With indie influences like Lucy Dacus, Margaret Glasby and Julien Baker, DiRusso’s band will strum out conversational music about the terrors of turning twenty, making money with music and losing beloved pets.

“It’s music that’s not cool enough to be alternative cool, but it’s not mainstream enough to be mainstream cool,” said DiRusso.

It’s music for the people stuck in the melancholic middle.

On the Showcase stage, DiRusso is excited to confidently hop and goof around in green eyeshadow, with her parents and friends watching.

She wants her performance to be refreshing, relatable and well-deserving of a “Woah.”

“I want them to feel like they witnessed something memorable.”

Legit Smitty

Written by Katie Knipper

A creative from the start, Jake Smith, who performs as Legit Smitty, found his love of music through a love of film.

Smith enjoyed creating short videos in middle and high school, but couldn’t nail down what part of the process he was most drawn to. Eventually, his talent for editing music into his videos inspired him to create some of his own.

“I started toying with making music and using this software and that eventually led me into wanting to learn instruments and all of that,” he said. “Then at some point I was like, I think I’m just going to ditch the video thing. Not entirely, but focus more on music, and I started to feel more like it was something I could do.”

He translated his ability to Belmont, where he has studied music for four years and has yet to get tired of it.

Smith aims to make music his audience doesn’t feel like they’ve heard before. With influences like Sandy Alex G, Slaughter Beach, Dog and Pinegrove, he wants to keep people guessing with new releases constantly sounding different from the last.

“I think that some of my favorite artists do the same thing,” he said. “They go from really soft songs to more heavy songs. And there’s an importance to being really passionate and loud and yelling when you need to then getting people to listen whenever you’re being more somber and quiet.”

Smith is open about his faith, but doesn’t want to alienate people on either side. Instead of the usual alt-rock attitude that tends to run parallel to religion, Smith is an example of what can happen when they intersect.

“I want to relate with the people who have no faith whatsoever or are maybe questioning their faith or are trying to believe. Just the whole spectrum.”

Individual photos by Hunter VanKlompenberg. Group photo by Alaina Broyles.

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