Written by Lydia Fletcher
After narrowly missing live auditions for Urban Showcase last year, Leah Colon focused on refining her sound and image in the hopes of trying out again.
This Saturday night she will be gracing the showcase stage with her soul-filled jazz style and personal lyrics, drawing inspiration from 90s R&B artist Joss Stone as well as soul-pop artist Sara Bareilles.
These inspirations manifest in songs that are personal, honest and evocative.
“I really just write songs that I have a deep connection to,” said Colon. “Every time I sit down, I just want to write exactly what I’m feeling.”
The senior commercial voice major plans on “being real with people,” “spreading joy” and being “a little goofy” during Saturday night’s performance, hoping the audience connects to what she’ll bring to the stage.
“In the end, they should expect to leave with this positive, joyful, wanna-go-dance-around feeling,” she said.
With a musical career dating back to her preschool years, Colon spent the last two years refining her style and is eagerly preparing for the opportunities to come.
“It’s really sweet to have it all culminating in this last year of college.”
Written by Olivia Peppiatt
Although his music draws from many genres, Matt Ryan has developed unique, refined sound that he plans to showcase on Saturday.
Influenced by rhythm and blues, pop, alternative and jazz, Ryan first exposure to music began in grade school.
“I was playing violin at the time when I turned it to the side to play it like a guitar,” he said.
That realization quickly prompted him to switch to guitar and take lessons, which eventually led him to write songs and steal his brother’s computer to record his own music.
Now, the freshman songwriting major has several singles and an EP out on streaming platforms, all of which he produced himself.
With hints of Neo-Soul, R&B, jazz and hip-hop in his sound, Ryan is excited to showcase that range to the Belmont Community.
“I like to keep a very wide range of music in my ears so I can create whatever I’m feeling,” he said. “I feel extremely lucky just to be up on that stage on Saturday. In a way, I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much.”
Written by Ridge Bethea
For Chloe Hogan, the Urban Showcase is an opportunity to express herself in the best way she knows how.
“As an African-American woman in society, there are very few ways that we can express ourselves where people will listen,” she said. “I think the best way for people to understand each other is through music, and if I can say anything that’s on my mind and try to have people listen to it, understand it, and groove to it, it’s through music.”
Hogan got her start performing at her church in Orlando, Florida, and she’s been able to find support in her community from the very beginning.
“I have to credit the church I grew up in. They really helped me find a way to be able to express myself,” she said.
Hogan’s early exposure to gospel music through the church profoundly inspired the music she creates today.
In addition to gospel music, Hogan draws inspiration from artists such as Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin and CeCe Winans.
As a sophomore music business major, Hogan admits the process of transferring her art from her hometown to the Nashville stage hasn’t always been easy.
“I feel like God has been asking throughout this process, ‘Do you really want this? Because if you really want this, you have to work for it,’” she said.
Ultimately, Hogan feels her work ethic and passion for her craft will help her to stand out in Nashville’s rapidly growing rhythm and blues scene.
“At the end of the day, every single time something gets more difficult, I think how this is my dream and I know I’m supposed to be doing this. It’s going to be hard, but it’s worth it.”
Written by Katie Knipper
For most artists, the showcase stage isn’t the place to try anything too risky. However, junior music business major Michael Weston Slutz plans to do just that.
Slutz, who goes by his artist name Weston, plans to incorporate entirely new elements to his set on Saturday, including a piano and a full band.
“I’ve literally never done this before,” he said. “So it’s been like a good stepping stone to what might be the next chapter of music for me.”
That eclectic mix of influences is evident in his artistry; Slutz has been listening to a variety of artists from an early age, including Alicia Keys, Shaggy and Bob Seger.
“I think as time goes by music is definitely becoming more intertwined and is using different elements from different genres,” he said. “And I think that’s a really good thing.”
He decided to bring that blend of styles to the Showcase stage on the day applications were due, thinking there was really no reason not to, he said.
A series of last-minute decisions paid off, as now he’s gearing up for his biggest performance yet.
But beyond his own performance, Slutz says he can’t wait to watch the other artists take on the stage.
“I love everybody that’s a part of this because they’ve all made this such an easy process, from the people I’m playing with to the production crew to really everybody involved.”
Photos by Mackenzie Baker, courtesy of Belmont Showcase Series.