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Chart topper: Buckingham balances Belmont classes with success abroad

Flights abroad and concert tours. Record deals, photo shoots and interviews.

For Belmont freshman Celeste Buckingham, that’s not the dream.

It’s all part of the job.

The 17-year-old voice major, whose single “Run Run Run” topped the radio charts in her home country of Slovakia and the neighboring Czech Republic over the summer, has found success at home and is now looking to do so in America and around the world.

Buckingham, a finalist in the Czech and Slovakian version of Idol, was also a nominee for Best Slovak/Czech Act for the 2012 MTV European Music Awards. Though she did not receive a final nomination, her music video for “Run Run Run” has more than 7 million hits on YouTube and received extensive airplay on local MTV stations in central Europe.

The single quickly made Buckingham a well-known musician in Slovakia.

“[The song] took off beyond all we had ever expected,” she said. “Literally overnight, they were playing it and asking for it and I was flying here and there.”

Buckingham said before “Run Run Run” was released, she could go out in public without drawing much attention to herself. With the success of her single though, she’s had to consider the results of becoming a public figure.

“I don’t walk the streets by myself anymore,” she said. “I don’t go shopping. Here it’s very easy, but back home [in Slovakia]… People know who I am and they listen to my music so it’s a little tricky to go out by myself sometimes. I’m just really grateful that took off because that’s why I’m here.”

Belmont was not always in Buckingham’s plans. In fact, she acknowledged she initially knew very little about Nashville in general.

“I never thought I would come to Nashville. Ever. I couldn’t place it on the map,” she admitted. “I knew it was Music City USA, because everyone assumes Nashville is country-town. It’s not only country. As a European, you know that’s where Johnny Cash came from and Elvis worked here. You don’t think that it’s pop central.”

During that trip to the city for her cousin’s wedding, she met with various industry professionals who suggested she look at Belmont.

“Basically, one thing led to another,” she said. I auditioned for Belmont’s music school and I got in. I wasn’t expecting to; I thought I’d just do it to appease my parents. Then when I did get in, it just hit me in the face that I might move to the U.S. this year.”

She now lives in Nashville with her family, splitting time between Tennessee and Slovakia.

“I didn’t want to, but I fell in love with Nashville,” the singer said. “Nashville is the songwriting soul of this machine – the U.S.’ music economy. Here is where people sit down with a guitar and write stuff.”

While she is currently a full-time student, she still makes time to work and build her music career. She will fly home for two weeks around Thanksgiving break to tour and will do the same over Christmas break.

Her current goal is to land a worldwide record deal.

“My goal here is to get signed by an international record label, because I have a deal with a local record label,” she said. “It’s EMI, but it’s a local division. They have a special deal with us, because I didn’t want to get signed with a smaller division. I wanted to be signed with something bigger in the United States so I could work all over the world, and then I can move home whenever I feel like it.”

Her Slovakian home, one she still misses, is where Buckingham wants to end up. Her family moved there soon after the former Soviet outpost gained its independence.

“When we moved there, there was nothing there,” she said ofher hometown of Bratislava. “It was old, derelict buildings, but in the course of 13 years, it’s become one of the most metropolitan places in Europe. It’s changed immensely. The reason I’m so attached to it is I grew up at the same pace as it did, so it kind of feels like a part of me.”

She said that when performing at home, performers must work extra hard to engage the audience.

For Buckingham, this means doing whatever it takes to generate energy at a show of typically modest Slovak fans.

“When I perform, I go barefoot and I jump off stage. I’m very much about the performance,” she said. “Performing, music and being an artist are ways to communicate with people. If you just stand there [during a show], it doesn’t make sense to me. You need to show, you need to gesture to the audience that you are there for them, and working your soul for them.”

“[At a show], I don’t need flashy lights and awesome microphones and freaky outfits. I need someone to talk to me.”

Buckingham’s latest album “Don’t Look Back” was released in April 2012 is currently available via iTunes Europe. However, several of her singles can be found on the American iTunes.

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