You’re a 2013 grad of the Atlanta Institute of Music (AIM), but talk about your early experience at the Gwinnett School of Music.
My mother and stepfather have been friends with the owner, Kelly Bowlin, for years. When I was about 10 years old I started violin lessons with the lovely Carol McCurdy. I adored Carol but didn’t mesh well with the instrument. My amazingly supportive mother (also a musician) generously enrolled me in guitar lessons with Dominic DeSantis and voice lessons with Carol at GSOM.
Carol was the first person I sang in front of. She gave me the support and trust to find my voice. It was a battle, but by the third session I was able to gather the courage to sing lead. At 15, I worked out my blues/rock/soul improvisation chops with Doug Russell at GSOM. He pushed me to be the guitarist and musician I am today. I studied with him throughout college at AIM as well.
What did you gain from those early years that has carried over to your performing and songwriting?
Carol was the one who got me to actually sing in front of people, and Dominic taught me how to navigate the basics and keep up in a band setting. Doug gave me the tools to find my guitar voice and view music and the musician lifestyle in a whole different and practical way.
My music school [AIM] was 90 percent male and I only went to school with three others girls. It’s amazing to think how how far we’ve come and how far we have to go to level the playing field.
You’re scheduled to play The Train Depot with BJ Wilbanks as Gibson Wilbanks on February 10th. BJ’s played there already and gave it a glowing review. Are you looking forward to the show?
Yes! We’ll be playing there with our amazing musician friend and mentor, Donna Hopkins. I will also be there March 10th with my other group, The Pussywillows, with special South Carolina guest Darby Wilcox. I’ve heard many great things about The Train Depot!
You’ve played some iconic venues around the metro area as well as Athens. How do you see the local scene in Gwinnett shaping up?
Growing up in Gwinnett, there never was any kind of cool venue. It had always been strip malls and churches. I am appreciative and proud to know L’ville FINALLY has a quality listening room—and it’s awesome that it’s owned by someone that I’ve known and respected for so long.
The live original music experience is one of a kind. Every community needs it. It’s soul medicine. It’s the most important thing to me to live/spend my time in an area that has a rich music and art scene. It’s what makes me feel the most inspired and connected. I hope The Train Depot will continue to develop and feed the community.
What’s next for you?
I’m in two main duets, The Pussywillows with my best friend, Hannah Zale, and Gibson Wilbanks with my boyfriend, BJ Wilbanks. I also play lead guitar with Spencer Durham & The Golden Souls and Hannah Thomas on the side. I stay insanely busy, but it allows me the opportunity to play and refine on all sorts of different styles and sounds – keeps me on my toes. All I know for certain is there is nothing else that makes me feel this alive and purposeful. I was never meant for the conventional life and I’m OK with that.