By Josette Keelor - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nashville gave them their start in the music industry, but the Shenandoah Valley is the place they will always remember as the home where it all began. This month Megan Carrie, 23, of Edinburg, and Amanda Mackintosh, 22, of Nashville, Tenn., are each celebrating the recent release of their first CDs and hope that the northern valley will share in their rise to country stardom.
Carrie, a graduate of Central High School, has been singing in public since she was 21⁄2 years old and performed at her church.
"That's on video, and it's as cute as a button," she said recently.
In middle and high school she performed in the chorus and school plays; she sang the national anthem at sporting events for her school, her brother's school and even pee-wee leagues. Before long, national competitions drew her attention, and she competed for a chance to make it big.
Her opportunity came in December 2006 when she applied to compete in Talent Rock, a talent show a la "Star Search" or "America's Got Talent," which each year attracts thousands of hopefuls who think they can act, sing and/or model their way to fame and fortune. Carrie tried her luck at all three categories and received callbacks in each, but it was music that won her heart long ago and ultimately won her vote.
"It was crazy, it was very overwhelming," Carrie said. "There were so many faces. ... The next day I had five callbacks, and one of them was Robert Metzgar."
She accepted the help of Metzgar, Dolly Parton's manager.
"I had no idea what I was getting into," said Carrie.
She traveled to Nashville twice over the next two years and recorded 12 songs, all pre-recorded with music. Though she writes her own music, she and Metzgar (and later Peter Bordonali, when Metzgar was diagnosed with cancer) decided that it would be an easier process to use pre-recorded music for her first album, "Hard Baby to Rock." The CD features favorites like "Holdin' Out For a Hero," originally sung by Bonnie Tyler; "Honky Tong Angels," by Kitty Wells; and "Leavin' on the Next Thing Smokin," by Waylon Jennings.
Gospel and country music are the genres Carrie most enjoys singing.
At Talent Rock, it was "Amazing Grace" that gained her the judges' attention.
Carrie had the option of moving to Nashville, but she chose to remain in Shenandoah County, in the house that belonged to her grandparents.
With her mother as her manager and promoter, Carrie and her family have been trying to spread her name around the area, selling her CDs in local establishments and lining up performances at county fairs and beyond. Her main focus now is trying to get her music on the radio, and she has even traveled to Australia and around Europe to promote herself.
"I've done a lot, and it's usually from word of mouth," she said. "My goal was to make it to Nashville, and I made it there; everything else is a blessing."
Though well on her way along the road to fame, Carrie still entertains her other interests, retaining her job as a waitress at Tony's Pizza in Woodstock, substitute teaching in Shenandoah County Public Schools, modeling around the Washington metro area and restoring classic cars in her free time.
She is grateful that her other jobs have been so understanding of her singing taking priority in her life, and have even helped her to that end.
"They understand that this is what I want to do," she said.
Her boss at Tony's understands if she has to leave mid-shift one day to fly across the country for a musical appearance. Tony's has even been selling her CDs for her.
"From being a model I had my [photos] for my Web site, photos for my album cover," she said.
If she does not make it in the music business, Carrie said she would like to be a teacher.
"I absolutely love it, love it," she said. "I work a lot with the autistic program. I love those kids; they're the best."
Mackintosh, a graduate of Clarke County High School, moved from Berryville to Nashville to attend Belmont University, a small liberal arts school that boasts such musical talents as Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood and Melinda Doolittle, of "American Idol" fame. In May, Mackintosh received a degree in commercial vocal performance with a concentration in music business -- walking out of her four years at school a professional in the music business, now able to produce her own albums and manage her own career.
She chose to remain in Nashville because of all the career opportunities she will have there.
Her first CD, "Shenandoah," will be released this month and pays tribute to the home that raised her. The title track remembers her friends and family, she said recently by phone.
"I wrote it about where I grew up," said Mackintosh. She wrote all seven songs on the CD, which she describes as contemporary country bluegrass.
"I appreciate where I'm from so much because you don't really realize it until you're not there anymore," she said.
"I grew up on a farm, and my family was always musical," she said. Her father was in the band Brutus and the Romans.
"Overall I'd say that my dad has been the biggest influence for me," she said. He supported her interest in music, along with the rest of her family.
Mackintosh first performed in public when she was 8 years old. She participated in the chorus and musicals while at school; she also performed at a children's festival in Egypt and Romania.
"I just had all these opportunities that I got to partake in," she said. On a recent visit to Berryville she performed at Camino Royale.
The production of her first CD so soon after graduating from college was somewhat surreal.
"It was just really fast to be getting into this," she said. "I was able to produce this album independently in collaboration with some friends of mine."
Being a part of the musical community in Nashville is a big help.
"Nashville is kind of a small town in itself," she said. "Right now I feel like I'm where I need to be. ... It's opening doors for me."
For information about Megan Carrie's music, visit the Web at www.megancarriemusic.com. Her CD "Hard Baby to Rock" is also available at Tony's Pizza in Woodstock; for information about Amanda Mackintosh's music, visit www.myspace.com/AmandaMackintosh. She is planning a February release party in Nashville and a spring release party in Berryville for her CD "Shenandoah."