Becky Blackaby
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Becky Blackaby

Paris, Missouri, United States | SELF

Paris, Missouri, United States | SELF
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"Becky Blackaby's Long Promised Road"

Becky Blackaby's Long Promised Road

It was the third of June
Another sleepy, hot Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton
and my?brother was balin’ hay . . .
Ode to Billy Joe

I loved this song about Billy Joe McAllister committing suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie bridge. It wasn’t the morbid story, but Bobbie Gentry’s haunting, sultry southern lilt that stirred my imagination about the South and its farmer’s daughters. In Little Dixie, we listen to all kinds of music, but we’re just a little bit country. Kids may know some Jay Sean lyrics, but they sing Carrie Underwood songs. The genre has morphed so much that traditionalists scoff at today’s country lyric references of Gucci suits and trips to the Caribbean as much as the hard rock guitar riffs and monster drum sounds that accompany a token fiddle in the music’s background. But it still puts a smile on our faces, reminds us of why we love our “itty bitty” towns, as well as the personal sadness of relationships gone awry. The best country is painfully honest. We can relate and it’s the songwriter and vocalist’s privilege to deliver this tale with all the emotion and excitement they can muster. Who hasn’t held a microphone prop and karaoke’d around the house?

Perhaps this is what stirred inside Becky Blackaby at an early age. The Paris native grew up with all kinds of music, but she talks about host, Lou Helton from the popular radio show “Country Gold Saturday Night”, with the wonder and excitement of a youngster searching the airwaves for the magical sounds emanating from some faraway place outside a small town’s city limits. Many in Little Dixie are familiar with Becky, the aspiring singer-songwriter, but not everyone knows her commitment and what she does to try to succeed in a very tough business. She is currently in between trips to Nashville where she showcases her music, hoping that music industry reps that can further her career, are lurking somewhere in the audience. She has recently started co-writing with multi-instrumentalist Chris Hatfield, from Columbia. I wanted to know more about her songwriting process.

“What do you like to write about?” I asked. ?Without blinking, she said “I like to find something original . . . something nobody writes about. I try to find something within relationships or about love and approach it in a different way. My song “Eye Games” is kind of like that. Everybody does it, but nobody has written a song about it.” Becky was an “Elite 8? Finalist in Country Music Television’s Music City Madness II Contest with this song, which as the title suggests, is about two strangers showing obvious interest through eye contact. ?“Knowing you play keyboards and guitar, which do you prefer, from a songwriting standpoint?” ?“I started writing with the guitar, but it’s definitely the keyboard. I am collaborating with a keyboardist, and for the first time, I just concentrated on the singing . . . using my voice as an instrument. Sometimes I write bits and pieces when I have time or I’ll have a “songwriting day” where I actually sit down and try to write whole songs.”

Considering musical style, Becky does not like to be put into a particular genre, although she is obviously influenced by Music Row’s country talent. ?“Growing up, what music influenced you?”?“Michael Jackson. He has a sound you know instantly. Great beat, simplicity and it’s delivered with a lot of emotion. Lets see . . . soul and rhythm and blues acts like Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. These artists really sing with emotion. Whether it’s performing or writing, I’m always trying to convey that emotion that those artists have.”

Becky’s playful demeanor and warm smile counter a very serious side – the side you need to make life-changing commitments and to take consistent action in a business that isn’t kind. Those crocodile tears of losing contestants at the tryouts on the television show American Idol Rewind, expose the delusional wannabes. Paid dues are scarce on Idol, but not in Nashville City. Becky’s fans don’t experience the thousands of miles driven in all kinds of weather, the lonely nights in motels away from friends and family, and the emotional ups and downs one lives by when expectations are so great.

Her trips to Nashville involve co-writing appointments and mini-gigs at places like the “Blue Bar”, “Dan McGinnis’s” or the “Commodore Lounge”. These are places where you have proven yourself good enough to have an actual spot on the playbill. “I typically play three original songs at these places.” Along with valuable performing experience, she uses these venues to network and possibly be seen by someone that can take her to the next level. That would entail visiting the record labels, publishing houses, music licensing firms and recording studios within Music Row.

“You have a masters degree in Speech Pathology, a professional job and a husband. You took the stable route most people take in life, and yet, you made the decision after achieving all of this to go for it. What was that like?”?“It was like I popped a balloon! Not everyone was taken by surprise, but many were. My husband and family support me, which is important.”

Her management company in Cape Girardeau also believes in her, which is why she shot a promotional film in Mexico, at the Presser Performing Arts Center. This film will be shopped around to booking agents and music industry reps to get live performing gigs and business appointments. Even with great talent, it takes unbelievable time and money to get noticed.

I asked Becky to indulge me for my own little private concert, because I had never seen her play live. She brought a keyboard with her and as she took a seat and placed her fingers on the keys, I could see that she had the actor’s skill of getting into character. She played me a new song she was working on with Chris Hatfield. This was a ballad that took a musical twist and turn here and there showing songwriting maturity. It was her voice that captivated me, though. I don’t know if it was the quietness of our office on a bitter cold day mixed with the great natural acoustics of the building, but I was reminded of a performance I saw of jazz vocalist Betty Carter. When she brought her voice down at the end of a song, the audience hung on to the sweet, ever so soft natural vibrato, as they moved forward in their chairs to capture the soft whispered ending. Wow. Nothing like love angst to push that emotion that Becky wants to achieve in her performances. She’s got that down.

“Becky, what do you like best about what you’re doing?”?“Expressing myself through song. And when people take the time out of their busy lives to come to my shows . . . (she looks down and bites her lip) it’s a really humbling experience.”?“So what do you want out of all of this?”?“To make a living out of something I truly love, but also to be able to balance that with a good family life.”

Becky Blackaby is already a success, with or without Nashville. She knows how to set and achieve goals. Her warm smile illuminates her heart. She appears to have all the down-home values that many sing about in country songs and her confidence in her vocal skills will take her far. Everyone spends a little time waking up in a quiet dark bedroom staring at the ceiling, wondering what the future holds. For Becky, it’s probably just that type of discontent that got her on the path in the beginning and it will take her there to the end. Where ever she wants that to be.

- John Buckner - john@thelittledixieweekender.com


Discography

Single - Kelly's Got a Boyfriend - Release to Radio (Country Breakout Chart™) Oct. 25, 2010

Dear Nobody EP - 2009*
1. Dear Nobody
2. Bitten by Love
3. Cottonwood Trees
*local radio airplay

Becky Blackaby - 2008*
1. Card Me
2. Summer's Here
3. Grandma
4. Eye Games
*local radio airplay

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Bio

Born and raised on a farm near Paris, Missouri, and singing before she could talk, Becky Blackaby was always entertaining her family. It wasn't until after college that Becky finally came to the realization she could actually have a career in something she truly loved...singing and performing. Later, Becky began writing her own songs and in late 2010, released her first single on the Country Breakout™ Chart. Her co-written single, Kelly's Got a Boyfriend, has received airplay on over 80 stations across the country.

It has been an exciting few years to watch Becky Blackaby’s journey. After becoming a State Finalist three consecutive years in the Colgate Country Showdown, in 2007, Becky became an "Elite 8" Finalist in CMT's Music City Madness II Contest, as Becky’s fans voted for her original song and video, Eye Games. “I am soooo thankful for that contest and the support everyone gave me, because it put me on the map.” Recently, Becky was featured on The Tennessean and Fox 17 Nashville News when she auditioned for the National Anthem for the Nashville Sounds MLB team. Becky has also been a featured news story on KOMU-8 TV, WGEM-13 TV & KHQA-7 TV, as well as in The Little Dixie Weekender, Cattleman's Advocate, and Inside Columbia magazines.

Becky's drive to succeed is obvious. Her playful demeanor and warm smile counter a very serious side – the side you need to make life-changing commitments and to take consistent action in a business that isn’t kind. Becky juggles a busy schedule as a wife, working part-time as a speech-language pathologist, and maintaining a steady performance schedule. Becky writes her own music, has independently sold over 1,000 CDs, and opened shows for artists such as Steel Magnolia, Josh Thompson, The Jane Dear Girls, Randy Houser, Little Texas, Shooter Jennings and Cowboy Crush, all of which exemplify her quest to entertain.

You get a total package when Becky performs. She's an entertainer with stage presence, marketability, and talent...with the vocals to back it up.