Georgia-Country.com Artist of the Month
On a monthly basis, Georgia-Country.com spotlights a Georgia artist that we feel is furthering their career in country music. Below is our current artist of the month. We hope you enjoy reading their interview and getting to know this artist more. Be sure to check out their music, videos and schedule for the month. If you are a Georgia-based artist, 18 and over, and would like to be considered for Artist of the Month, please contact us with your name and a website to review.
Our December Artist of the Month, is Cindy Lou Harrington
GC: Cindy, early in your life, who where your biggest musical influences?
CLH: I'd say my family was my biggest musical influence, early on. My mother was from Memphis and she kept the vinyl going in our hi-fi -- Eddy Arnold, Elvis, musicals. My father was a choir leader for SPEBSQSA (yes...the acronym of acronyms, it stands for the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America). That developed an early love for harmony which led to a love for the groups that pioneered amazing harmonies: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Eagles. I also loved the songwriting of James Taylor, Carole King, and Carly Simon. My older brother played banjo in a version of one of the famous folk groups of the 60's/70's, "The New Christy Minstrels," and he was an early influence, insisting that I learn to play guitar and practicing harmonies with me. We put a band together that worked at Six Flags Over Georgia every summer for 5 years--when I was in high school and college.
GC: What was the one thing in your life that happened that you knew you wanted to be a singer?
CLH: Even though I did some solo work in the band at Six Flags, I had mostly performed harmony and background vocals with that group and other groups at Florida State. Then, when I moved to Atlanta after graduating from FSU, I was working as a teacher and working on weekends for Debi Bass. It was while working with Debi as one of her backup singers that she encouraged me to step out front and sing solo on "Rocky Top Tennessee"--one of my favorite songs at the time. Working with her really inspired me--seeing how much fun she had and how she engaged the audience. She was the quintessential pro. Very cool that she is being honored by the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame this month (Nov. 2013).
GC: How old were you when you first sang in front of a large audience and what did you sing?
CLH: 15 years old - mostly harmonies with a group called "Sunshine Season" at Six Flags Over Georgia. Then, solo: 22 years old with Debi Bass--"Rocky Top."
GC: What has been your favorite song that you wrote and why?
CLH: This is a difficult question because I love writing so much. I'll choose two (because I have about ten favorites). The first is a co-write with my sweetheart and the drummer in my band, Michael Wheeler. "Rodeo & Juliet." I love it because it's crazy-fun to perform and we do a breakdown harmony toward the end. (Preview My favorite slow song I have written is called "Moonflowers"--about a flower that blooms at night. The flower is magical and I wanted to write a song that described it. After I wrote it, my daughter and sweetheart created my first music video from real-time film footage of the flower. (Preview)
GC: You have played many places over the years. What has been your favorite place to play and why?
CLH: Hands down, the Fox Theatre. I opened for Kathy Mattea and was able to perform a song I wrote called "Home to Atlanta" -- a dream come true to sing that song at that location. Kathy came up to our dressing room and told me she had listened to my whole show--so exciting since she had always been one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. (By the way, my second-favorite place to play is David Leonard's studio -- Reveal Audio. He is a life-long friend and he was in that band at Six Flags with me years ago.)
GC: You're a veteran in Atlanta's music scene. What major changes have you seen over the years here?
CLH: Early in my songwriting career (1993), I was told I must move to New York, L.A., or Nashville if I wanted even a chance at success. It's still difficult, but it's not impossible and I absolutely believe Atlanta has achieved national recognition as a place where songwriters and performance-artist talent can be found. Opportunities for live performances of original music have increased--a variety of venues that encourage us have blossomed and thrived. Icons such as Eddie Owen and pioneering radio personalities such as Leslie Fram paved the way for national success of Atlanta performing songwriters.
GC: How would you describe today's country music?
CLH: Wide open! I believe there is more freedom of expression in country music than there is in any other genre right now. It's exciting. And I'm loving the variety of performance artists that are enjoying success.
GC: You have daughters that are following in your footsteps. What advice have you given them over the years?
My daughters sing with me in a group called "The Harringtons." We do harmony-country-pop. They are very independent and have their own goals and dreams. Truthfully: I don't advise very much -- but I do encourage! Brittany has ambitions in the radio industry -- one of her biggest heroes was Leslie Fram. And Taylor owns a company called "AppleBox Solutions." They do corporate staging and lighting. I hope we always sing together--I can't think of anything I enjoy more than "genetic harmony" -- that's what Moby-in-the-Morning called it when he heard us recently. Harmony is my favorite word too...I have a bracelet that I wear on stage that has "Harmony" inscribed in silver...made by a close friend.
GC: What would you say has been the highlight of your career?
CLH: Singing the National Anthem for the Atlanta Braves for the second time--the first time I sang a cappella. The second time they let me play guitar. It was simulatenously scary and also so satisfying and moving. My family and some friends were there in the stands holding signs: "That's my sister" "That's my best friend" "That's my Mom" -- it was great. And very honestly, I love singing the song. Very powerful lyrics. (Preview)
GC: What plans do you have for 2014?
CLH: My daughters and I will be opening for a very successful local songwriter, Sue Wilkionson, at Eddie Owen's Red Clay Theatre on Saturday, March 22, 2014. I also plan to work more with a great band from Nashville (Edsel West). Our second gig together will be in January--the first gig we did together was this past October at the Boot Scootin' Barn Raiser--a charity to support the DreamHouse for Medically Fragile Children. (Preview)
For more information on Cindy Lou Harrington, go to her website at Cindy-Lou.com