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Monday, Aug. 5, 2013

Nora Collins Commits Herself to Country Music

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“I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just knew I like to write songs, and I enjoyed singing,” so says 19-year-old country singer Nora Collins of recording her first album a few years ago. The girl smitten with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as a pre-schooler had her family help out on her first album. She now plays nearly 200 shows yearly and has garnered WAMI kudos and regional and national attention for performing within a genre that Wisconsin isn’t much credited with nurturing.

But mainstream country suits Collins’ strengths and sensibilities well. As she tells it, “I’ve always loved country music because the songs tell a story, and country music fans are so supportive. Even though I’ve always lived in Wisconsin, I’ve always had a little twang in my voice.” As with many artists, Collins doesn’t feel she chose her medium as much as it chose her. “I don’t think I ever decided I was going to be country; I think that’s just how my music developed on its own,” she says.

After her formative, debut album, Red Chuck Taylors, Collins’ sophomore project Run Away With Me sprang forth with a sound that not only got her significant play on FM 106.1’s “Home Made Jams,” but was also compatible with most other commercial country stations’ playlists. That’s understandable, considering what went into it. Says Collins of its recording, “I became more serious about my music and discovered this was a career I wanted to pursue. I recorded some of the songs in Nashville with some great studio musicians.”  Videos for the titular song “Dimples Filled With Lies” gained some traction on cable and online country video outlets as well.

Collins cites among her influences contemporary singers like Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Randy Houser, as well as classic artists including Hank Williams, Sr. and Patsy Cline. There’s also a touch of Alison Krauss’s subdued Americana on Collins’ latest album, Only The Beginning, where the only accompaniments to her increasingly emotionally nuanced vocalizing are acoustic guitar and fiddle. This creates an atmosphere outside commercial country’s current parameters, but probably deserving of its inclusion.

Collins explains the stripped-down sound of Beginning, which is currently only being sold at her shows, by speaking of her usual mode of performance nowadays. “Since I usually perform solo, with this CD, I wanted it to be more of a simple acoustic project. I wanted the listener to feel like they were sitting around a campfire listening to friends playing and singing.”

As with most any singer whose star is on the rise, Collins has had to make sacrifices in other areas of her life. Her youthfulness has meant, though, that those sacrifices have been different than those of many other folks in her position. She says with apparently minimal regret, “When I was in high school and working on a career in music, I had to give up a lot of time where I could have been hanging out with friends. That’s what I wanted to do, though, and I was lucky enough to have great friends who supported that.” Her family has been of even greater importance in her professional pursuits. “My family has given up a lot of time to go to my gigs,” she says. “I recorded my first CD in my uncle’s house, and he produced and played on it. My aunts did photography and artwork. I’m truly blessed with a great family.”

A nigh indefatigable work ethic, an approachably fresh-faced quality and a growing artistic maturity, abetted by several recent songwriting collaborations, hold Collins in good sway for her artistry to become more widely known. Though that prospect excites her, she shows some wisdom regarding the steady path she’s been taking. “I’d love to take my career to the next level and would love a record deal and go on tour with someone.”  Though she adds, “Right now, I’m focused on becoming a better songwriter and performer and building a following here.”

For information about Nora Collins’ upcoming performances, visit noracollins.com.