Sunday, June 10, 2012
Recently, after one of her shows, Shelby was asked how much she got paid for a veterans benefit. “Freedom,” she replied, “they have already paid.”
A person 20 years old is young by almost any adult standard. In the entertainment industry, many performers and hopefuls spend that long waiting for that one big break. At just the age of 19, Shelby Downing has already accomplished in the music world more than many are able to do in a lifetime.
Singing at age 6 and writing songs before age 13, Shelby was destined to be a performer. “Every song I write is about something I’ve experienced in life,” she says. “As a teenager, most kids talk to their best friends about things,” says Shelby. “I wrote mine down instead.” She turned her life into songs. By age 14, Shelby was playing a guitar, putting melodies with her words and creating songs. Shelby began working with the famed vocal coach Bart Barton in Dallas (he also did vocal coaching for Leann Rimes) and was working hard to perfect her craft. It was working, and more importantly, she was getting noticed by people in the music industry.
Through an exchange on MySpace, Shelby and her family were contacted by a prominent Nashville singer/songwriter. Having heard some of her music, he wanted to meet with her. That person was Charlie Craig, a member of the Hall of Fame and a man with over 300 recorded songwriter credits. Craig had worked with some of country music’s greatest artists and legends including Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, B.J. Thomas, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker, Aaron Tippin and many more. Charlie thought Shelby could be a star and wanted to meet with her. Two weeks later, Shelby was in Nashville, Tenn.
Shelby says that the times she spent in Nashville with Charlie were some of the best in her life, and while he was a mentor to her, “he was more like a grandfather.” She credits him as having “taught me everything I needed to know about songwriting” and during her time there, Shelby and Charlie wrote thirteen songs together at BMI. Nashville proved to be a great training ground for Shelby. It was there she was able to fine-tune her songwriting skill. With the help of Renee Grant-Williams as her vocal coach, Shelby was able to take her singing to a new level. She was on the fast track.
Shelby did two CDs in Nashville: Nothing Else To Do at Blackbird Records and Rebel Child with Funky Time Records. She saw what was happening to her career and so did Nashville. She found herself being compared to Shania Twain and opening for top Nashville artists and capacity crowds. Many would say that she was “living the life.” Several record companies approached her with contracts and offers to help her live the dream of a country music superstar. While it appeared as though she was certainly on her way, Shelby Downing is a Texas girl and longed to come home. “Texas is where I want to be. Nashville has given me so many great opportunities, but if there is anything I have learned in life, it is to follow your own heart because it’s never going to lead you the wrong way.” So she came home to Texas. She was 17.
Shelby has a huge soft spot in her heart for the elderly, children with health issues or disabilities and veterans. In fact, Shelby is well-known for her benefit concerts and performances for children and veterans. When performing for such groups, she does so for little or no monetary reimbursement. In fact, most of the time the band gets the money. “My band does all the work. They put it up and do everything for that stage. All I have to do is put on my makeup and get up there and sing.” Recently, after one of her shows, Shelby was asked how much she got paid for a veterans benefit. “Freedom,” she replied, “they have already paid.”
As with each of us, life will have its ups and downs, and even a rising star isn’t exempt. The past few years have been difficult on both Shelby and her family as they have had to deal with both physical and emotional pain, heartache and loss. She lost her friend and vocal coach Bart Barton to cancer. Two years ago, Shelby was involved in a horrific motor vehicle accident when another vehicle ran a red light. I’ve seen the photos of the wreckage, and they will take your breath away. With numerous injuries to her body including spinal and chest injuries, a dislocated jaw, as well as having her hand and leg crushed, this young lady knows that she is lucky to be alive. While still recovering from her own injuries, her dear friend and mentor Charlie Craig also passed away last year at age 73. It was obvious just in the way she talked about him that his loss is still felt today. During all the healing and rehabilitation process, Shelby has had a lot of time to think about life, love, her career, her future, and what’s really important to her. Shelby is now just taking some time to “step back and try to get myself focused again.”
I have known of Shelby Downing and her music for a few years. I have asked around about her and even downloaded some of her music. You can learn a lot about a person through their lyrics and presentation. Shelby is a simple girl, and by that I mean she isn’t driven by fame or money. I asked her if she thought she made a mistake leaving Nashville. With no hesitation or waver in her voice, she replied, “It’s never been about the money; it’s never been about singing on stage to thousands of people. I want to write songs that people can relate to, and I want to be happy. I stand for what I believe in and most record companies and labels want to own you, not just promote you.” Shelby is very adamant when it comes to her music. Her songs are written and performed as inspiration to others. They are not about numbers or how fast they will climb the charts.
“Life is a gamble, and you just have to follow your heart,” and Shelby gives all appearance that she is happy with her decisions. With an internet fan base of over two million, it’s obvious that she is doing something right. All I know is that I can’t wait to hear her perform again!