One of Gypsum's own is well on her way to becoming a county music star. When Collin Raye came to town last July, Gypsum resident Pam Schultz told the famous singer's manager, Dave Fowler, about Emily Kingston, who was 19 years old at the time. Fowler listened to Emily's CD and liked what he heard. He invited her to Nashville and she recorded three of her original songs in a professional studio Dec. 15.
"It took one day to record the whole thing," said Kingston. "The band took about 30 minutes to learn each song. They listened to the song once and composed the rest of the instrumentals. It was amazing to hear my music come to life!"
Kingston only learned to play guitar last year and has written more than 20 original songs since March.
"The guy who did the mixing for my songs was Toby Keith's mixer," Kingston said. "Fowler told me he said my music was really good."
Now 20, Kingston is finishing an associate degree in kinesiology at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
"I'm graduating soon and I'm thinking of moving to Nashville to pursue a music career next year," she said.
In the meantime, the demos she recorded will be used to promote her in the music business.
Born to sing
"Music is in her, she was born to do it," said Kingston's mom, Mallie Kingston. "She started singing with the radio when she was 3 years old. She knew all the words and could remember a song after hearing it twice. She has this huge country voice and we were like, 'We're from California - where did that come from?'"
The family moved to Gypsum when Kingston was 3 years old.
"We listened to country music as long as I can remember," Emily Kingston said.
She started competing in Gypsum's karaoke talent shows when she was 8.
"I have known Emily for a long time and have heard her sing from the time she was in high school," Schultz said. "She sang in all the events around - Gypsum Daze talent shows since day one and the Eagle County Fair contests. As she got older, her voice just got better and better. She had the stage presence, the voice and the courage to get up in front of people to sing."
Schultz is a town council member and organizes the Gypsum Daze concerts, which feature plenty of country music talent. That's how she met Fowler.
"I knew he was the person who would give Emily a chance to maybe fulfill her dream," Schultz said. "I had a CD of Emily that I had asked her to make for me, just waiting for the time to give it to someone."
Schultz also invited Collin Raye's backup singer to watch Kingston in the Adult Talent Show.
"(The backup singer) said, ŒWow, she is great,' and she thought Emily had what it took to make it in the music business," Schultz said.
Kingston is already used to putting herself out there and being judged.
Besides the local talent shows, she has advanced in the preliminary auditions for "X Factor" and "American Idol," which are on national TV with celebrity judges. She didn't make it onto the national stage but she met a key influence along the way.
James Williams was a regional X Factor judge in Grand Junction and ended up teaching Kingston to play guitar.
"There was something about her," he said. "She had a good personality and an awesome voice. She won regionals and I talked her into coming in to prepare her voice for Dallas. I told her, 'If you could play guitar and write your own songs, it will compliment your singing.'"
Kingston quickly learned the basics.
"She took to song writing like water," Williams said. "It's been neat to watch her progress."
Kingston said her fingers hurt from the guitar strings at first but Williams encouraged her to work through the initial pain.
"Now I play all the time, whenever I need a study break," Kingston said. "Guitar is not that hard. I'm no Santana but I can carry a tune."
"It doesn't take me long to write a song," Kingston said. "If I find a quote I enjoy, I'll write it down and make up a theme from that."
She describes her style as country pop.
"A lot of my songs are about wanting a relationship or being in a relationship," she said. "I've only had one serious relationship in my life. It's good to have heartbreak because it writes a good song. It also helps to write songs because it helps get my feelings out."
She lists a string of big-name country music divas when she talks about her influences but that list also includes her older sister.
"I'm the youngest of five," she said. "My family isn't that musical but my 27-year-old sister writes songs, too. She used to sing me to sleep when I was little. She's a great singer and I think I kind of picked it up from her."
As for the all-female list of musicians?
"Got to have respect for all the ladies - they can hit those high notes," Kingston joked.
The Nashville trip didn't come easy. Besides the travel, it cost $500 to record each song. Schultz is also a member of Gypsum Town Council and she got the town to donate some money for that in November.
"My family also donated a lot," Kingston said. "I'm so grateful for all the help."
The Kingstons had been to Nashville before when Emily tried out for "American Idol" two years ago, but the recent visit was different.
"In the contests, you had one chance to sing for a couple people," said Mallie Kingston. "On this trip, we had more time to meet people- it's a very friendly place. People told us there's only two degrees of separation there, meaning almost everyone knew someone in the music business."
Emily Kingston said she knows challenges surely await but she's committed to chasing her dream.
"I know there will be hard times but this is what I want to do," she said.
Her mom said she never gives up.
"She's so diligent and has always pursued this," Mallie said.
Williams said Emily still hits him up for advice now and then, and he enjoys working with her every chance he gets.
"She tried to give me credit for success in Nashville and I told her it was her hard work that did it," he said. "She is very sweet, humble and deserving of this."