Second Quarter Newsletter 2014


I might as well dive right in and tell y’all the big news! I’m so honored to announce that my debut CD, “Gotta Be A Cowgirl”, won the New Horizons Wrangler Award for 2014!

When I sent out the 1st Quarter Newsletter last March, I had just been notified that my album, Gotta Be A Cowgirl, won the prestigious Wrangler Award. I was dying to tell y’all back then, but I decided to just wait it out and tell y’all at the beginning of this 2nd Quarter Newsletter. (Late as I know it is!)

For those of you not familiar with the Wrangler Awards, I was told they are the “western equivalent of a Grammy!” 32lb, bronze horse-and-rider statues are awarded to artists who “honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film, and television reflect the significant stories of the American West.” (quote from The Wrangler Awards Ceremony... held on April 12, 2014 in Oklahoma City, Ok. at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, was definitely the most fantastic event I have ever attended. I was proud to be there with my parents, younger brother, and my producer, Marvin O’Dell, and his wife, Theresa. Marvin and I each toted home our own 32lb bronze Wrangler! I think we were all beyond excited.

The long, packed two day event began with a lavish reception on Friday evening at the museum where delicious, beautifully presented food was served while hundreds of people visited. Just as I was told to expect, there were many well-known people there and, as one of the award recipients, I was able to spend some special time with them. During the reception, the three music award winners were given a 30 minute set to perform--myself, Don Edwards and Eli Barsi each had the opportunity to share our music on a stage in front of the famous Wounded Warrior statue. (The statue is incredible, and MASSIVELY tall! Performing in front of it was a bit of a “dwarfing” experience. LOL!)

The highlight of my evening was when Red Steagall came over to give me a hug and wish me well. :-)

After our performances were over, there was a brief time to sign and sell CDs before we headed to a private reception at the home of the president of the Board of Directors of the museum. I don’t believe I have ever seen such an incredible home before! My parents and the O’Dells visited with Don and Kathy Edwards for quite a while, and I milled around, introducing myself and visiting with other Wrangler recipients, both past and present. More food and visiting made for a wonderful night but, I admit we were all ready to head back to the hotel and get some rest for the next day.

Saturday was busy, busy, busy! There were speakers, interviews, signings, receptions and a VERY small amount of time to view the museum. It was an awesome feeling seeing my CD in a glass case with the other Wrangler winner’s icons, next to such legends as Don Edwards, Michael Martin Murphy, Juni Fisher, and the heart-stopping Roy Rogers… Dad was too cute; he got like a thousand pictures of all of that! The day flew by and before I knew it we had to head back to our room to dress for the evening. When we returned all dressed up, we found the entry looking like the Grammy Awards with tuxedoded men who opened the doors for us, and a red carpet entryway... Yes, I have officially "walked the red carpet", y'all! :-)

Inside we all stopped to have our pictures taken, and then I hurried to another CD signing before heading to the VIP reception. Michael Martin Murphy, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchel, Juni Fisher, Dean Smith, Lynn Anderson, Katharine Ross, and so many more milled about exchanging greetings. It was truly a beautiful feeling to be a part of it all! When we walked into the banquet room where the awards show was held, the beautiful, dark shades of red and gold took my breath away. There were beautiful, huge displays of flowers and a wide red carpet leading down the center to the stage. The tables were elegant and the stage was dramatic…a perfect setting for a perfect evening. The three music awards were presented early on in the ceremony and it was mentioned that at 17, I made history as the youngest Wrangler recipient. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the award was presented to me by two of my heroes in the western music industry, Juni Fisher and Michael Martin Murphy.

After the awards' show was over, Mom and Dad, with their ever-present cameras, had Marvin and I posing in front of the stage for a good 10 minutes. At least they got a few good shots here and there! :-) We were all exhausted, but once we returned to our hotel, we found out there was going to be a jam in a downstairs room, so I grabbed my Martin…and I jammed! Over the next few hours, I picked with Red Steagall, Michael Martin Murphy, Don Edwards, Juni Fisher, and Eli Barsi. We swapped newly written tunes, old favorites and crowd requests—and yes, there was a crowd. Standing room only for several hours!

Thank you, Marvin O'Dell! For without YOU, this CD would never have been made and because of your superb producing it won this prestigious award. It was an evening I will vividly remember for the rest of my life. Well, how do you follow that?! They say life will go on, and so it did. Mom and I were ready for our traveling to slow down a bit, so we agreed it would be a good idea to focus on Texas and gigs a bit closer to home for a few months with Texas Wildfire (with fiddler, Hailey Sandoz). I'll admit, I always enjoy staying close to home: I miss my own bed and my horses! But that didn't mean my schedule slowed down much.

On April 17th-20th, my Dad took me to Goldthwaite, Texas to ride and perform for the TFWT trail ride. I invited Hailey to join me and, playing and singing along the way, we had an absolute blast together--it isn’t often we get to combine the two things we really love. To make it even better, the people at this trail ride hold a special place in my heart. Friday night we had the privilege of performing for the riders as we all enjoyed a birthday dinner celebration for a dear friend of mine, Mr. Bill Winton. We really enjoyed the nippy mornings and the teamsters hauling their freight behind teams of mules. There’s nothing in this world quite like it. If I’m gonna be away from home, my “home-away-from-home” is trailriding.

The following week on April 26th I was honored to perform (with Hailey) alongside Dave Alexander and his Big Texas Swing Band for a pro-life organization, Life Talk. Owned by some friends of mine, they asked me to write a song for the evening, in celebration of the pro-life movement. There were tickets sold for dinner, auction and entertainment to raise funds for this worthy cause. The month was also filled with teaching vocal/guitar lessons, playing for several Cowboy Churches, an Opry, apprenticing with horseman Chad Brinlee with Bombproof Horsemanship, and keeping up with my homeschool homework. The month truly flew by.

MAY April 28th-May 1st I participated in a Texas History field trip guided by history gurus Pam Tarpley and western music radio DJ, Judy James. With my love for history, I cannot describe how incredible and beyond educational this trip was for me! We were able to go to the Alamo, Gonzales, Washington-On-The-Brazos, Goliad, and the San Jacinto battleground, to walk the ground our legendary fore-fathers once walked, spending hours ambling through museum after little, local museum—seeing the very hills, rivers, towns that they fought to protect… It was about as close to perfect as it could get for a history-lover. The only way it would have been better is if we could have created a time machine, and gone back in time to see them, and meet them. You’ll have to get on that right away, Ms. Judy! ;-)

May 3rd, Texas Wildfire performed for a local Cinco De Mayo celebration, and we, of course, also rode in the parade. It was a very, very warm day and being dressed up in cowboy regalia as we were-- mmmmmm, it was hot. The 4th, Hailey and I performed at First Christian Church in Plano for a special service for area church pastors. This was an honor, fun, and very different, considering we typically attend “cowboy church”. May 9th, we drove down to Lakeway, Texas, to join KR Wood in a performance at Emmaus Catholic Church for a South African missions benefit. I wish I could describe how beautiful this traditional gothic church was! The ceilings rose in sculpted arches made of a beautiful dark wood. The center “stage” was a semicircle, with a massive stained glass window at the back, framing a stunning crucifix. The acoustics were unbelievable. After staying the night in Lakeway, we took our time heading home by stopping at a local place for lunch and then at a thrift store…which we definitely could not pass up. :) As we continued making the drive home that day, we stopped off in Red Oak, Texas, to play for the Red Oak Opry that evening. We love seeing our opry family! May 16th we drove back down to San Marcos for the Swing on the Square Festival. KR Woods invited us to fill in for him at Louie's Oyster Bar, with his band members Greg Lowry and Ginger Evans, while he performed somewhere else with his chuckwagon. Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening we were so honored to watch, play with and meet some of western swing’s very finest: Carolyn Martin and her band, Al Dressen and the Western Swing Revue, Cow Bop and Jason Roberts, to name a few. Cowboy church was held on Sunday morning on the beautiful square of San Marcos in the shade under massive, old trees. We joined Mr. Dressen, Dick Gimble, KR Woods, Carolyn Martin and her band, and others, sharing gospel music on the courthouse lawn for anyone who stopped to listen. A special moment was our closing song, sung by Carolyn: Down To The River To Pray. Imagine this song, played by several absolutely amazing musicians, sung by an angelic voice. As the tune progressed, harmonies added one by one until I got shivers. I still get ‘em when thinking about it!

We arrived home in time to take a breather for a few days, then climbed back into the car and drove to Grand Prairie, Texas for rehearsals that would fill up the next few days of our lives for the Texas Family Musicals. This was a wonderful new experience and we made some Cast from wonderful new friends (Mike Skiles, Kevin Kratzke, Cori Kidder, and Sam DiRosa), played with other fantastic musicians and found a reeeeally good Mexican restaurant across the street where we ate, ahem, multiple times. We had our fun Theatre Debut on Friday, the 23rd playing “There Will Be No Sad Songs—the last concert of Hank Williams” at the Grand Prairie Theatre at the 7:30 show. I had a blast learning the ropes of theater performing, which included: navigating the curtain ropes, finding dressing room lights, learning all about the necessity of balancing your makeup according to the stage lighting…and much, much more. Plus, the banter going on behind the curtains while the audience is getting seated was priceless!
           Earlier that morning and afternoon we also attended Joey McKenzie’s Swing Camp where I took guitar and theory from Mr. McKenzie and Gavin Kelso. Talk about mind-blowing musicians! That was INCREDIBLE!

Early Saturday morning, we played our monthly gig at the McKinney Farmer’s Market (sponsored by Orison's Boutique) before high-tailing it back down to Grand Prairie for the 2:30 Hank Williams performance. Then, we took a break, had dinner and had our last Hank Williams performance at 7:00 pm. We were sad when it was all over, but a little thankful we could get back to our school work the following week rather than attend rehearsals. Haha! :-) J

UNE... was supposed to be my “break” month, but nobody meant for me to take it literally!

June 14th Hailey and I didn’t have much in the way of performing until the 14th, when we played for the Killis Melton Ice Cream Crank Off at Chestnut Square in McKinney, Tx. If there’s such thing as custom ordering a perfect summer gig, that would be one of them. How much better can it get than to perform at an ice cream competition?!

June 21st Hailey and I were asked to be a part of a film competition—the “48 Hour Film Project”. To make a long story much shorter, Saturday, when warming up for the filming, I injured my ankle in a freak accident dismounting from a handstand horseback. Mom thought I tore the ligaments in my ankle so we wrapped, elevated and iced it and waited 'til Monday to have it looked at.

June 29th was a busy day: Texas Wildfire had two performances scheduled. The first one was a morning church service for First Christian Church in Plano, Texas. They propped me up in two chairs, one for me and one for my foot, and let me do my thing. It was my first performance after the accident, but before the surgery. I came to realize it is a little annoying not being able to move about while I perform! The second performance was in the evening at an outdoor arena for Crossroads’ Cowboy Church’s annual Freedom Celebration in honor of Independence Day. Pastor Till organized a fun filled evening, free to the public with food, games, entertainment and fireworks. Hundreds of people came to enjoy the fun and be witnessed to. Thank you, Pastor Till, for allowing Texas Wildfire to be a part of your celebration! (Once again, they propped me up on two chairs while we performed.)

The next day I went to the orthopedic surgeon and got the complete diagnosis and found out I broke my ankle and fibula, tore ligaments and dislocated my ankle. The complicated breaks required immediate surgery and 1 plate and 6 screws later, here I am. :-) Unfortunately, the “break” I had been wishing for wasn't what I had in mind and really messed up the summer I had planned, causing me to do a lot of indoor sitting with my casted leg propped up and iced. Oh, well. I’ll admit it’s given me plenty of time write and to catch up on schoolwork! Yes, my cast was camouflage. :-)

Well, that catches us up until my third quarter newsletter! Stay tuned for the big news I have to share next newsletter, which (because I'm so late in sending this one out) is right around the corner! Thank you for your support, prayers and kind words!

Blessings and Happy Trails,