By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Although it began with pain and calloused fingertips, Stillwater singer/songwriter Bailey Gilbert’s continued efforts at her craft are paying off.
The 17-year-old grew up as a big fan of female performers Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift.
“I’ve been performing since I was a little kid, the singing in church story, but I never took it serious until I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar when I was 13,” she said.
She began to learn chords and a week later, began writing her first song.
“My whole family was like, this is her new thing, like dancing and sports, but it lasted and I think about a year (later), I wrote a song that my mom thought was good enough to grab attention and we started asking about gigs and things,” she said.
That first attention-getting song was “When You’re Reading This,” a tune about running away and getting married. Gilbert said she would constantly have her mother listen to her latest songwriting efforts to get feedback. But this time, her mom turned her attention away from the book she was reading.
“She put it down and looks at me and said, ‘Do you understand what you just wrote?’” Gilbert said. “And I’m like, ‘I wrote a song again’ and she was like, ‘No, that’s a song!’”
In the past few years, Gilbert said she began to gain confidence by sitting in with other artists and swapping songs.
“I kind of realized this is how I want to sound and this is where I want to go with it,” Gilbert said. “It was really just figuring out who I wanted to be as an artist.”
And while she listens to rock and rap, country music has always been the genre she connects with most. Gilbert has recorded a demo, titled “Reckless,” containing 14 songs. The demo has been received well by audiences and peers.
“It was like a validation almost because it’s one thing for someone to say, ‘We really liked you tonight. You’re a really good singer,’” said Gilbert. “And it’s another thing for people to start showing up and they know the words to your song because they have the demo and you can tell they’ve listened to it. For me, that was the biggest satisfaction.”
For someone to live their life with her music as a soundtrack, Gilbert said that’s an honor.
Gilbert’s hard work showed as she won the 32nd Annual Texaco Country Showdown Aug. 10 at Tumbleweed Dance Hall.
A panel of judges chose Gilbert as the winner among eight others.
She will compete in Elk City Sept. 1 at the Annual PRCA Rodeo of Champions.
If she advances, she will continue to a regional competition where she could advance to the national final and a $100,000 grand prize.
She looks forward to the next step in her career.
“I just want to get a fan base and people who know who I am,” she said. “That would be wonderful.”
She said performing and songwriting make her happier than anything else.
“Whether I’m playing to 10 people, 100 people, 10,000 or 100,000, this is something I love,” Gilbert said. “Whether I make it or not, I’m going to continue to do this because this is my life.”
For more information, visit http://soundcloud.com/bailey-gilbert or search for her Facebook fan page.