In this First Concert Ever segment, the country rock artist, Nicole Sumerlyn, talks about the story of her first experience with live music. You can check out the story, after the break.
Gretchen Wilson with Big and Rich.
I had just turned 14 years old and got tickets for my birthday. My best friend and I curled our hair, put our little boots on, and got her mom to drive us down to the venue. My hometown had just opened a new sports center, and this was one of the first country concerts to hit the arena. Big day in a small town.
We sat decently close to the stage, in the bowl, and to the left. We were both so excited to dance and sing our little hearts out to songs that I would later play at my own live shows, just a few years later. Hit after hit, it was so fun to see for the first time how a crowd responded to the musicians on stage. People would be shouting as they heard the opening to the next song. They would be screaming as the guitarist would strut across the stage while playing his solo. Couples in the floor section would be swingin’ around dancing, some getting lost in the moment.
I love how music makes people feel. I love that it brings different kinds of people together to share one thing in common. It’s like as soon as people enter a venue for a live show, everyone is just there to have a good time, and listen to good music.
Big and Rich’s songs will always hold a special place for me in my country music heart as they were some of the first country artists that I listened to and loved. It was fantastic being able to experience seeing those songs come to life for the first time and watch how true live musicians just owned the stage.
Gretchen Wilson, co-headlining the tour, was honestly the real reason why I was so excited for the show. I can still remember how she ended her concert without playing her most popular song, “Redneck Woman”. My best friend and I – clueless at the time about how concerts worked – were bummed out that she didn’t play the song we were so excited to sing along to. However, when we learned in that moment how encores work, she came out again to sing the famous hit, and we were happy girls.
At this point, I had just started singing lessons and was starting to write songs. Gretchen Wilson was my number one idol at the time and still is. I watched and listened to her carefully. I was in awe of how she drew the crowd in as a front person but still made everyone feel like she was one with the party people. She had a bar on stage and was drinking Crown Royal out of the bottle as she sang. It was a comical yet brilliant stage tactic that I loved about her show. I watched her on stage interacting with the crowd, and putting on a show, I was jealous. I wanted to be up on that stage so bad. I knew that I would have to follow in those footsteps.
As soon as I got home from the concert, I was up all night re-listening to all of her albums. I would then use her songs in my hometown singing competitions, spending hours learning the songs on guitar so much so that I wouldn’t have dinner. Gretchen Wilson became my inspiration for how I am as an artist today. She was party country, she knew how to get a crowd rowdy, but she could flawlessly switch between a party personality and that of a more classic country storyteller.
When writing my current single “Over A Drink”, though years after this first concert, I still use Gretchen Wilson’s sound as a foundation for my inspiration. I walked into the write with Jimmy Thow where we were choosing what style of song to write that day. In that moment, an edgy country song just felt right. Upbeat rowdiness, while still holding the appreciation of the country twang. Something I could be proud of and that would also follow in the footsteps of Gretchen Wilson, from way back when I saw her at my very first concert.