Worthington native takes home coveted country music award
After only one year of performing, a Worthington native could become one of the new faces of country music after a recent awards show.
Charee White, 18, won the New Artist of the Year award at the 19th Annual Inspirational Country Music Faith, Family & Country Awards on Thursday, which took place at the Fellowship at Two Rivers in Nashville.
The show, sponsored by the not-for-profit Inspirational Country Music Association, is affiliated with the Country Music Association, and honors singers, songwriters and other entertainers affiliated with Christian and inspirational country music.
Other winners at the show included Rascal Flatts, who claimed the Mainstream Song of the Year award; Mainstream Country Male Artist award winner Scotty McCreery; and White's mentor, Tommy Brandt, who was named male vocalist of the year.
White began her music career last year by playing some open-mic nights in Florida. When she came back to Armstrong County, White enrolled in voice lessons with Claire Osborne, owner of Claire's Music Studio in Kittanning.
Osborne said White was a naturally talented performer who just needed a little help finetuning her vocal skills.
“She had wonderful abilities to play guitar and compose songs, so she progressed rather quickly,” Osborne said. “It was very natural, and she learned how to let the music out.”
White describes herself as a crossover artist and performs a mix of secular and non-secular music. She compares her sound to several modern country music acts, including Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert.
One of White's first opportunities to show off her skills came during the WTYM Country Jam in Kittanning, in September 2012. During the event, she first met Brandt, who would eventually become her mentor and produce her debut album.
“We bumped into each other, and I asked him if he wanted to hear me play,” White said. “I took him into a broom closet and played my version of ‘Pontoon,' by Little Big Town, and he invited me to come to Nashville with him.”
Last October, White attended the Inspirational country Music Awards with Brandt, where she performed in a talent showcase. Although she didn't win any awards, White said she came off the performance to an exciting proposition.
“Tommy decided I needed my own album, which he wanted to produce,” she said. “We talked about it, co-wrote a lot of the songs on the album and began recording in January.”
White said most of the songs were originally written and performed on an acoustic guitar but grew and developed in the studio, where she worked with several studio musicians who had performed with singers such as Reba McIntyre, Travis Tritt and Rascal Flatts.
Along with recording her album, White toured across the country with Brandt and performed with several other musicians.
Sherry White, who works as a notary in Worthington, said her daughter's music career has developed quickly. Although it can be overwhelming at times, she doesn't worry about her daughter traveling the country with Brandt and his family.
“A lot of the time, we try to go with her, but we know if she's with Tommy, she's in good hands,” Sherry said. “She's worked hard and has dedicated her time to music and trying to touch people with it, and it's pretty exciting.”
White came back to Armstrong County toward the end of the summer and performed at the Fort Armstrong Folk Festival, Dayton Fair, the Worthington Carnival and Arts on the Allegheny.
Although she enjoys performing across the country, White said there is always something special about coming back to Armstrong County to perform.
“It's cool to come back to my hometown and do this, since where I came from is what inspired the songs,” White said. “To put my experiences into a song, play them across the country, then come back to where it all started — it feels like a movie.”
White first heard about her nomination in July, about a month after her album, “Stronger,” was released. Although she was honored by the nomination, White said she did not expect to win since her album had only been out such a short time.
During the award show, White said her heart began to pound hard when they began announcing the nominees for the New Artist of the Year award.
“I just thought, ‘Oh, here we go,' and I was ready to be happy for whoever won the award,” White said. “When they called my name, it was such a surreal moment — I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you, God.' ”
White said she's excited to continue her career in country music and is planning to attend the Artist Music Guild Awards on Nov. 9 in Ft. Mills, S.C., where she is nominated for Best Youth in Music, New Artist of the Year, Favorite Female Vocalist and Song of the Year for her single, “Dirt Road Prayer.”
“It's an unbelievable feeling, and I don't feel like I deserve to be nominated yet, but I'm going to accept them humbly,” White said. “From here, we're just going to continue touring and hopefully release another single in January and see where it all leads.”
For more information on White and her music, visit www.chereewhite.com.
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.