Orca Book Publishers is proud of the hard work our authors do and of the important stories they create. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or did not check it out from a library provider, then the author has not received royalties for this book. The ebook you are reading is licensed for single use only and may not be copied, printed, resold or given away. If you are interested in using this book in a classroom setting, we have digital subscriptions that feature multi user, simultaneous access to our books that are easy for your students to read. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
An Excerpt from Billboard Express
All the muscles in Elle’s throat started to constrict as she tried not to panic.
Everything had been going so well until now.
The crowd was on fire, clapping to the beat of her song. The lights were moving in time with the music. She felt beautiful in her glittery blue dress and brown vintage cowboy boots. Her headset allowed her to move around the stage. Her jewel-studded guitar strap held her guitar close enough to her to make it easy for her to play, sing and move freely.
She was flying high.
Until her voice cracked at the climax of the high note. Blaine, the bass player, caught her eye and raised his eyebrows. She struggled through the last three songs in her set, trying not to think too much about her voice. But hearing her voice crack over a gigantic sound system in a huge arena was one of the most embarrassing and terrifying things she had ever experienced.
The band gave her high fives at the end. She held her hand up to her throat, and Blaine said, “Don’t worry, Elle. It happens to everyone. Even Johnny’s voice cracks once in a while. It’s part of singing live.”
“Yeah, but he’s Johnny James,” Elle said. “With twenty thousand screaming fans every night, I don’t know if they even hear him singing.”
Blaine tilted his head. “I know what you mean, but still…don’t worry about it. Get a little extra rest. There’s some Throat Coat tea in the green room. Just go straight to bed on the bus tonight. I bet you wake up good as new.”
She appreciated him being straight with her. Elle had never been on any tour before, much less the biggest sold-out tour in country music. It was all part of a life she was just beginning to understand.
Johnny’s twin backup singers ignored her as she passed them backstage. They were probably thrilled her voice had cracked. Many backup singers, Elle knew, were waiting for their big break. Wondering why they weren’t the ones out in front.
* * *
Elle understood how you could end up with a bad attitude in this business. When she’d first come to Nashville, she’d been overconfident. All her friends and family had told her how talented she was. How she was going make it big fast.
It hadn’t happened.
She remembered the first time she’d gone to the Bluebird Cafe. It was a world-famous hole-in-the-wall-dive where the world’s most esteemed songwriters came to play the big hits they’d written for other artists. There was so much talent. That’s when she had discovered that the bar was set very high in Nashville. You didn’t get close to reaching that bar without some tough life lessons, which often turned into songs.
She had been knocked down and gotten back up more times than she cared to remember. But those hard knocks had taught her a little something about humility. About learning from others and not acting like a know-it-all brat. She had songwriter friends to thank for teaching her that. But she wasn’t a pushover. Humility doesn’t mean you can’t have confidence. Elle was learning to trust her instincts.
Elle made her way to the green room. The Throat Coat tea was on the catering table along with hot water, lemon and honey. A huge fruit platter sat in the center of the table with fancy granola bars, hummus and pita chips on either side. There was even a little espresso machine for those who needed a serious boost before going onstage. The crew guys went for the monster drinks and Gatorade. The singers pampered themselves with designer water. Only the best for Johnny James and his band and crew.
Elle filled her travel mug with hot water, a tea bag and some honey. When she took a sip, it felt good sliding down her raspy throat.
Yes, life in the big leagues was everything she’d imagined. But the day in, day out grind of touring wasn’t as easy as she had thought it would be.
A lot had happened since she had posted a YouTube video that revealed how she had been transformed by her record company from Charlene into Elle. The dieting, the skanky clothes, the makeover. How it had made her feel a lot less than authentic. How she was taking that back.
And then her big break had arrived.
She still remembered the phone call from her father, telling her the amazing news.
Guess what artist wants you to open for him? he’d asked.
Not in a million years would she have guessed that Johnny James wanted her on his tour.
At first, it had seemed like a dream. All those years writing and singing songs in her bedroom had brought her to Nashville. Her first days there had been rough. Her first producer had turned out to be a complete crook. Thankfully, one wonderful thing had come out of that awful time. She had met Webb, who had been swindled by the same producer.
His full name was Jim Webb, but most people just called him Webb. When Elle’s (and Webb’s) label had gone under, Webb had been a rock for Elle. When her father bought the label, Webb had reminded her that she didn’t have to be anything but true to herself.
Since then, Webb had chosen the indie route and was building quite a following through social media. His YouTube channel was actually earning him money every day.
Elle also had a YouTube channel that was doing well, but there was no doubt that being on a major label created many more opportunities for an artist. Now, living life out on the road, Elle was just beginning to understand the not-so-glamorous part about being a touring artist.
The tour had started off better than anything she had dreamed of. Big tours tended to start off in cities on the smaller, midwestern circuit. Places where people weren’t music critics in the same way they were in entertainment towns like Nashville, LA, Atlanta and New York.
She remembered how nervous she had been when she first stepped in front of a sold-out crowd in Minneapolis, in her home state. Twenty thousand screaming fans in an arena bigger than anything she’d ever seen in her small town.
The scariest part wasn’t the singing. For her it was the talking. She had gone through months of public-relations coaching with a woman named Karen in Nashville. Karen was legendary in the music business for getting young, not-so-well-spoken newbies ready to do interviews.
Elle remembered her first session with Karen, who had videotaped Elle answering a series of questions. When they were done, Karen had played the video back for Elle.
Elle, what do you hope your music accomplishes in the world? Karen had asked.
Um, well, like, I hope that, um, like, my music will connect.
Elle had wanted to crawl under her chair. She had no idea she spoke that way.
Look, Elle, Karen said, the way you speak is very typical for teens. But you are not just a typical “teen” anymore. You are a national recording artist for Starstruck Records. The expectation is that you will be well spoken.
Like Taylor Swift? Elle asked. She had been impressed when she saw Taylor Swift on Good Morning America. She had been so poised and confident.
Yes, Taylor is a very bright and poised young woman. Now. When she first came to me, she sounded just like you, Karen said.
You worked with Taylor? For some reason, Elle was totally amazed.
Yes. But again, she wasn’t a pro when she first sat in that chair. But with enough time and practice, you will be just as poised as Taylor.
Elle nodded. After all, if Taylor could do it, why couldn’t she?
After that first show in Minneapolis, Elle had given her first series of interviews for tour press. She had taken deep breaths, remembering what Karen had taught her. Think of the first word you are going to say before you form the first sentence. Don’t stall with an um or like. It was very effective, and though Elle wasn’t Taylor yet, she was getting there.
Elle made her way back to her dressing room to change into her sweats and pack up for the bus. Most nights she went to the product table to meet new fans and sign what she sold. Her new EP was her big seller. A close second was a huge poster from her last photo shoot. She also carried a vintage-style T-shirt that was big with her female fans. Younger fans liked autographed head shots.
Tonight, she had told their tour manager, Todd, that she was going to skip the product table. She hated to let her fans down, but she didn’t want to risk straining her voice further by talking a lot right after a show.
She stuffed her cowboy boots into the boot drawer of the stage wardrobe that was brought into her dressing room every night. Her clothes would appear in the wardrobe before the next show, clean, steamed and ready to wear. She’d been pretty excited about it the first day of rehearsal. Now it was just part of her routine.
That first day, her head had spun when a rack of beautiful designer clothing was presented to her. Her stylist, Kara Kat, pulled out a lot of skimpy options.
Do you have anything with a bit more, um, fabric? Elle asked. Y