Oklahoma City University junior Brittany Davis used her powerful vocals and country charm to wow Nashville — and voters across the nation — in a recent singing challenge co-sponsored by cable channel CMT and the Gwyneth Paltrow film “Country Strong."
The Alabama native won the contest with a large margin of the 500,000 votes cast online during a six-day period. While traveling back to Oklahoma from Alabama over Christmas break, she received the good news via phone, during a layover at DFW Airport.
“I kind of had to hold in my excitement, because it was a public area and I didn’t know anyone,” Davis said. “I just kind of ran into a corner and freaked out, and just started calling everyone. It was a whirlwind.”
As a musical theater major, she said she has always had an interest in performing and in being a singer. Country music has always been close to her heart, due significantly to her Southern roots.
“I like that country music tells a story,” she said. “A lot of songs just focus on the beat or the rhythm. Country music is all about the lyrics and the story behind it, which makes it relatable to almost everyone.”
Her voice teacher, Frank Ragsdale, had told her about the contest, suggesting his songwriting student should attend the open tryouts last December for the regional round.
“Brittany is incredibly talented and has grown so much as a singer and artist in the last couple of years,” Ragsdale said. “I definitely see her as a singer in the future. In fact, I can’t really see her doing anything else.”
Davis was one of 27 contestants in the regional contest at Rooster’s in Bricktown. After singing an excerpt from the film’s title song, she received 93 out of 100 points from the panel of judges and was declared the winner.
“I made it unique to try to stand out, because I knew that that’s what was going to make the judges notice,” she said. “I decided to make it my own by going up at the end with it.”
It was a whirlwind.
Davis then was taped singing her winning performance. Her video, along with those of the 15 other regional winners, was posted on CMT.com to be judged by a national audience.
As the ultimate winner, her grandprize package included a three-night stay in Nashville, Tenn.; a performance and interview on “CMT Top 20 Countdown”; and a meeting with Jim Catino, A&R vice president at Sony Music Nashville.
“People back home thought I was just going to get signed and make a record, but you have to build these connections,” Davis said. “(Jim) told me to always looks two steps ahead with my music, and to not just sign with someone because of the large fan base they have with their current artists. He also said I have to treat my artistry like a brand and as a business.”
Her plans after her December graduation are currently a work in progress.
She may decide to put her career on hold to gain some life experience.
“The original plan with my musical theater degree was to do a cruise line for six months, save up some money, travel the world and just live that experience out first,” Davis said. “Then I would move somewhere, whether that be Nashville or L.A. or New York.”
With country music running deep in her veins, Davis said she may choose a different path once she tries to become a singer.
“I’m just kind of testing out the waters and seeing which genre I like the most,” she said. “I feel like my main musical instrument is my acoustic guitar, but you don’t have to be a country singer to use the acoustic guitar. I really like Colbie Caillat and Sara Bareillesstyle music.”
Winning the contest opened her eyes to the real world of music, she said, and all the ups and downs that come with the limelight.
“I learned that it doesn’t happen overnight, that you have to constantly prove yourself and work hard at it,” Davis said. “It’s a hard, hard thing to try to pursue, but if you have the passion for it and if you have the drive, then you’ll get there eventually.”