Candy Coburn readies for takeoff from 'Nashville Star' to Oklahoma State Fair

For every star that crosses the sky as though shot out of a cannon, there's a dozen scrambling to make a little light.

Country rocker Candy Coburn is one of the latter, fueled by no-surrender spunk and the neighborly charm of the girl next door. Despite her easy looks and wide smile, she's no delicate flower. Raised in Kentucky with a healthy dose of time in Texas, she's equally at home in an ambling, big chorus country ballad or a dusty and rocky Texas throwdown.


Reared on country and gospel as a little girl, Coburn followed in the footsteps of her grandmother's church-sized voice, never afraid to dream big or sing loud. Although the singer was almost a teen when she first discovered rock, she took to it quite quickly and cites influences that range from Pat Benatar to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

"(Growing up), I sang a lot of stuff that people told me to sing. It took me forever to get the clue that I should actually think, 'What do I want to sound like?' When I finally focused on that, I tried to pull from everything I love, from Janis Joplin to Mahalia Jackson and everything in between," said Coburn, who plays the Oklahoma State Fair in a Saturday double-header.

Her brash determination comes out in songs from her 2007 second album, "Rev It Up." It's evident from "Rockin' a Mile a Minute," which suggests Tom Petty with a little Big & Rich in him, to the rockabilly tinged title track and the anxious "Waiting for the Light to Change," where she lyrically notes, "I could be stuck here forever / If I don't push down on the gas." She has a voice to match her ambitions: strong, lean, proud and full of the same character she's demonstrated across her career.

Several years ago, Coburn was in the race to be on reality television in the talent contest "Nashville Star," when on the way to the last audition that would cull the herd of country contestants down to the final 10 who would appear on the show, her vehicle hydroplaned.

The car was totaled, but Coburn was undeterred. She packed her stuff into her husband's truck and managed to make it 40 miles before hitting a giant buck. Coburn recruited her mom to take her the rest of the way to Nashville, Tenn., before discovering that the neck of her guitar was broken. But the singer forged on with a borrowed guitar and busted knuckles. While she didn't make the final cut, she said she was "just so happy to be alive, that 'Nashville Star' was the least of my worries."

Earlier this year, she entered the studio with producer Joe Scaife (Montgomery Gentry, Gretchen Wilson) to record her third album, and she couldn't be more excited about the results. She's being courted by a number of labels, although Coburn said she's not about to hand over control of her career after working so hard on her own.

Unlike "Rev It Up," where she had to stand her ground and show the confidence to stare down some of the players to ensure she got what she wanted, recent recordings have found the singer and Scaife on the same page, sharing a strong chemistry. She had a bit more time in the studio, and focused on bringing the energy of her stage show out in the recordings.

The first taste of her new album is the song "Pink Warrior," a collaboration between Coburn and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. It's available for download and purchase, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Race for a Cure. The song is dedicated to her non-singing grandmother ("She couldn't carry a tune in a bucket," Coburn said), who nonetheless inspired with her fiery spirit.

Coburn hopes to release the album early next year, but it might have to wait until spring, depending how things turn out with her label suitors. Whatever the case, she expects it to be her first truly national release, and suspects she'll make it a self-titled one. She actually has a favorite title she'd rather use, but no song to go with it.

"I tried to write a song with this title, but I don't have any time, and I have not been able to get one worthy of the title. Maybe the next record," she said. "It's a little more challenging than many people that just write all the time, because my pure passion is really touring and playing live music. That's always my first priority and I get the writing in here and there."

Candy Coburn with Chuck Wicks perform at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday  at the Oklahoma State Fair at State Fair Park, 3000 General Pershing. "Chris Parker

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