09:00 Sunday 01 September 2013

Former Abbots Bromley pupil gets her big break as country star

Written byJOANNA CRAIG

A FORMER Abbots Bromley schoolgirl is looking to become the UK’s ambassador for country music after landing a major record deal across the pond.

Fiona Culley has been living her dream, recording her first EP in the spiritual home of country music – Nashville, Tennessee – after being spotted by a top US star.

The 25-year-old, from Rangemore, grew up listening to country music through her dad’s record collection, but it was a freak fall that resulted in a severely broken leg that led her to discover her talent for songwriting.

She is now being described as the UK’s answer to Taylor Swift – a long way from her musical beginnings at Abbots Bromley Girls School, where she used to study.

She left the school after finishing her GCSE’s to concentrate on her music dream. Despite singing being a passion at school, she never joined the choir, and has no formal voice choir.

“I’d love to be the first recognised country singer from the UK,” she said.

“Country music has evolved so much now – it’s much less ‘trucks and beer’ and more about storytelling.”

Like most wannabe singing stars, Miss Culley tried her hand at everything to get her big break, working in beauty therapy during the day then singing at pubs, clubs and music venues around the country at night.

However, it was when she spotted American country singer Darius Rucker, lead singer of Grammy Award-winning band Hootie and the Blowfish, in a London restaurant that she saw an opportunity for her big break.

She seized her chance to impress by grabbing a microphone and singing to him in front of a room full of diners, and her ballsy decision did the trick.

Rucker flew her out to Nashville to record a duet with him the following week.

Miss Culley has now landed a record deal with New York’s Marro Music and her first EP, Country ‘Til Monday, is out next month.

Miss Culley, who is adding to her musical armoury by learning the guitar, mandolin and banjo, added: “So many country artists come over and do sell-out shows in Britain. It’d be great if I could perform for country fans at home, and over the water.”

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