Brittany Warthan: Turning Gold Into Record Time

Nov 11, 2005 --

Singing shampoo tech makes splash in contest, cuts into country scene

 

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI

TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

 

Friday, November 11, 2005

 

In August, Brittany Warthan competed with 750 contestants at the World Championship of Performing Arts in Los Angeles.

Now, she's inching toward her first album release.

More than 40 countries participated at the annual WCOPA, considered the Olympics of the performing arts for fledgling actors, singers and models.

Warthan, a Thomas Dale High School grad, was one of 18 contenders representing Richmond. She walked away with five medals -- including a gold in the country music category -- and the interest of Nashville producer and songwriter Bob Ham, a judge at the event.

In a few weeks, she'll zip to Nashville to cut a four-song demo with Ham, a 30-year industry veteran whose Country One Source distribution company services Wal-Mart and Borders Books & Music. His résumé also includes songs written for Alabama, Linda Davis and Jeanie Kay Truesdale, a top 10 staple on the Christian charts.

"I probably heard 600 or 700 singers, and Brittany was one of the better ones, so we decided we'd give her a try," Ham said, quickly adding: "We're pretty much experimenting at this point. There's a big difference between singing with tracks onstage and singing in the studio. They're totally different environments."

Before heading to the WCOPA, Warthan, 18, spent a year training at the local Footprints School of Performing Arts in partnership with Rossi Entertainment, where owner Cheryl Ann Rossi educated her in vocals, acting and modeling.

Though interested in the arts since childhood -- she began singing in church at 9 -- Warthan didn't think a musical career was feasible.

"When I was really, really little, I always used to say I wanted to become a famous singer," she said. "But I drifted away from that because in reality it would never happen. So I got involved in gymnastics and wanted to be in the Olympics. It wasn't really realistic, but my plans were to go to Georgia University and do gymnastics, but then I quit that. And then this cropped up and it happened to be the Olympics for performing arts!"

After returning home with her stash of medals, Warthan caught the attention of the morning show at WTVR ("Lite" 98.1-FM), which featured her on the air this fall. Warthan will return to the station to croon holiday songs Dec. 9.

A fan of pop and country music whose preferences include Weezer and Kelly Clarkson, Warthan hopes to model her musical arrival after idol Shania Twain.

"I look up to her because of her background and everything she's been through and how she stayed pretty conservative through it all," Warthan said. "I want to be positive entertainment that people can look up to."

Ham agrees that an accessible country sound is the most sensible avenue for Warthan's talents.

"I think Brittany has a reasonable shot at accomplishing something. She's young and moldable and has a commercial appeal," he said. "We're gonna go country because I think that's where she wants to go. If she can deliver it, she certainly knows the age and the appearance of who's listening."

Once Warthan completes her demo next month, when she returns to Nashville for background vocals and mixing, Ham says the decision will be made whether to commit to a full 11-song CD.

In the meantime, Warthan, who currently works as a shampoo tech in Chester with her beautician sister, is happily adjusting to this new turn in her life.

"I was planning to go to [community college] after the WCOPA, but I had no idea I'd get this much out if it! So I have college on hold right now," she said.

"My parents are pretty supportive about it. We all know that college is always there for me if this doesn't work out."