By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
Singer songwriter Ashley Shannon is a little bit country and proud if it. The Zephyrhills resident took home three trophies at the North American Country Music Association Awards March 14 in Tennessee.
The award closest to her heart was for songwriter of the year. She won for “Josh’s Song,” a song for her brother who served in Iraq.
“Family and community are really important to me,” Shannon said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my family, friends and the hometown support of Zephyrhills.”
Shannon, 23, has always loved music. As a little girl, she’d run around the house singing into a feather duster. At age 13, she performed in a school talent show and received a standing ovation. She’s been singing ever since.
Shannon performs throughout Florida at fairs, festivals and events of every kind. She most recently performed at the Strawberry Festival and at the state capitol in Tallahassee.
“I performed at an NRA event and Florida Senate President Jeff Water asked me to come sing at the Senate,” Shannon said. “It was a great experience. One of the best things about singing is the people I get to meet.”
Shannon sang at the capitol just days after winning big in Tennessee. In addition to her songwriting award, she earned the titles Rising Star of the Year and Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year 2010. The titles were given based on her live auditions March 8. She earned her way to the national NACMA Awards by first earning state titles through the Orange Blossom Country Music Association.
Shannon currently works the front desk at a cardiologist’s office but she dreams of becoming a full-time recording artist. She admires vocalists like Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood for making it big without abandoning their small-town roots. She sang Underwood’s hit “Undo It” at the NACMAs and caught the attention of Nashville locals.
“I want to record an album,” Shannon said. “I gave out my demo at the awards and I got a call back from one producer who said I need to get to Nashville. I’m hoping to go this summer.”
As focused as Shannon is on becoming a successful singer, she is even more focused on giving back to the community that supports her.
“I love Zephyrhills because it’s a small town where everybody knows everybody and people care about one another,” Shannon said. “The people of the town support my dreams. So, I want to give back to my town.”
Shannon volunteers with The Fisher House, The Angelus Home in Hudson, The American Cancer Society, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Foundation, Everyday Blessings foster facility and the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
She also volunteers to sing at charitable events.
“If you call Ashley for any community event she’ll always step forward and volunteer her time to help out,” said Greg First, former president of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce. “ She’s a community person. Anything I can think of, she’s been involved.”
In 2005, she started Words from Warriors, a program to send cassette recorders, tapes and storybooks to troops so deployed parents could send bedtime stories home.
“My brother went overseas in 2005,” Shannon said. “He came home safe a year later. What he did for our country inspired me to do work for the troops, because I am so grateful to them for their sacrifices.”
Shannon was also inspired to write “Josh’s Song.”
“The song started out as a poem and my mom helped write it,” Shannon said. “It’s about a brother and sister growing up not always getting along and as they grow older, they learn to respect each other. I have great respect for my brother’s choice to become a marine.”
Josh was surprised and honored when he first heard the song.
“I was in Iraq when I first heard the song,” Josh said. “It was pretty special. It was a big hit with all the other marines too.”
Josh said he thinks his sister has what it takes to succeed in the music business.
“She’ll get there,” he said. “She obviously has a lot of talent.”
Greg First agrees.
“If she can go to the next level, I think she’d be a great representative for this area,” First said. “She’s got talent.”
Ashley will sing March 26 at the Relay for Life at Zephyrhills High School and March 27 at the Zephyrhills Cruise and Car Show at Time Square and 5th Avenue. For performance dates and more upcoming show dates visit www.ashleyshannon.com.
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