Country singers Angela Hesse and Kendall Phillips will perform at 7 p.m. July 14 at the Lycoming County Fair this year as a part of its "A Night in Nashville." The performers will open for country star Jeff Bates.
Phillips is a BMI songwriter and HMG Nashville recording artist. Her single, "You Should Know" was released earlier this year and has been quickly climbing the country music and Music Row Breakout Charts. Along with being a former "American Idol" contestant, she was a Top 5 national finalist in 2010 and 2011 on the show "Colgate Country Showdown."
In January 2007, Phillip's music video for her single, "It's You," made the top charts on CMT's "Music City Madness." Since then, she has performed across the U.S. and has opened for Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Justin Moore, Darius Rucker, Steel Magnolia, Tracy Lawrence and Jerrod Niemann. Another one of her accomplishments has been singing at the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the legendary Ryman Auditorium, with LeAnn Rimes and Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy.
Her latest single, "Couldn't Love You Back," was released at the end of June and is garnering much success for her. Phillips said that most people don't remember her when she was on "Idol" because that was the year Kellie Pickler also was a contestant and who was the "country" artist that season.
"I was a rock singer with colorful hair extensions singing Robert Palmer," she said. "But country is my primary genre. I would sing Pat Benatar songs but it would sound like Dolly Parton well, if I sounded like Dolly, I'd have it made!"
Phillips grew up listening to Parton, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn and Keith Urban - "I wish I played guitar like him." She also is a fan of Luke Bryan's more recent work.
Breaking out in Nashville isn't easy, though, even for a talented singer-songwriter.
"I've written more than 800 songs when you write songs other people look for the commercial value and what will sell, but my main focus in writing a song is to make a song that I'm proud of and that people will like," she said. "I was formally trained in voice in classic and I taught myself guitar and piano."
She jokes that she's the Susan Lucci of the "Colgate Country Showdown," being the only contestant to be on the show two years in a row and a runner-up both times.
She promises fair-goers an interactive show full of new songs and tons of personality. "I'm a big fan of music and I like to go to concerts and go away happy, so I want people to leave my shows happy," she said.
Phillips said that she has a younger brother and keeps that in mind when she records her songs - she wants her music to be acceptable for all audiences.
Although her favorite performance was at the Ryman Auditorium, she also enjoys smaller, more intimate concerts.
"Every venue big or small is a gift," she said. "This is not an easy industry and people don't appreciate smaller venues and take them for granted, but not me - it's a chance to do what I love."
Phillips also is excited about performing with Angela Heese, a Christian country artist who she called a "wonderful piano player."
Hesse said that she knew she wanted to be a singer when she was 5 years old and saw the music video for Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine."
And even though she didn't write it, Hesse said she's most recognized for her recording of "Which One of These Boys?"
"Fans really like that song," she said. "They'll come up to me and ask, 'is that the one who will buy you a beer?' "
Hesse said she is a Christian country singer with a lot of crossover. She's influenced by Miranda Lambert and '90s country artists such as Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Reba McEntire.
"I started to play piano when I was 4 or 5 by ear and then I took lessons from first through ninth grade," she said. "I studied opera and classical music in college because I wanted to be a music teacher."
Although she always dreamed of going to Nashville after high school, her parents made her go to college, because the path to being a country star is a not an easy road.
"I learned so much from recording my first album," she said. "There are a lot of great artists here to learn from in Nashville."
She's also learning to navigate the business. "It's tough here, everyone's taking a percentage," she said. "And when you're starting out, you're not making a ton of money."
But Hesse has something else up her sleeve and in the works - a possible reality show on a major network. She can't release the details just yet, but she's been told she has a "great chance" of being on television.
"Nashville is pretty big right now," she said. "But no matter what, I want the world to hear my best music."
Hesse's full-length album, "Bittersweet," will be for sale exclusively at her shows, including the Lycoming County Fair.
Tickets may be bought by calling the box office at 584-2197 or online at www.lycomingfair.com/ticketinfo.htm.