Once upon a time a little girl got together with her two sisters and her cousin and was bitten by the music bug. Cynthia Leigh-Ann and her group, The Ice Angels, got their start singing in Seniors' Centres, and this was before she even started school.
When Cynthia was five, she got up on the karaoke stage at the Merrit Mountain Music Festival and announced she wanted to sing I Feel Like a Woman, by Shania Twain. The crowd loved it and so did Cynthia. By middle school she decided to get a little more serious about music and started taking lessons.
On July 23, that little girl's sixth single, Better Off This Way, was released across Canada. Cynthia is 20 now, lives in West Kelowna, goes to University in Calgary, AB, and spoke with Gonzo about her love of music.
"Turning 20 was bad for me," she said. "I stayed in bed all day!"
Looking at this fresh-faced, full-of-talent young woman it's hard to believe she's already spent 15 years following her dream.
Although still working on breaking into the country music scene in a big way, she has even bigger dreams of producing music. "I want to make it as a performing artist first and foremost. Then, I want to start an agency that helps young artists, like me now, who are almost there."
Almost is the key word. Despite having How Could You from her album Daddy's Girl, hit number 11 on the country charts in Ontario, breaking into the biz here in BC has been hard on her.
"BC is a lot harder to crack than I thought it would be, especially being a local girl," she said. "It's a big catch 22. In order to be played on local radio, they need you to have the numbers on the charts but most stations aren't willing to give the young artists the chance. If the radio stations here just gave us one play a week, to let the community know we do exist, it would be a great opportunity for young artists. [The Okanagan's] 100.7 Country is a bit more accepting now. We've sent information to them for the emerging artist section. I hope they play my songs."
All Cynthia's worries about how her songs will do and where she's playing next, disappear when she gets on stage. "My favourite part about being a performer is the crowds," she said. "If you have a crowd to feed off of, to hear them them get excited, it's great. I feel most at home on stage, giving them the energy and then getting it back 10 fold."
Cynthia writes most of her songs and finds it cathartic. "I love song writing. It's a chance to get my story out. I had a friend who was really down on himself and decided life wasn't worth living any more. We got help for him. My parents told me I couldn't save him if he wasn't willing to save himself. Songs for me are a chance to release pain or sadness or whatever I am feeling. I wrote the song, I Can't Save You, for him."
She recalls a recent gig at the Calgary Stampede. "We played the West Stage in the BMO Centre. It was crazy. When we first got there, there were about six people in the audience. There was four of us and six of them. I decided it didn't matter if there were six or 600 we had to give a great show. Halfway through my set, half the seats were full and by the time we only had three songs left people were standing in the aisle. I was so thankful that people enjoyed my music. They come and talk to me afterwards. I can't believe it when people come over and ask me for my autograph."
As for her karaoke performance at age five, Cynthia decided to try it again this past June at a cousin's wedding in Mexico. "I got up and sang I Feel Like a Woman, for the first time since I was five. The crowd cheered so I guess they liked it. I get the words a bit more now than when I was five and I've got the moves to go with it."
Although focused on her music, Cynthia also has a back up plan. "I am currently attending the University of Calgary and working towards a BA with a major in music. I just bought my first car so I'll be able to get to a few more performances out there. I plan on going to the Ranchman's as they have a jam session Tuesday nights so from September on I'll be there every Tuesday."
But what happens if this latest single takes off? She's got a plan for that too. "I have decided that I would do a semester off and a semester on so I can keep up with both my career and my education. I don't want to be one of those artists who doesn't have a back up plan if things don't go the way I hope they do. Once I get my BA I'm going to take audio engineering at SAIT."
This young woman certainly has all it takes to be a star. She has been nominated for Rising Star Award, Fans Choice Award, Album of the |Year, Single of the year, Songwriter of the Year, Album Design of the Year at this years CCMA Awards in Saskatoon which are held September 6 - 9.
She'll be performing throughout the province for the rest of the summer. In the Okanagan, you can find her at Nanaimo Square in Penticton on August 2 at noon, at the IPE in Armstrong on August 31, and she'll perform for Kelowna's Parks Alive on September 1.
In 2013 Cynthia will tour BC and Alberta promoting her new EP and singles. The Calgary Stampede has requested a return engagement for 2013. She will also be working on her BC School Tour to promote the need to stop Bullying.