Nora Collins was 14 years old when she picked up an old guitar and taught herself to play.
The guitar, left over from lessons Collins had taken in fourth grade, had been lying around, accumulating dust. But one day she picked it up, wrote a song and hasn't set it down since.
Collins, a Brookfield native, ended up writing enough songs to put out her first CD, "Red Chuck Taylors." Since then, the singer/songwriter has racked up multiple awards and achievements.
"I ended up making a music video and entered a CMT Music City Madness contest where I made the top 16 in the nation," she said. "That was the initial thing that let me know I was doing something right."
Collins started getting more requests to play at events. She gravitates toward country music, which she says is in part due to the "natural twang" in her voice.
"I love how country music tells a story," Collins said. "Being a young songwriter I want to tell a good story."
She's told plenty of stories.
Collins dedicates the majority of her time to pursuing singing and songwriting, playing more than 200 shows a year. In addition, she attends school part-time at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.
Work pays off
Her dedication and hard work continue to pay off. In 2013, she opened for country music star Josh Turner at the Washington County Fair – she was only 18 at the time.
"It was incredible," Collins said. "It was such an honor to open for someone who has had so much success."
In addition, Collins has opened for American Idol winner Lee DeWyze, Sixpence None The Richer, Katie Armiger, Paul Thorn and the Turnpike Troubadours. On Sept. 11, she's opening for country music legend Ronnie Milsap at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee.
Collins has also received multiple awards throughout her young career. She earned Wisconsin Area Music Industry Rising Star awards in 2012 and 2013, in addition to a 2013 WAMI Female Vocalist of the Year nomination. In 2014, Collins was named the WAMI 2014 Singer/Songwriter of the year.
She was voted best female vocalist and acoustic Mmusician in the 2013 Shepherd Express Best of Milwaukee Awards and was awarded the 2013 Beloit International Film Festival + Music best singer/songwriter.
Two more CDs
Collins, 20, has released two other albums since her debut CD in 2009. In 2011, she released "Run Away With Me," and more recently, "Only the Beginning," in 2013.
One of her goals? To hear her songs on the radio."I would love for one of my songs to be on the radio, whether it's me singing it or someone else," Collins said. "I'd also love to start a tour and expand from just playing in Wisconsin."
Her aspirations don't stop there, though. Collins said she hopes to someday be an opening act on a national tour. Performing is her favorite part of the business, she said.
"Music touches people," Collins said. "To be able to create songs that have that power and get emotional responses is really rewarding."
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