Each year, thousands of children across the U.S. dream of becoming a country music star. A small number of those kids ever make it to Nashville, and an even smaller number actually realize their dream. However, for Lexi Larsen, this dream is becoming a reality.
Larsen, a native of Ogallala, Neb., has known since she was young that she wanted to sing country music. "I was always singing. I knew all the words to ‘I Will Always Love You' by Whitney Houston when I was 2. Even though I was dancing all the time, I made my goal that I wanted to be a country singer when I was 10-years-old," she said.
She performed for the first time when she was 4-years-old, when she sang the National Anthem at the rodeo at the Keith County Fair. Her greatest inspiration has been Shania Twain. "I love her. She was my biggest role model, and I just wanted to be her. I also loved George Strait, Garth Booth, Faith Hill and Martina McBride. I wanted to be a singer and country music was my thing," she said.
From then on she continued to perform, and made another goal that she wanted to be in Nashville by the time she was 14. "I started practicing every day, and then someone heard me sing and sent my video to a friend in Nashville. I took my first trip there a week after I turned 15," she said.
This was in 2005, and she met with Renee Grant-Williams, a nationally known vocal coach.
Larsen continued to visit Nashville once a month for vocal lessons and to record an album. She released her first album "I Just Do" in Nashville in July of 2007 when she was just 16.
After graduation from high school, Larsen moved to Nashville when she was 19. "I came by myself, and only knew three people. It was scary, but I was really excited. I'd never lived in a city before, and I knew everyone here was like me. They are all dreamers. Everyone wanted to do the same thing," Larsen said.
She began learning what it takes to be in the business. "I took the first year just to learn. I didn't go to school here, but I took online business classes," she said.
Larsen is pursuing a business degree at Mid-Plains Community College, where she takes classes online. While studying business, she also made up her own study program for music, which she calls Country Music University.
"I learned to write music, and read a lot of books. I learned as much as I could right here in Nashville. A year after I was here I started writing my own songs, and then I started recording demos. I was also performing, but most of my shows consisted of other people's music," she said.
Now Larsen is currently working on her first original album, which she has titled "A little bit of Ooo." The album will have six songs on it, and because Larsen is still working on trying to find a record company, she had to fund the project herself.
"We are making this album in two months, but it's taken me two years to get the right songs, and raise the funds to record an album of my own music," she said.
To raise some of the money, Larsen did a fundraising campaign. "I did a kickstarter campaign, and I raised over $10,000 through private donations from people very quickly. It was unbelievable and I'm so grateful," she said.
She estimates it will cost her about $1,500 per song to record it, and then additional funds for distribution, and the cost of production including design and professional photography.
Larsen plans to sell the album on iTunes, and it will be sold in local stores around Ogallala and through Nebraska and Wyoming. She will also sell the album on her website, as well as at shows.
"Right now my goal is to really sell this album and have it go far. I eventually hope to have a record deal. Having an album with my own music will help me get to that point in my career" she said.
In addition to a record deal, Larsen hopes to one day be on CMT (Country Music Television) and GAC (Great American Country), and would love to one day win a CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Award.
"The thing I want the most is to get to perform and sing the rest of my life. I don't need awards to do that. I just want to do this. That would be great, and I would be happy," she said.
Larsen will be going on tour shortly after the release of her album. She plans to tour in Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota. Going back home is always nice for Larsen, and she loves performing at local venues.
"I'm a cornhusker and I'm proud to say that I'm from Nebraska. People love that here in Nashville as well. I grew up around farming, and I love going home and getting to spend time back there," she said.
In fact, one of her most memorable performances was at her home county fair in Keith County, when she was the opening act for Grammy-nominated Emerson Drive. "It was so amazing. Opening for Emerson Drive was one of the best days of my life. It was through Keith County Fair they asked me to perform, and I was thrilled," she stated.
Larsen attributes her work ethic and strong morals to her life growing up in Nebraska. "I loved growing up in Nebraska, and I loved being from a small town. It showed me what hard work can do. A lot of people don't get to experience that type of lifestyle where everyone works hard for what they have, and I got to because I was from the Midwest. I'm very grateful for that," she said.
■ Fort Cody Trading Post
July 26, 2012 at 6 p.m. in North Platte, Neb
■ Stone House
August 4-5, 2012 in Belle Fourche, S.D.
■ Aladdin General Store
August 6-7, 2012 in Aladdin, Wyo.
■ Stone House
August 9-10, 2012 in Belle Fourche, S.D.
■ Open Range
August 11, 2012 at 6 p.m. in Ogallala, Neb.
■ Figure Four Traditions
September 1, 2012 at 7 p.m. in Arthur, Neb.
For more information about Lexi Larson, please visit her website at LexiLarsen.com.