Chilton County residents to compete in Nashville

Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Two Chilton County residents will compete in the Nashville Rising Song semifinals on March 16.

Tammy Castleberry and Rachel Smith each entered the songwriting contest after writing songs just for themselves for years. Each said their preparation for this competition has involved a lot of prayer.

“It is one thing to sit in front of friends and family and sing and listen to them critique you, but it is another thing to be sitting in front of producers that work in Nashville and do this full-time because they are not going to lie to you,” Smith said. “That’s what makes me nervous about it.”

In the semifinal round, four competitors will be selected to go on to the final round. Three will be chosen by the judges, and one will be selected by fan votes.

Song writing has been therapeutic for both women throughout their lives.

“Writing song lyrics is my safe place,” Smith said.

Smith said she first discovered the competition on Facebook.

“What appealed to me most was it wasn’t a contest simply like American Idol where they listen to vocals it was only about the song itself,” Smith said. “You go in, and they are basically listening to just your song lyrics and how it is written and not how you play an instrument or how it sounds.”

She told Castleberry about the opportunity, and she decided to enter also.

“I have written songs most of my life,” Smith said.

However, the competition was the first time her songs were heard by anyone outside of her family and close friends.

Castleberry said she has often written songs about things she was going through or about other’s stories. She works to capture the emotion of these stories in her songs.

She said she has enjoyed “being around people who have that same desire” of getting their work in front of those in the industry and getting honest critique and “those that share that passion of writing” during the competition.

“It is an opportunity to get out there and just allow your songs to talk for you,” Castleberry said.

Getting past the first round was “amazing,” she said.

“Playing on a stage in Nashville is incredible,” Smith said.

“It’s awesome, and it’s scary,” Castleberry said.

Smith said people would often ask her what she was doing with the songs she had written, but her response was nothing. Making it to the semifinals has given her a sense that “I may be good enough to do this (write songs for others).”

Castleberry said it was a similar experience for her.

“It was like, ‘Wow, somebody likes my songs,’” Castleberry said.

She said the reassurance of having other song writers enjoy her work has been coupled with her family being proud of her in the competition.

“No matter what I have done in life, this is always something I have had a desire to do,” Castleberry said.

During the competition, Martha Seale sings with Castleberry and Smith’s husband Jimmy plays her accompaniment.

The biggest dream for each of the local contestants would be to one day turn on the radio and hear a song they had worked on. Smith and Castleberry also said they hope their songs can be therapeutic for others.

The winner of the competition will have one of their songs professionally produced and other opportunities that could establish the songwriter’s career.

Some who have participated in the past have found a career in the industry, even though they did not win, because of someone in the audience hearing their work.

More information, videos of preliminary rounds and voting opportunities can be found at