Country singer seeks big break


Aspen Taylor, a 20-year-old dynamo in silver-tipped boots and black denim, is looking to make a big splash on the country music scene with a video she hopes will be good enough for

Country Music Television.

But first, the former Lisbon Elementary School student from Woodbine will return to the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center where, as a teen-ager with the "boring" name of Bonnie Brown, she once shoveled manure and pitched hay.

She was a volunteer at the center, which uses horseback riding to help disabled children gain self-confidence. The center, which was in Lisbon when Ms. Taylor mucked out stables, is moving to Glenwood. Ms. Taylor will sing during the Oct. 22 dedication.

The song, "Give Me A Chance," won't have the edge of her rollicking country numbers; rather, it is a throwback to the folk songs her mother, a Lisbon Elementary School teacher, used to play for her, she said.

The story is in the voice of a disabled rider. It begins:

They call me a maverick

For dreamin' the way I do.

They say my hopes will shatter,

My heart will break in two.

But I don't listen,

I just try harder every day.

I've got this fire in my heart,

and they can't take that away!

Ms. Taylor said the song reflects the courage the center brings out in children.

"The main thing going through their heads is, 'I can do the same thing you can do; just give me a chance to do it,' " she said.

The song also seems to reflect her own determination as an artist.

Although she is as starry-eyed as any young man or woman trying to break into the tough Nashville music scene, some qualities set her apart, said her producer, Bob Jenkins, who wrote hits for Hank Williams Jr. and Christy Lane in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"First of all, Aspen is a really great songwriter," said Mr. Jenkins, who has been helping her with her melodies. "She's a very clever lyric writer."

She also wants to perform her own songs rather than sell them, Mr. Jenkins said.

"She's been coming around vocally in the last 18 months. She's very cute; she's very unique in her style," he said, describing her style as a mix of modern "aggressive country" and the "John Denver, Rocky Mountain High-type sound."

"Aspen is what we call a songwriter's singer. She's not a great singer, and she knows this. But she can deliver her own songs in a way people can relate to. That's what we're trying to project."

In her "Ima Gonna Getcha" video, which is nearing completion, Ms. Taylor takes center stage. She incorporates her love of her horses into her portrayal of a young stable hand determined to catch the eye of a rich, cute cowboy. As women "with real tight shorts" fawn over her love interest, she shovels manure, dances with a pitchfork and shoes horses.

In the end, of course, she ropes her cowboy to the refrain, "Ima gonna getcha, boy, before I die."

One of the most memorable scenes tested her riding skill.

"I was riding in a dead gallop, right toward the camera," said Ms. Taylor, who majored in equine business at Southern Virginia College for Women in Buena Vista, Va.

"The cameraman had to jump out of the way," she said.

Ms. Taylor has been using that same drive to get air play for her singles, "If I'm So Bad (Why Are You So Blue?)" and "Live It Up Right." Both were made into low-budget videos that played on local-market cable shows in the South. Still, success has been slow in coming.

"I've gotten a lot of doors slammed in my face," she said.

Some stations have refused to play her music. At other stations, program directors responded enthusiastically and took her tapes.

"But I know that as soon as I go out the door, it goes straight into the garbage can," she said.

Only about 100 of the nation's 6,500 country music radio stations deviate from Billboard magazine's list of popular songs to give new artists a chance, she said. Those numbers are always changing.

WVIM-FM in Memphis, Tenn., which had played Ms. Taylor's songs, stopped playing country in July and changed its format to contemporary Christian, she said.

Struggling to get airplay is especially important for Ms. Taylor because she is not old enough to perform on the nightclub circuit. She will be performing at the Sykesville Fall Fest Oct. 15.

Her love of music began when she was a child growing up in the western part of the county. She remembers that her father, a retired Westinghouse engineer who stayed home to rear her, sang songs such as "A Bicycle Built for Two" in his pickup.

"When I was 2 years old," she said, "I used to play around the house, singing all the time and driving my mother crazy."

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