A BURTON beauty therapist is looking to become the UK’s ambassador for country music after landing a major record deal across the pond.
Fiona Culley, from Rangemore, has been living her dream, recording her first EP in the spiritual home of country music – Nashville, Tennessee – after being spotted by a top US star.
The 25-year-old grew up listening to country music through her dad’s record collection, but it was a freak fall that resulted in a severely broken leg that led her to discover her talent for songwriting.
She is now being described as the UK’s answer to Taylor Swift – a long way from her music lessons at Abbots Bromley Girls School, where she used to study.
“I’d love to be the first recognised country singer from the UK,” she said.
“Country music has evolved so much now – it’s much less ‘trucks and beer’ and more about storytelling.”
Like most wannabe singing stars, Miss Culley tried her hand at everything to get her big break, working in beauty therapy during the day, then singing in pubs, clubs and music venues around the country at night.
She even worked for a while making tea at a small independent record label, just to get some free recording time.
However, it was when she spotted American country singer Darius Rucker, lead singer of Grammy Award-winning band Hootie and the Blowfish, in a London restaurant, that saw a chance for her big break.
She seized her chance to impress by grabbing a microphone and singing to him in front of a room full of diners, and her ballsy decision did the trick.
Rucker flew her out to Nashville to record a duet with him the following week.
Miss Culley has now landed a record deal with New York’s Marro Music and her first EP Country ‘Til Monday is out next month.
There is also talk of her accompanying Hootie and the Blowfish on tour.
Miss Culley, who is adding to her musical armoury by learning the guitar, mandolin and banjo, added: “So many country artists come over and do sell-out shows in Britain.
“It’d be great if I could perform for country fans at home, and over the water.”