Photo: Michael Coleman

From Virginia to Vanderbilt, Amy Wilcox’s Star Is Rising at SXSW

Arlington, Virginia native Amy Wilcox always loved to sing. But when she got to college, she immersed herself in the craft and eventually commanded a prestigious residency at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley Bar & Grill – a breeding ground for up-and-comers. Garnering stellar word-of-mouth in Nashville’s competitive music scene, Wilcox landed opening slots on bills with country music superstars like Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Kellie Pickler. Then, Wilcox landed a starring role on A&E’s reality show Crazy Hearts, where the world got its first glimpse into the life of the burgeoning country music starlet.

The television show’s since been cancelled, but Wilcox carries on. She released her new EP in Austin on Friday, and then laid down a stripped-down set of country rockers including a choice cover of the Eagles “Heartache Tonight,” at a private showcase at the ROKA eyewear store downtown. Afterward, she spoke with On Tap about her career and making the most of SXSW.

On Tap: Great set, Amy! That was fun. You went to Vanderbilt on a soccer scholarship, but did you always have music in your plan?
Wilcox: I grew up loving music and doing as much music as I could, but was recruited to play soccer at college. I went to Vanderbilt, which was in Nashville, and it was the best of both worlds. I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to move some more music into my life.

OT: How did you begin to make that dream a reality?
AW: As the years went by, I started delving more into live performance and singing with bands in college. I got into an a cappella group and got addicted to that life. I sang in some cover bands and I really wanted to sing my own music, so I slowly started figuring out the songwriter world. I was always into writing [as a] journalism major, so it was a new outlet, a cool transition. Also, it’s amazing how many things I learned in sports that have transitioned into music. [Being] able to deal with disappointment and move on is one of them [laughs].

OT: You’re often pegged as a country singer, and that’s not off-base. But I’m also hearing some grit – rock and blues – that isn’t often apparent in the sound of a lot of emerging country stars.
AW: It’s working then! I grew up loving Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt – singers that were just gritty and cool. Sheryl Crow was part of that rocker lady contingency I admired. I definitely draw a lot of influence from female singers.

OT: Any comments on Austin and the whole crazy SXSW experience? Is there anything you hope to achieve by being here?
AW: I worked SXSW for two years to get a free pass and get a piece of the action, so it’s really cool to be back and have an artist badge and say, “Oh my god, I’m here now. It worked! I’m excited to connect with people and get the music out there.”

For more about Amy Wilcox click here.