At an age when most teens are singing along with their car stereos, Meredith Nelson is writing her own music, and performing it at gigs while backed by her own band.
A country vocalist who taught herself to play the guitar at age 13, the Minden (La.) High School senior will be one of the many musical performers at the SouthArk Outdoor Expo on Sept. 14. The Expo is free to attend, but food donations are being accepted.
Nelson, 17, never has performed in El Dorado previously but said that she's looking forward to the experience.
"I enjoy being 'known' in my hometown, and would love to be recognized regionally as a performer," Nelson said. "I want to continue to perform and write more songs and hopefully record my own music some day. I want music to always be something that I enjoy doing."
While Nelson listed her current musical favorites as The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, the Lumineeers, Paramore and the Civil Wars ("They have such beautiful haunting harmonies," she said), she admitted that she "still" listens to love-hate pop culture icon Taylor Swift.
"She was my biggest inspiration years ago. She's the reason I picked up the guitar and taught myself to play," Nelson said.
The young artist went on to say that while she draws inspiration from many of these acts, she herself does not sound like any of them.
"I don't try to sound like any other artist. I think I just sound like me," she said. "If you recognize my speaking voice, you'll know my singing voice."
Nelson said that she is balancing a busy travel schedule that bolsters her young career with all of the fun of her final year of secondary school.
"We just keep a calendar and make sure we know what school activities I have, and what weekends I have free to plan to sing somewhere," she said. "As much as I love to sing, I don't want to miss any of the special things that will be happening during my last year in high school."
She recently provided co-lead vocals for one track on a country gospel music album produced by Grammy-winning artist Sidney Cox.
"Sidney and his family recently joined our church and he and our music minister Todd DuBose wanted to put out a great southern gospel CD, and they asked me to be a part of it," Nelson said. "I've done some recording at home, but this was my first time to be in a professional recording studio, and I loved everything about it! The whole process was really fascinating. I can't wait for the CD to be released because it is going to be awesome! All the songs on it are great!"
To get a sneak peek at Meredith Nelson's music, go to www.youtube.com/meredithnelsonband.
For more information about the SouthArk Outdoor Expo, visit www.southark.edu/expo.