Although 2007 did not begin auspiciously for Newton County native Julie Redish, the year has ended quite well.
Redish and her husband Terry were devastated in March when their home in the Chestnut Corners subdivision burned down. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze, but the house was destroyed, forcing the couple to relocate to Turtle Cove near Monticello.
Throughout the ordeal, Redish had her music to fall back on, and in November she was recognized by the Georgia Country and Gospel Music Association with three awards: CD of the Year in the New Country Division and Entertainer and Vocalist of the Year in the Bluegrass Division.
"The year has definitely ended on a better note than it started," said Redish.
Redish, who attended Ficquett Elementary, Sharp Middle and Newton County High School, said that there have been few times singing didn't play a key role in her life.
"My family has been singing my whole life," she said. "My older sister was in a gospel group for a while and my dad was the choir director at our church. I was raised around music and I've never known anything else - everybody I knew could sing. In fact, I was shocked when I'd meet people who said they couldn't sing. I thought it was as much a part of everybody else's life as it was mine."
During her high school years Redish took piano lessons and played trumpet in the school's Blue Rambler Marching Band, and spent her junior and senior years in the school chorus. But after graduation, Redish - who by trade is a veterinarian's technician - left singing behind and didn't pick it back up until a neighbor introduced her to the joys of karaoke about five years ago.
"I gave karaoke a shot and I discovered something great - when you're up there on a stage and getting a reaction, it just gets in your blood," she said. "When I wasn't singing, I was thinking about singing."
Redish got connected with the Dalton-based GCGMA, a member of the Tennessee-based North American Country Music Association International, last June when she auditioned for the USA Network's "Nashville Star" competition. She met a GCGMA member at the audition who encouraged her to contact the organization.
"I was invited to take part in a talent pageant and was named Female Vocalist of the Year for New Country," said Redish, who lists her favorite singers as Rhonda Vincent, Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss and Trisha Yearwood. "That qualified me for nationals, which was held at Pigeon Forge, Tenn. I didn't win at nationals, but I'm going back again in March to try again."
In the past year, Redish made a style switch from country to bluegrass, something she's more comfortable singing.
"Bluegrass fits my voice a little better," she said. "I felt I'd have a better chance in bluegrass and besides, I just like it better."
She visited the recording studio at Star Vision International in Olde Town Conyers to record some of her favorite country and bluegrass tunes and was surprised when she learned she'd won CD of the Year at the GCGMA's fifth annual awards ceremony on Nov. 17 in Dalton.
"With all the things that have happened this year, we didn't think we'd make the awards ceremony, but somebody from GCGMA called my husband and said we should come since I was going to win some awards," Redish said. "I was hopeful but really not sure how I'd do, but my mom and dad and my sister and her husband were there, so it turned out to be one of my best moments ever. It was great."
Redish will return to Pigeon Forge in March for her second shot at nationals, and she said she's looking forward to singing at the Country Tonite club, as well as other visiting other performance venues in town. Redish has also received some feelers from a small recording label in Nashville, but she's content to take a wait-and-see approach before making any deals.
"It's a very small company and I'm not sure that's the way I want to go," she said. "I want to make sure I do my research before I put my name on a contract. I'm cautiously optimistic about that."
Once the couple chooses a permanent homestead, Redish said her top priorities for 2008 are to get more involved with GCGMA and to try to form a backup band.
"GCGMA does a lot of free concerts for charities and worthy causes and I want to do more of that," Redish said. "It's a good way to get noticed and it's always nice to be able to help someone. The coming year looks pretty promising. We'll be getting a new house and I'll be concentrating on my music with nothing else on the backburner. I hope before too long I'll be able to put a band of my own together."
For more information on the Georgia Country and Gospel Music Association, visit www.gcgma.org. To learn more about Julie Redish, visit www.myspace.com/julieredish.