By BEN CONANT
When one thinks of country music, several geographic locations pop to mind. Tennessee, home to Dollywood and the Grand Ole Opry. West Virginia, with its hard-working coal miners and their doleful daughters. And of course Texas, the patron state of all things be-cowboy-hatted. New Hampshire may well be the next state to do-si-do its way into the conversation. Country's next big thing might just be located in Penacook, and her name is Natalie Turgeon.
The 23-year-old Turgeon has been singing for most of her life, performing in church singing groups and competing in New Hampshire Idol, but it wasn't until late last year that she decided to pursue music as her career. She turned to her future father-in-law, John Cunningham, who just happened to be a guitarist, and together they put together the Natalie Turgeon Band.
"There was instantly a good connection, a good chemistry," Turgeon said. Scheduling practices around her daytime cleaning job, the band was just in its fledgling stages when they decided to enter the Ram Trucks Battle of the Bands. The contest called for the country's hottest undiscovered country musicians to submit a music video of an original song.
Turgeon would be the first to tell you that she doesn't exactly make country music. She prefers to dub her particular style of tuneage "country-ish," a mix of country, rock, pop and r & b influences. Still, she and her band whipped up a song for the contest in just a weeks time. The result, aptly titled "Country-ish," took YouTube by storm, and when the online voting concluded, the Natalie Turgeon Band defeated a field of hundreds and earned a spot in the battle of the bands finals. It was then that Turgeon had her first real taste of the limelight.
"They treated us like rock stars, they really did," Turgeon said of the all-expenses trip to Austin, Texas, where the finals were held. While they were only able to garner second-place honors, Turgeon said that that in the long run, she expects that finish to help the band grow.
"It really showed us the things we have to work on," Turgeon said.
This kind of humble attitude in the face of a relative success is exactly what one should expect from Turgeon; she's as down to earth as a rising star can be.
"I hate that saying 'Oh, I'm figuring out who I am,' " Turgeon said, "but it's kind of like that. I can express myself through my music. I just want to be real. I want everything to be real, from the heart, but at the same time I want to be humble about it."
Just as she is finding herself through her music, at this point she is still finding her music as well. The "Country-ish" tag should be a clue that she's not going to be locked into one genre of music.
"I don't want to be stuck to country," Turgeon said. "I want to be open to music and explore, because I'm not there yet. I still haven't totally found my style, my music."
Work in progress or not, guitarist John Cunningham is enthusiastic about Natalie's budding career.
"It's really fun to watch her grow as a musician," Cunningham said. "She's really brilliant. She doesn't know it yet, but she is."
Turgeon draws inspiration from the current crop of strong female country singers like Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert that have taken over the industry in recent years.
"I really like country singers with a lot of depth," Turgeon said. They have really strong voices and they're good people, you can really tell."
Country is a genre that often lends itself to songs of drinking and debauchery. You won't find that kind of content in Turgeon's work. She wants to show listeners that with God's help, they can buck societal pressures and lead a happy life. (next page »)