Story By Jason Frye
Photography By Ronnie Holden and Keith Ketchum
When your name’s Madonna and you’re a singer, people start forming ideas about you before they ever hear you sing.
Growing up in Wilmington, Madonna Nash (who sounds more like Faith Hill than Madonna) heard the talk, jokes and comparisons all her life. Then the singer and songwriter with far-reaching ties to the country music industry took the stage and silenced it all.
“Oh, Lord,” she says, “The first time I remember performing for someone other than my family, I was 7. It was all cover songs then; I didn’t start writing my own music until I was a teenager.”
Since then, Nash has written thousands of choruses and hundreds of hooks, filled stacks of paper with scribbled rhymes and overflowed more than her fair share of waste-paper baskets with half-formed songs. It’s just part of the process for a singer-songwriter. Those late-nights spent hunched over a guitar to perfect a melody, the discarded songs and time on the road away from her family have paid off.
“People ask me if I’m a ‘professional’ musician,” Nash says. “I always say that I am. This is how I make my living, so, yes, I’m a professional musician.”
Nash plays all across the South, from Nashville — where her debut album, Madonna Nash, was recorded — across Virginia and the Carolinas, at festivals, fairs, private events and fund-raisers. On August 24, 2012, she’ll be at the Odell Williamson Auditorium at Brunswick Community College, performing at a fund-raiser for the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center.
Brunswick Christian Recovery Center opened in 2010 with the goal of helping those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction transition into a sober, productive life. The program is a combination of faith-based counseling, Bible study and a traditional 12-step recovery plan in a six-week, residential treatment facility in Ash.
There’s something interesting about the intersection of Nash’s country music career and the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center. To many, country music seems to be about drinking, rabble-rousing and hell raising (witness many tunes by Hank Williams, Jr., Toby Keith and the early songs of Charlie Daniels). It could be the soundtrack to the lives of the folks seeking treatment at the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center. Nash sees it another way.
“Country music’s even more about love, relationships and positivity than it is about drinking and trouble making,” she says. “[There are] so many songs about redemption and recovery, love stories and songs about picking yourself up. The money raised at this concert will help Brunswick Christian Recovery Center make a real difference in a lot of peoples’ lives.”
Country music has made a difference in Nash’s life, starting with her great, great uncle Connie B. Gay.
Gay coined the term “country music” and transformed a collection of disparate artists into a cohesive genre. He popularized the genre through his radio and TV broadcasting career, and in 1958 became the founding president of the Country Music Association (CMA). Later he helped launch the Country Music Foundation. In 1963 the CMA named an award after him, and in 1980 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In a twist that ties Nash tighter to the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, Gay faced his own dependence on alcohol in 1957, withdrawing from the country music scene for several years before gaining a hold on it and refocusing his life and business efforts.
Nash says she’s always sung country songs, but never wrote her own until she was a teen.
“My friends and I wanted to enter a battle of the bands, but we had to have original songs to perform,” she says. “I’d never written a song before then, but I gave it a shot and wrote four or five songs for my brother’s band to learn. They did and we took second place in the competition. That was all it took to show me that I could do this.”
Songwriting for Nash is like any other artistic endeavor — it takes talent, time and practice. One of her idols, Dolly Parton, famously said she “writes something every day,” which gives Nash something to aspire to.
“I can’t say I write a song every day, or even part of a song, but I try to,” she says.
Her effort has paid off. In November 2010 Madonna Nash, her debut album of 13 original songs (six by her, the remainder with a co-writer), hit the charts. It’s available on Amazon and iTunes and, of course, at her shows. Madonna Nash is something she’s proud of, but her video for the single “Dirty Little Secret” makes her smile even wider. And her win at the Carolina Music Awards, where she was named the 2010 Female Country Artist of the Year, stretches that smile further. “Dirty Little Secret” also cracked the Top 40 Hits on MusicRow Magazine’s Country Music Radio Chart.
“Dirty Little Secret was so much fun to shoot,” she says, “but the biggest thrill with it was on [Country Music Television’s] Social Hour [a viewer voted video countdown] where I got more votes than some of the biggest country stars.”
Bloggers and music reviewers have called Nash “the best-kept secret of her home state’s country-music scene,” and compared her vocal styling to Carrie Underwood and other country music heavy hitters. Given the press she and her two-year old album continue to get, Nash is, without a doubt, on her way up in the genre her family member had a major hand in establishing.
“I hope our next single does as well,” says Nash.
In early 2012 Brunswick County locals Ronnie and Clarice Holden approached Nash and told her the story of the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center. They took her on a tour of the facility, where she got a firsthand look at the men touched by the program.
“It was incredibly moving,” Nash says. “These men are hurting, really battling with some serious problems. They shared their stories and so many of them were heartbreaking, I felt like I had to help.”
One reason Nash found her visit so moving was her family. She doesn’t want to see her two children, 9-year old Asia and 7-year old Brandt, feel the negative impact of drug and alcohol abuse in their lives. By supporting the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, Nash believes she can help make that a reality.
See Madonna Nash in Concert
What: Brunswick Christian Recovery Center Fund-raiser Concert with Madonna Nash
When: Friday, August 24 at 7 p.m.
Where: Odell Williamson Auditorium at Brunswick Community College, 150 College Road NW, Bolivia
Cost: $25 per ticket with all proceeds going to benefit the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center’s mission to assist people struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Tickets: Call the Box Office at (910) 755-7416
For more information on the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, visit www.bcrcrecovery.com .
For more information on Madonna Nash, links to her Facebook page and to
purchase her album, visit www.madonnanash.com .