For many musicians, making a financially-stable career out of a passion for performing is a pipe dream. But that never stopped Wisconsin-native Nora Collins, who in a short period of time went from performing at her local Potbelly’s store to opening for Trace Adkins at this year’s Summerfest.
At only 24 years old, Collins has quickly made a name for herself as a Country artist to watch. After moving to Nashville and signing a publishing and artist development deal with Nashville-based MV2 Entertainment, Collins is returning home to Wisconsin with her Nashville band in tow to perform at Summerfest. She’ll be performing at the Tiki Hut Stage multiple days as well opening for Trace Adkins on the Uline Warehouse Stage on July 3.
Turning heads at an early age
Collins had never lived outside of her childhood home in Brookfield, Wisconsin until she packed her bags for Nashville in 2016. A singer-songwriter with a voice destined for Country-music-star fame, Collins began taking monthly trips down to Nashville, understanding that the city that is essentially the Hollywood of country music would be the most effective place to launch her career.
Collins was always singing as a kid. Her parents joke that she was never quiet. Her first performances were part of the church musicals and junior choir at the Christ The King Lutheran church in Brookfield — now known as UNITY Lutheran Church. Her first solo performance caught the attention of the church’s music director, who pulled Collins’ parents aside and vouched for her potential as a singer.
Looking to unlock that potential, Collins’ parents signed her up for vocal lessons.
“I had voice lessons in fourth grade from a classical coach, and she heard a country twang in my voice and tried to get it out,” Collins says. “Country music has always been where my heart leaned. Then I just started writing songs one summer.”
Collins picked up the guitar in the fourth grade, signing up for a school-year’s worth of guitar lessons.
“I hated it. I hated scales and I just wanted to be able to accompany (my voice),” Collins says.
Although Collins would put down the guitar until her high-school years, once she picked it back up, she taught herself some chords and wrote her first song.
Her uncle, who graduated with a minor in music-related studies and who has a home studio, invited Collins over to record some of her songs. One of those songs would go on to win a “Top 50 in the Nation” contest for country-music TV channel CMT.
“It changed the game for me,” Collins says. “It made me realize that it could become more than a hobby and that I actually had talent.”
Independence and self-worth
In 2014, Collins began taking monthly trips down to Nashville to stay with a friend and begin establishing connections in the city. She was eventually introduced to Clay Mars, a publisher who helped Collins make co-writing connections. Soon after, she caught the interest of MV2 Entertainment, who extended a verbal offer for a publishing and artist development deal. Collins signed the deal in March of 2016 and moved to Nashville the following month.
“That’s not typically how this works, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to make the move having the deal already,” Collins says. “Most people move to Nashville and they wait tables and make coffee and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it takes away from what they came here to do.”
Collins has also signed to William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC, a talent-booking agency in town. Signing to the agency was a major goal of Collins for 2018, one that’s likely to help out with her rigorous performing schedule that at one point found her on stage over 200 times in 365 days.
Now, Collins is on the cusp of releasing her new EP, and she is excited to announce that it’s a new direction for her in terms of songwriting.
“These are all songs I’ve co-written with some great writers and I feel like recently I’ve really figured out who I am as an artist and what I want to say,” Collins says.
The EP is being produced by Marshall Altman, who has worked with big-name acts like Natasha Bedingfield and Amy Grant. While the EP doesn’t have a title yet, it will contain six songs, including the single “Who Knows Who,” a song with attitude that Collins writes from the perspective of a woman who is tired of hypocrisy in relationships. It’s an empowering, pop-country delight for anyone who has been in a toxic relationship.
“Its super sassy and fun but relatable,” Collins says. “There’s a really fun energy throughout the whole thing.”
Collins says that the EP has an overarching sense of independence and knowing self-worth, something that she truly embraced when she made the move from Brookfield to Nashville.
“I think when people listen to the music, they’ll know a lot about me and they’ll understand my heart and who I am as a person,” Collins says.
Returning to Summerfest
Collins first started performing at Summerfest when she was 16 on the Tiki Hut Stage, a small platform tucked away along the lake.
“I kind of grew up at Summerfest and learned to be a performer and learned how to connect with people from that little stage along the lake,” Collins says.
Collins is returning to that small stage where she cut her teeth with multiple performances. She’ll also open for Trace Adkins on the Uline Warehouse Stage, a country star she admires for his iconic voice.
Last year, she opened for Lee Brice, accompanied by a backing band comprised of her Wisconsin musician friends.
“That was a big moment for me,” Collins says. “To be a Milwaukee girl at Summerfest performing on the Miller Lite Oasis Stage, I’ll always remember that and the feeling of seeing my name on the screen.”
It’s clear that no matter how far away Collins moves or how much fame her music brings her, she’ll never forget the dairy state that she’ll always call her home.
“I’m so grateful for my Wisconsin upbringing and having such a supportive family, town and city, but now I’m on my own and I’m a little fish in a big pond,” Collins says. “But, I’m starting to make some waves.”
Nora Collins is performing at Summerfest on the following dates:
June 29 at 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on the Tiki Hut Stage
June 30 at 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on the Tiki Hut Stage
July 1 at 1:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. on the Tiki Hut Stage
July 3 at 6:30 p.m. on the Uline Warehouse Stage