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Courtney Rau may look and sound a bit like one of the biggest country artists of her generation, Taylor Swift, but like Taylor she’s much more than what first meets the eye or just the voice behind some sunny, catchy tunes full of teen angst. The 15-year-old could definitely be considered an old soul in fact, with a demeanor and talent far beyond her years. And with one listen to her debut CD, it’s clear she has a voice that was destined to be heard. Singing to her Barbie karaoke machine from the time she was just four, Courtney was a natural performer, and by seven, she began taking piano lessons as well. She took to the instrument quickly, though her playing by ear wasn’t always popular with the Russian piano teachers her parents hired to help her learn while living in exotic locations like India and England. When her father’s job as an engineering exec finally settled the family in Washington, D.C., Courtney began performing in school in choir and theater productions, and she also found a love for writing poetry, which she was soon channeling into songs. While her sisters were busy playing all sorts of sports, Courtney preferred to be inside wrapped up in a good book. “All through school I was never good at sports or things like that,” recalls Courtney. “My sisters can run 12 miles and never get tired, but I try to run down the sidewalk and it just doesn’t happen for me,” she says, laughing. “But I always liked English in school and loved to write poems and enter my stuff in competitions…it was relaxing to me to write.” As an eighth grader Courtney showed such a propensity for writing and singing that her parents brought her to Nashville to pursue her dream, and she began writing songs with renowned writers like Jamie O’Neal, Keith and Adrian Follese, Jim Cooper, and Tommy Collier. With her family balancing their time living in DC and Florida and traveling back and forth between the two, Courtney found plenty of material and inspiration for her songs, and she eventually recorded and co-produced 12 of them with the songwriters for her self-titled debut. The CD is peppered with the teen’s influences, which range from top country female vocalists like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift to Garth Brooks and even Lonestar — a band her father loved whose music always brings up fond, warm memories of home for Courtney. One of the songs on her debut in fact, “After The Storm,” was directly inspired by the Carrie Underwood smash “Blown Away,” and Courtney performs the tune with former Wreckers member Jessica Harp. “I met Jessica through one of the writers I worked with, and Jessica was so sweet, and we just got along really well and our voices blended well together,” recalls Courtney about the meeting. “I was a little nervous meeting her at first, but we just ended up clicking. She gave me some good advice about the business too,” says Courtney. “She told me to be myself and don’t let anyone get in my way. And I love the song we did together. It was inspired by Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away, and I just love that song. The first time I heard it, I just kept playing it all day every day for like a month. I like it ‘cause it’s edgy and powerful, but I like all of Carrie‘s songs — she conveys the message so well, and I think she’s so pretty and I just love her! And of course Taylor has been one of my main influences. She has opened up so many doors for young artists today, that were thought to be impossible in the past. She has definitely influenced and inspired my career path.” Many of the songs on Courtney’s debut reflect that light, airy exuberance and hopeful promise young girls often possess, as in the sweet, comforting sentiments of “Count On Me” or the bright, sunny enthusiasm of “Life Moves On.” But others, like “Thanks But No Thanks” show the teen’s more spunky, plucky side, and on tunes like “Insane,” she tackles tougher issues like the angst-ridden complexities in playing the game of love and the heartache involved when two people struggle to get back on the same page emotionally. The talented young teen also reveals a wisdom that belies her high school years on songs like “Stand Alone,” a tune inspired by the epidemic of bullying in this country. The stirring song serves as an anthem of encouragement to school-age kids who are feeling alienated because of being different and urges them to “live out loud and be the exception.” “I think everyone gets picked on sometime in their life whether it‘s when they were younger or in high school or whenever, and when I was little I used to get made fun of for little things,” recalls Courtney. “I never let it affect me too much, but now that I hear stories about bullying I feel very strongly about it. No one deserves to go through that, especially with Facebook and the internet now it’s so easy to hurt someone’s feelings by like the smallest thing. So it’s really an important issue to me.” Other songs like “One Beat At A Time,” address how fragile and fleeting life can be and how it can change on a dime. Inspired by her grandfather’s cancer diagnosis a few years back, the song offers up solid wisdom about dealing with life’s setbacks and challenges with a smile on your face and courage in your heart. “That was one of the first songs I ever wrote, and it’s about how I felt when my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. He’s been in remission for two years, but we didn’t know that at the time, and it talks about how he’s the happiest guy, the most jolly person in the world, never sick, and he’d be the last person you’d think would get sick but he did. But even when he was sick he didn’t change at all, and he taught everybody that even in the hardest times you’ve got to just live… and keep going.” Solid advice from a talented young girl who is chasing her dreams at full speed…and from the sound of her debut CD…is just about to catch them. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.