Singer-songwriter wins nationwide competition; bluegrass group takes home award

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATE BOTSFORD - Tualatin singer-songwriter Nate Botsford performs in New York City last week, opening for Ingrid Michaelson.Musicians from Tualatin are getting recognition and turning heads in the music business.

Nate Botsford, a singer-songwriter who lives in Tualatin, was announced last Thursday as the winner of the Project Aloft Star competition. His original song was picked by a panel of judges as one of the top five entries in the contest, which was open to residents of the United States, Canada (excluding Quebec) and several Latin American countries.

“From the top five, they go to nationwide voting,” Botsford said. “Everybody can go on the website and vote on who they want to be in the top two.”

Botsford made it. He and another entrant were selected to perform at a private show opening for singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson in New York City last week, after which the judges proclaimed him to be the winner of the competition.

“It's huge for me,” Botsford said of winning the competition and the opportunities that come along with it.

As the contest winner, Botsford will perform next weekend in California's Napa Valley at Live In The Vineyard, an exclusive mini-music festival. He'll be opening for established artists like Barenaked Ladies, A Great Big World and James Bay, he said.

“It'll be definitely my biggest opportunity,” said Botsford. “Being able to perform with the caliber of artists that are going to be there — it's just a whole new ballgame for me.”

Botsford has been living in Tualatin for about four years since moving from Portland. He said he started out just singing poolside when he worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor, beginning when he was a teenager.

“I kind of became known as the 'singing lifeguard,'” Botsford said.

From there, he began playing in coffee shops and other small venues. He tried out for American Idol last year, but he was eliminated in the second round of auditions. More recently, he has been performing at private shows and weddings throughout the Portland area, and he's even had the opportunity to open for prominent artists when they perform in Portland while touring. Last month, he opened for Ben Folds at the Roseland Theater.

Botsford said his goal right now is to establish a strong local fan base and try to expand it into other cities. He will likely embark on a multi-city Aloft tour next year, which will give him a good opportunity.

“I've got a really, really great fan base in Portland,” he said.

Somewhat unusually for an aspiring musician, Botsford said he is actively trying to avoid signing with a recording label. Michaelson, who coached him last week before their performance in New York City, is not signed to a label, he noted.

“It's allowed her to really continue to be who she is as an artist,” he said. “She's done so well for herself. She works with a great manager.”

He added, “My writing's just so personal to me. … I want to continue building off of that.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHY BOYD - Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising won honors for the second year in a row this weekend at the International Music & Entertainment Association Awards in Georgia.Botsford isn't the only Tualatin artist to have found recent success.

Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, a bluegrass quartet based in Tualatin, were recognized in Marietta, Ga., on Saturday as the “Bluegrass Group of the Year” at the 2015 International Music & Entertainment Association Awards, which honor independent artists.

“It was very nice to have the recognition and a wonderful honor,” said bandleader Kathy Boyd in an email Tuesday. “The International Music & Entertainment Association covers all genres and focuses on the entertainment aspect of performance — which is very important to me.”

Last year, the quartet won IMEA's award for “Holiday Song of the Year.” This weekend, Boyd said, they'll be filming a Christmas special for Comcast before embarking on “a rather crazy Christmas tour” in December.

While Botsford is working to break into the popular music scene — he said he'd like to be able to license his songs for commercials someday — Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising are established in their genre. They have already released five albums and Boyd said they'll be recording a sixth next year. Their music is available for download through CD Baby and other websites.

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