For 16-year-old Erin Jamieson, the whirlwind year she's been riding began with a song.
Last summer, Jamieson won two impressive honors for Christian artists. She had entered both the songwriting competition and talent competition at the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival in North Carolina. She won both.
"When they announced my name," she said, "I just started bawling and I looked at my mom and she was crying and it was just crazy. I couldn't believe it was happening."
The grand prize was a recording contract with Lamon Records in Nashville, Tennessee. Since then she has traveled between her home in Maple Grove and a music studio in Nashville to produce her first CD. It features four original songs, written and performed by Jamieson.
The song that made it all happen, called Hope for the Broken, is on the CD. Jamieson wrote the piece during a trying time in her life. It was shortly after her dad was laid off from his job and her sister, who has special needs, was going through a challenging medical bout.
Listening to professional musicians and producers record her song was thrilling.
"They heard my song once and they just played it," she said of the band that performs with her on the CD, "and I was just kind of in awe of who I was in the room with.
"It was just crazy to hear my songs go from my little piano room from Maple Grove, Minnesota to sounding like a real album that could be out for the world to hear."
That CD, titled Without the Dark, released this week.
If it seems like a lot for a 16-year-old, consider that Jamieson wrote her first song at age 9. Her mother says she began playing piano by ear years before that.
"We could see from early, early on that lyrically and poetically she had an insight that was beyond her years," said Lisa Jamieson, "and an ability to strike a really authentic chord with people."
Jamieson hopes to eventually go to college and earn a degree in songwriting. For now she plans to perform as much as possible, continue promoting her CD, and try to give people hope through her music.
"That's what I do," she said, "I play and I sing and it just comes from my heart."
Jennifer Anderson reporting
February 8, 2012