Jul. 24—Rising country artists Allie Colleen and Carter Winter come from quite different backgrounds, but they have one crucial passion in common: storytelling.
"When it comes to country songs, I love stories; that's the biggest thing to capitalize on," Oklahoma native Colleen said. "I'm always hoping that people can settle down for as short as 3 minutes and 20 seconds and sit with a narrative ... I know there are a lot of things people are dealing with, and they don't always have time to sit down and devote time to that anxiety [via music]."
"With the stories that I like to tell, I think my music pays homage to the classic and traditional country music that I grew up loving," Ohio native Winter added.
These two emerging musicians will join forces Tuesday, July 27, at The Outlaw Saloon for a concert benefiting Yola's Pet Rescue of Cheyenne and Wyoming Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association cowboy JR Vezain, who suffered a freak bareback riding accident in 2018 at a late regular-season rodeo. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and a portion of ticket purchases will go toward helping Vezain buy prosthetic legs.
Colleen, who just released her debut album, "Stones," in April, first connected with Winter when he was looking for someone to sing a potential single with. His friend Trafton Harvey had just written the track, titled "I Love Like I Drink," and he thought it would work perfectly for Winter's voice, but it also needed a female vocalist for the full effect.
Winter was introduced to the song right after his last CMA Fest performance two years ago. He woke up to a text message from Harvey that read "Carter Winter hit?" with an audio file, and Winter had no idea what to expect (especially because Harvey's been known to send him silly songs such as "Duct Tape and Jesus").
To his surprise, he immediately fell in love with the song.
"I resonated with every line, and I started playing it and kind of making it my own," Winter said. "And I heard Allie — maybe through our guys at [media and production company] Country Rebel, because they posted a video — and I just loved her voice. So I hit her up."
As soon as she gave it a listen, Colleen was in.
"To hear something as country and timeless of a duet as this is, it's so reassuring because I don't think country music uses male-female duets how it should anymore," she said. "Then, to top all that off, and have Carter be the one I get to sing with on it is the sugar on top."
"I just think it's that classic country, the traditional kind of jukebox song that I grew up loving to listen to," Winter added. "And I feel like she has that style in her voice."
Neither Winter nor Colleen have performed in Cheyenne before, so they agree that being able to play this song for its first non-Nashville audience — especially during Cheyenne Frontier Days — is a dream. Each artist will take a turn playing some of their own music at the concert, then will come together for "I Love Like I Drink" and a few covers.
The past year has defined these two musicians' careers — Colleen with her debut album and Winter with his decision to finally move to Nashville — so Cheyenne audiences will be seeing them at a pivotal moment.
Winter said he's grown a great deal from his big move, and one lesson he's learned is to be careful who you trust in the music industry. He's thankful that he took his time getting to know people on trips to Music City before picking up his life, and he wants musicians interested in doing the same to stop and question if they're ready to go all in.
"You have to be really comfortable and passionate about who you are and what you want to do, because a lot of people are going to want to push you and pull you in one direction or another," he said. "Don't sign any deals unless you really know what's going on."
Colleen has also taken her time building up the right relationships to succeed in the music industry. Her team is currently just her and her publicist, but the pair have worked tirelessly to promote her on social media, book the right shows and work with a label that ensures her creative control.
She admitted that it would save her a lot of time to have someone with strategic brand building experience, particularly online, so that's a goal for the coming year.
"It's hard for me to push something out [online] more than once. Someone has to remind me that only 12,000 people saw that out of your 46,000 followers," she said. "I'm like, 'That feels like shoving stuff down people's throats' ... but right now everything is just me and Bev, and we're loving it and learning new things every day."
Colleen worked on defining her own sound and all-around identity as a creator for a solid four years before going into business with anyone, and she has no regrets.
"We wanted to make sure that our soul and songs and everything that comes with being a woman in this industry — we wanted to make sure all of that was locked down before we started inviting people in," she said. "I do have so much control over my career. I don't show up to sound check asking what we're doing; nobody has to catch me up. I know what's happening, and it's very beneficial."
Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's features editor. She can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.