Young farmgirl sows pop music on 'Who We Are'

At the tender age of 14, Hope Partlow was plucked from the family farm, where she often picked peas, to begin working on her major label debut. The homegrown singer, now 17, has been anxiously awaiting the release of her album ever since.

On Sept. 6, nearly three years since she signed with Virgin Records, that day finally came, and Partlow already has a lot to celebrate. "Who We Are" entered Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart last week at No. 45.

The Drummonds, Tenn., native, who began performing with her father when she was only 5, got a career boost in her early teens with the help of her aunt, Joyce Goodwin, a Nashville-based songwriter.

"Me, my parents and my aunt wrote a song called 'Red Limousine,'" Partlow recalls. "It was really country, kinda rockabilly. My aunt did have connections, but I'm still so lucky, and I feel like it was just meant to be."

It didn't take long for Partlow's demo to land in the right hands, and she soon found herself auditioning for Virgin chairman/CEO Matt Serletic, who signed her on the spot.

Serletic, who has produced albums for such artists as Rob Thomas and Aerosmith, immediately took Partlow under his wing and groomed her for success. In fact, Partlow's "Who We Are" became the first full album Serletic produced for Virgin. He even played keyboards and sang backing vocals on it.

"There's so much work that goes on behind the scenes, it's crazy," says Partlow of the whole experience. "I thought you get signed, you put out a CD, you get famous and then you're loaded. I just thought it happened like that. [laughs]

"I was ready to put out an album when I first got signed," she adds. "But now I listen to stuff that I did then and it makes me cringe, so I'm really glad that [Serletic] helped me develop."

During those three years, Partlow focused on honing her vocal skills and learned what exactly goes into making an album. And although she didn't write any songs that appear on "Who We Are," she feels confident that the lyrics genuinely reflect her personality and beliefs.

"We were looking for songs that other people had written, and, well, I could not relate to the situations that those people [were writing about]," she says. "I mean, I'm only 17, so I haven't been through everything there is to go through. Finally, I got fed up and handed over my diary [to songwriters Angie Aparo and Kevin Kadish]. I didn't know what they were gonna take from it, 'cause I didn't really know if they understood what girls have to go through, but they got it. They wrote great songs, so I don't regret it at all."

Those diary entries were turned into a combination of heartfelt and angst-ridden lyrics with a country twist.

"I consider myself kind of a cross between Sheryl Crow and Avril [Lavigne]," she says. "There are some songs that have a country feel to 'em, so it's kinda riding the line [between pop and country]. That was a good move, 'cause I think the music talks to everyone, and I'm sure everyone will have a fave track on the album."

Although she may literally be straight off the farm, Partlow isn't shy about the fact that she doesn't plan on ever going back to that way of life. "I am glad to be away from that 100-acre farm," she says. "I love going back, but I don't stick around very long.

"I can't wait to be headlining and having people open for me," she continues. "Being on tour with Jesse [McCartney] and seeing all those girls out there -- it was like a scream fest, and they're so devoted. I cannot wait to have fans like that – ones who will go through traffic or any obstacle just to come see me."

Partlow is currently on a 15-date promotional tour of Wal-Mart stores throughout the South and Midwest.

Link:
Artist site: www.hopepartlow.com/
Label site: www.virginrecords.com

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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