615 Spotlight: Carrie Zaruba Is a 'Woman on a Mission'

Carrie Zaruba

The debut single from Carrie Zaruba is called "Woman On A Mission," and she says when it comes to music, it's one she has been on for quite a long time.

"I grew up in a musical family and was exposed to very eclectic sounds early on," she tells Billboard. "I was trained classically as a lyrical soprano at the Baltimore School of the Arts. It was a conservatory-type high school, so it was very rigorous – both academically and musically. That was my background in singing. It's almost like learning how to draw lines when you're an artist," says Zaruba, recently named as one of the "Artists To Watch" in 2013 by the CMA.

She continued to further herself musically with her education. "I went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and studied Jazz, Blues, and Motown. I started working as a background singer, and fell in love with Aretha Sings The Blues, an album by Aretha Franklin. That really opened my eyes. It was a turning point for me, musically," she says, adding that she started to think more about developing her talents as a writer. "I made a decent living, and never really thought about writing. I didn't think I would be any good, I really didn't know what I would have to say. I had sang other people's music my entire career. As a therapeutic exercise, I kind of bullied my way into a suburban studio, and sweet talked my way into their B-room, and started to write. What came out really had a country soul to it," she said. "I'm really influenced by Patty Griffin, Joni Mitchell, and Emmylou Harris."

That desire to grow as a songwriter led Zaruba to Nashville, a city that she says took a little getting used to. "At first, I found it to be incredibly intimidating. I'm not from a southern state. But, it was a challenge for me to see where I fit in, and to learn. That has been my primary goal – to understand the art of writing a great song, and I think no matter what genre – a great song is like a great artist – undeniable. For me, it was about finding my point of view. I was so afraid of writing, but I wanted to develop my own artistry, and there's no better place to do that. You're surrounded by so many like-minded inspirational individuals who are talented beyond measure. It's been a great adventure for me." Suffice to say, she learned pretty quick, as she co-wrote six of the cuts on her debut album.

"Woman On A Mission" has been the centerpiece of that ‘adventure' so far, as she feels listeners can identify with the lyrics. She knows they have inspired her. "It started as the mantra that I had used for myself after my first writing sessions with Kent Wells, who is also my producer. With trembling hands, I sang for him, and put my songs out there. He didn't kick me out of his office, in fact, he liked them. So, that bit of encouragement in my craft was really empowering, and I felt I was on my way in my journey. So, that is my mantra, every word is what I believe, and when I need reminding, I play it for myself."

She has just released her debut album, and just like her, she says it runs the emotional gamut. "It's a mix of heartfelt ballads and take-no-prisoner upbeat tunes. I think that's who I am as an artist – it's the balance of the delicate vulnerability and the brass tacks kind of girl that I can be."