Arts and Entertainment

Rhiana Franklin runner-up in KMPS 94.1 FM Colgate Country Showdown; plans on performing in other local showdowns

Rhiana Franklin ... competes June 25 in the KMPS Colgate Country Showdown. - John Sinclair Photography
Rhiana Franklin ... competes June 25 in the KMPS Colgate Country Showdown.
— image credit: John Sinclair Photography

Rhiana Franklin was runner-up in the KMPS 94.1 FM Colgate Country Showdown, June 25 at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma.

She plans on competing in other showdowns scheduled in the state, with the hopes of advancing to the Colgate Country Showdown state final Sept. 5 at the Kittitas County Fair. State winners advance to the regional final. Regional winners advance to the national showdown.

This year's national showdown title comes with $100,000.

Rhiana, an incoming junior at Friday Harbor High School, was one of 15 singers who competed June 25. She won a spot in the local competition with her original song, "All I Know," one of 14 songs she's written.

Her mother, Suzanne Franklin, called the showdown "a talent competition and an opportunity to be seen." And indeed it is.

In 28 years, the Country Showdown has become a reliable source of rising country music stars. Over the years, stars such as Garth Brooks, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley have competed in the Country Showdown. At the 1983 national final, Martina McBride and Neal McCoy competed against one another, only to lose to The Jim Arnold Band. In 1985, Sweethearts Of The Rodeo won the national final before becoming one of country music's hottest duos.

Rhiana was the second performer at Point Defiance Park; her mom and friend Jenny MacDonald were in the audience.

"The stage was small and the crowd was really cool," Rhiana said. "The song I wrote is kind of personal, and I got to connect with people."

She didn't worry about the style of songs that would be performed by other singers. "The lyrics and the song are what it's all about," she said.

To prepare for other showdowns, she plans to "practice a lot."

"It's easier as you go along," she said.

Rhiana is an emerging local artist. She performed at the Freedom Fair in Tacoma on July 4, 2009. She will perform at the Friday Harbor Summer Arts Fair on July 17, and at the Music at the Port concert series. Beginning in mid-July, she will perform Friday and Saturday nights through the summer at Friday Harbor House.

"I just think she's very talented," musician/videographer Cecil DeMeerleer said in an earlier interview. "She's got a great singing voice, she writes great songs, she's a solid guitar player. She's got amazing pitch — she's right on all the time. She's very easy to work with, very fun to work with. She's just a great kid."

DeMeerleer remembers the audience response to Rhiana's performance at the Freedom Fair. "She got to sign some autographs," he said. "She's going to be a star."

Rhiana is the lone singer in an aviation family — grandfather Roy founded Friday Harbor Airport, dad Ken owns Aeronautical Services, and brother Cole has his helicopter pilot's license.

"My mom plays the piano," Rhiana said. "She says I sang a lot when I was little."

Rhiana said she began to think about a singing career after performing in the fifth-grade talent show.

She appreciates all of the support she's received. "I have very supportive people on the island who have some great connections."

Among her favorite local musicians: Her guitar teacher Bob Leytze, folk singer Debbie Nash Strasser, Tom Doenges, and DeMeerleer.

Her big-name favorites: Kerry Brothers, Mat Kearney, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. "Who doesn't like Carrie Underwood?" Rhiana said.

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