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You may be confused when you meet Whissell. Bubbly, upbeat and light-hearted, you’d never guess this 26 year old girl was packing some serious pipes and those kinds of lyrics. “I find it really funny when people don’t believe it’s me singing these songs. Even close friends and family members are shocked when they hear them. After listening to one of my break-up songs, a couple family members said they were going to ‘sleep with one eye open’.”
So is her music Pop? Blues? Rock? Indie? “I get asked all the time, what kind of music I’m making and it’s really difficult for me to describe it. I just kind of sum it up by saying ‘it’s Whissell’ and then I try to let the music speak for itself. I think nowadays it’s becoming much more difficult to classify music. There are so many different types of artists that I draw inspiration from.”
WHISSELL says her sound really started to develop early on. “It all started with Elvis when I was about 3 or 4. I would listen to these oldies radio stations and call in and request Elvis songs over and over again. While waiting around to hear his songs, I started to become obsessed with all of the other hits they were playing. Soon after that I got my hands on some of my parents’ old albums, the good stuff-Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green, and I was hooked.”
The singer considers herself a bit of a nomad when it comes to where she’s from. “Growing up, we never lived somewhere longer than 4 years. I feel like that really influenced my musical tastes as well. My parents are divorced and have both have lived all over the USA, from Arizona to Illinois to Florida. I
feel like I picked up an affinity for different musical styles everywhere I went, whether it was Pop, R&B, Jazz or now that I live in Nashville- even a little tinge of country.”
Whissell says pursuing music hasn’t been the easiest route. “I was at a point in my life where singing was all I could think about, but I wasn’t pursuing it. I was studying Communication at FSU where the majority of people I knew didn’t even know I could sing. There’s always been this internal struggle of knowing that singing is my true passion but not having the guts to really pursue it. One day I had driven out to a parking lot and was singing in my car for hours, writing all of these songs, and having all of these visions of what I wanted my future to look like and all of them involved music-I knew at that point that I had to go for it.”
The singer says she thinks most musicians can relate to this struggle, whether it’s simply internal or possibly even suffering from the backlash of others’ criticism. “While I do have some amazingly supportive people in my life, for each one of those there have been about five more who have flat out told me that the chances of me making it are slim to none. But that only pushes me to work harder, to take more chances.”
In fact, it was a chance move to Nashville that put brought her to the ears of Cody Clark. “I had moved to Nashville and had found a roommate on Craigslist. I was working retail and we were both were pretty strapped for cash at one point, so she suggested we find a third roommate to move into our upstairs room. That’s when Christina moved in. Day one of her living with us, I was trying to be polite and just said ‘hey, I’m always singing but I try to be respectful about it and usually do it when no one is home.’ She somehow convinced me to play her a song on my guitar that day, so I play her one of four total songs I know on the guitar, I think it may have even been a Justin Bieber song. After it’s over she just says ‘Don’t move.’ And then a few minutes later her boyfriend (now husband) Cody appears. She tells me ‘play that again, but for Cody.’ And he asks me where in Nashville I’ve been singing and who I’ve been writing with and my answers were- ‘I sing in the shower and I write with myself.’ And then a little while later he’s my manager and we’re writing amazing songs together. It’s really crazy how this has all played out.”
Whissell says regardless of which kind of genre people want to define her as, for her it’s all about the audience connection. “I just want people to feel something when they hear it. Whether it’s inspiring someone to get out of a horrible relationship they’re in or finally finding their inner strength, I just want people to know they have someone that can relate to them. My main inspiration lyrically has been the idea of an ‘empowered woman.’ I finally feel like I’m in a place where I’m confident with myself and I want others to feel that too. I had one friend tell me she was listening to one of my songs the other day and that it just made her feel ‘super confident’ like she could ‘take on the world’. That’s probably the best compliment I’ve ever received.”