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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

Nashville gives Toledo native a shot at stardom

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NASHVILLE - The woman with the long, blond hair, bright green eyes, and pretty smile sitting in the lobby of a downtown hotel is so refreshing.

She's humble, polite, warm, and, at the moment, more than a little nervous as she eyes the tape recorder set out before her.

“I'd be too nervous,” Michelle Poe says in declining to have her conversation taped.

For the 29-year-old Toledo native, this is her first interview. It will not be her last. She came to Nashville to sing and play bass guitar in clubs to help put herself through college and attain her dream of being a commercial pilot. Instead, she discovered that people wanted her to be a star.

Now instead of piloting a Cessna 152, she finds herself on the runway at Dreamworks Records, waiting to be the next new artist rolled out by the label that has produced Darryl Worley, Emerson Drive, and Toby Keith. She just finished making her first record and is awaiting a release date before the nationwide radio and promotional tour begins.

Tomorrow, she'll be at Toledo Speedway playing bass and backing up Steve Holy on vocals when he takes the stage at Thunder Jam. He'll be in town along with Lonestar, Jennifer Hanson, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, and the Warren Brothers.

In the crowd will be Poe's father, John, of Sylvania, aunts and uncles, and plenty of other family friends who know her from her days in West Toledo, when she used to ride her tricycle while singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at age 2.

“I can't wait,” she says. “It's always fun to see faces in the crowd that you know, people shouting your name.”

She proudly shows off her new wedding ring, which her husband, Todd, slipped on her finger during a ceremony in Maui on April 16. He's starting his career as an attorney with a Nashville law firm. She's ending her stint as a member of Holy's band and beginning her career as a Nashville recording artist, something that is sure to test their marriage.

“We've had long talks about it,” she says. “We have to totally trust each other. I'm going to be surrounded by attention.”

And attention is something she has tried to shun. She began playing at Tootsie's and clubs in Printer's Alley to help put herself through school at Middle Tennessee State University. She just wanted to make a little money so she could get her aerospace administration degree; others saw another future.

“I'd play all these dirty little clubs until 3 a.m., then have classes at 8. From playing all those years, getting better at playing bass and singing, I started making a lot of contacts. These people would say, `You really need to pursue a musical career,'” she says.

Those contacts eventually included a member of Holy's band, who took the singer to see Poe at Tootsie's.

“I didn't think I could do it,” she says. “I didn't think I was ready for a big artist gig. I just didn't have the confidence, but I learned all the songs, and I've been with him for three years.”

That relationship led her to Alex Torrez, who worked for Don Cook, a producer in town. And those ties took her to James Stroud, the president of Dreamworks.

“James was intrigued, and he loved my voice. He thought the project sounded promising, and he signed me up,” she says.

Three years later, Poe has learned that a record in Nashville is not made overnight. Still, she sees progress. The 12 tracks are finished. The next step is to determine their sequence, then meet with the Dreamworks bigwigs, who will decide when to release her debut and how to market her. That process could take up to another year, but most likely it will be no more than a few months.

“I really feel God has pushed me in this direction for a reason. If He wants me to be a star, I'll be a star. If this record flops, it flops,” she says. “I feel like He wouldn't have gotten me to this point if it wasn't meant to be. He wouldn't have brought the people into my life that He has.”

She takes a moment to dream about stardom, about having that first person recognize her in the grocery store line.

“I can't wait. I'm so ready. I'm ready for my share of the spotlight. I've worked hard, paid my dues in all the clubs. I hope people love this record as much as I do.”

Thunder Jam, featuring Steve Holy, Lonestar, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Jennifer Hanson, and the Warren Brothers, begins at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Toledo Speedway, 5639 Benore Rd. Gates open at 2. Tickets, $30, $45, and $75, are available at the speedway box office. Information: 1-800-852-2050.



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