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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Country recording artist is an old hand at 24


Three labels, four records. Rebecca Lynn Howard is a Nashville veteran. Oh yeah, she's 24 years old.

“When I was about 10 years old, I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I begged my mother to take me to Nashville, and she did,” she says during a phone interview from her Nashville home. “I just knew I could sing.”

That ambition paid off for the MCA Nashville recording artist, who is playing about 100 dates on the road this year. She will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Defiance County Fair in Hicksville, Ohio.

Looking back, Howard laughs at how she had her life planned out before she even entered middle school. She was playing the piano by age 6, the guitar at 10, and the fiddle at 14. She wrote her first love song when she was 7 years old.

And she dreamed of the glamour and the fame of being a country star.

“Uh, it's nothing what I thought,” she says with a laugh. “On the road, my biggest challenge is where my next shower is going to come from. Sometimes it's hard to find hotel rooms. Washing your hair at a truck stop isn't very glamorous.”

She also discovered that the business side of Nashville can be harsh. She signed with Rising Tide Records when she was 18 years old, but that label folded in 1998 before she could release her debut album. She moved over to Decca Records, which folded.

The combination of the stress and professional frustration weighed on her emotionally. In 1999, she began suffering from severe anxiety attacks and was diagnosed with chronic anxiety disorder, a debilitating illness that made her afraid to leave her house.

“It's a frustrating illness to get through. After about 21/2 years, I let my faith take over. I flushed my anti-depressants down the toilet and said, `Lord, you're going to have to take this from me.' I never had a problem again. Miracles really do still happen,” she says.

Right about the time she conquered her inner demons, her career began to take off. She is now preparing to release her third album with MCA. She's hoping to build on the success of last year's Top 10 hit, “Forgive,” which she co-wrote and which was inspired by watching a close friend go through a painful divorce.

As she's matured and gotten a little wiser about the ways of Nashville, she still finds her greatest peace when she sits down with her guitar and a pen and paper, just as she did when she was a little girl in Salyersville, Ky.

“I always joke and tell people that songwriting is the cheapest form of therapy for me.”

Rebecca Lynn Howard will be at the Defiance County Fair in Hicksville, Ohio, at 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at the box office. Track seats are $12. Seats in the grandstand are $10.

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