I was waiting on the sofa in Jon Levine’s studio for my co-topliner to arrive (did I actually say co-topliner?) who Paige Parsons, then creative at Kobalt Music, swore was "awesome."
Courtney Harrell came into the room like a bluster of fresh air, in a faux leather jacket and glorious smile. I wanted to hug her immediately. I was a little tentative as I usually am on a songwriting blind date. Will I be on my game? Will I live up to my potential or whatever word Paige might have used to describe me: hopefully something along the lines of "awesome."
I admired the ease with which Courtney streamed lines, thoughts, ideas. She injected swagger into my measured words. Double-syllabled off-beat-rhymes fell off of her tongue and she went to melodic places I dared not venture alone. (Note to self: write with writers whose strengths are your weaknesses). We were good together. (Thank you, Paige!)
And then she sang. She sings too? Yes. And her heart breaks free when she does.
Just as I was in about as much awe as I could possibly be in Courtney confessed that she couldn't believe she was in the presence of the woman who wrote one of her favorite jams of all time: “Almost Doesn't Count.” Really? Wow. Really??? Amidst all of my awe, I had to pause the giving to receive some. Thank you, Ms. Courtney.
There was more to this lady than what met my eyes and ears that day—a deeper story. One I’d come to know over the next few years.
Courtney had a baby at a young age. She struggled to support the two of them even though she had written for Beyonce, Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige. What? From pieces of songs and percentages assigned to her, it didn't add up to all that much in a digital universe and she and her son had to live separately on more than one occasion, until she could regain financial footing.
Courtney has found purpose in advocating for missing children, special needs kids, unarmed black men who've been shot, good cops. She's helped so many others find their voice...their gift...via her Phoenix Heart Project...all the time putting her own unlimited boundaries on the back burner.
One night, I invited a small group of gals over for dinner. One of those gals was Courtney, one was songwriter whisperer Suzan Koc, and one was life coach Cindy Warden (who was instrumental in quelling my doubts when I was teetering on the edge of writing my now published book). We hadn't planned on an intervention. I swear. But good people are good people and very often the conversation veers to things like "believing in yourself" and "don't give up your dream." You know the cliches. So cheesy. They’re all true.
Dylan is at college now. Happy.
And Courtney is on The Voice.
I'm not saying that our dinner had anything to do with her stepping up. Courtney is responsible for Courtney but a little help from one's friends never hurts.
Anyone who follows me knows I have mixed feelings about reality singing competitions. After all, they exist for the commerce of ratings and advertising, not necessarily for the celebration of talent and beautiful souls. In fact, I had the pleasure of working with the winner of The Voice Season 1, Javier Colon, and his good name was barely mentioned on Season 2. :( Then again—there's Kelly Clarkson. :)
That said, if you are awed by talent, dazzled by celebrity, excited by chance, or simply want to root for a truly gifted, deserving, and special woman who could definitely go all the way, especially a woman who has met her share of life's challenges and persevered, then by all means get the popcorn popping and fire up the flat screen, and vote—if and when the time comes.
C'mon Miley! Alicia! Adam! Blake! Hit those buttons and turn your chairs around.
I'll be there. Glued.
Good luck Beautiful Courtney. We're rooting for you.