Amy Metcalfe, who was once bullied into silence about her singing talent, is now letting it soar.
The Red Deer-area performer is turning her two loves — of country music and equestrian sport — into a promising music career.
Not only has the 22-year-old landed a contract with Edmonton-based label Royalty Records, she’s also the spokesperson and singer/songwriter for Rocky Mountain Show Jumping, and is stated to entertain at an international equestrian competition later this month.
“Rodeos always have country performances,” said Metcalfe, “but on the equestrian side, there’s usually been no entertainment.”
That’s going to change starting on Friday, Oct. 24, when the local singer will perform original songs from her upcoming EP, Inside Out, at the Royal West show jumping event at the Agrium on the Calgary Stampede grounds.
She wrote the tune Ready to Fly as the event’s theme — but the song title could just as easily describe Metcalfe’s own singing aspirations.
It wasn’t always that way.
The Winnipeg native started riding horses at age eight. She moved to the Red Deer area a couple of years later, after her parents got jobs in Central Alberta.
In Grade 5, Metcalfe was the new kid in the classroom when she got on the bad side of a group of girls. “I got two singing parts in the school play, where other people only got one or even none,” she recalled — and this became a big issue.
The bullying continued into Grade 6 when Metcalfe went to pick up her water bottle from her desk and noticed “some crap stuck to it.”
She lifted the lid and discovered it had been filled with household chemicals. “They tried to poison me.”
This led to a long period where Metcalfe never talked about her singing with anyone at school. “I didn’t do arts in middle school, I was more into sports. …
“I suppressed (singing and songwriting). To find someone who is super-confident is rare as a teenager. If you have something that’s different at all, people will want to pull you down.”
Metcalfe started living a divided life — she was a basketball player at school, an equestrian after school, and had a secret but prolific songwriter at home.
The closet singer, who also plays piano, guitar, ukulele and banjo, furtively wrote more than 200 songs during this period — and seven of these will see the light early in 2015 when they are featured on Inside Out.
Metcalfe recalled her long performing silence finally ended after a friend heard one of her tunes and convinced her to audition for the chance to play it at their high school graduation ceremony.
She remembers standing in front of big grad audience at the Centrium. “It was a really big step for me to sing this song, and wonder what the reception would be … but the crowd accepted me.”
Getting applause for her talents felt like “the opposite of my bullying experience,” said Metcalfe, and encouraged her to pursue a career in music.
Metcalfe has since written songs with Duane Steel and Cindy Morgan, as well as such Nashville talents such as Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick and Byron Hill.
Another big step for her was meeting singer Stacie Roper from the group Hey Romeo, who liked Metcalfe’s music enough to bring it to the attention of her label, Royalty Records.
Metcalfe feels fortunate to have signed with the 40-year-old independent label that will allow her to retain creative freedom, while helping distribute her upcoming album, which was produced by Calgary’s Russell Broom (Jann Arden).
She said she selected the EP’s seven tracks based on what the songs have to say. Her first single My Heart Beats, which is getting play on KG Country, is about the perils of “dating” by text, while Bitter With the Rain is about the aftermath of a drunk driving crash.
MADD has expressed interest in the latter song, said Metcalfe, who would like to get involved with the anti-drunk driving group to do school tours.
As for what else she wants from the future, she laughed and said, “If I can make enough money to buy Kraft dinner and keep my horse through making music, I will be happy.”
Metcalfe performs on Oct. 24, 25 and Nov. 1 at the Royal West Show Jumping event at the Agrium in Calgary. For more information, including tickets, visit royalwest.org.