From Bennington to Music City: Carly Rogers making headway in her music career

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Living the dream. It's a phrase that means something different to everyone and while, in some contexts, it can carry a negative connotation, it is meant to refer to someone who is living an ideal life.

Driving down the highway back to Nashville after a weekend performing in Virginia, Bennington's Carly Rogers is living that dream as a country music artist who now has a gold record — the sale of 500,000 units.

The song "Cowboy" by Ryan Upchurch featuring Rogers, which was recorded three years ago, went gold this past November.

Rogers was introduced to Upchurch by Taylor Phillips, a mutual friend, when she was 19. Rogers had been living in Nashville for two years when they met at Phillips' birthday party. The two became friends and went into the studio a week later and produced "Cowboy" in about 90 minutes, Rogers said; a brief amount of time to write, record and produce a song.

When she first found out the song had gone gold, Rogers said it took some time to register.

"I was driving from Nashville down to Florida over Thanksgiving and Ryan posted that he had gone gold, but he didn't specify and so I was able to ask his mom just over text message and she texted me back as I was pulling into where I was staying in Clearwater Beach. I had just driven like 13 hours so, in my head, I just looked at the text and I was like `Oh, that's really awesome.' and then I put my phone down and I went straight to bed," Rogers said. "Once I got up and started moving around it kind of hit me like `Wow.'"

The pair also recorded the song "Step On It" in the same session, which is expected to come out on Upchurch's next album.

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Rogers' success did not come as a complete surprise to Tim Brown, the former athletic director at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington from which Rogers graduated in 2014.

"She certainly had made it clear that that's what her life ambition was; was to be in music and perform," said Brown. "So, I'm not totally surprised. I'm only surprised in knowing how difficult it is to crack that business. So, I couldn't be happier for her. I know it's been one of her goals."

Growing up in Bennington, Rogers always wanted to sing. In fact, she never even considered another profession.

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She began performing publicly at age five starting with the National Anthem at a BMX race in Bennington. By age nine, Rogers had written her first song.

When she was in fifth grade, Brown said Rogers approached him about singing the National Anthem at Mount Anthony.

"I always audition the kids because sometimes they don't realize how scary it is so I get them out there during the basketball practice, while the team is practicing, with the microphone and have them sing," Brown said. "It just never fazed her. She's been a performer since as long as I can remember. That's not an easy song to sing with everyone staring at you."

After graduating from Mount Anthony, Rogers moved to Nashville to pursue her career in country music.

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Before she moved, Rogers said her grandmother had told her when she got there to try to begin playing at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge; a venue where Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Taylor Swift, who's one of Rogers' influences, had all played during their career.

She began playing there one month after moving to Nashville, but eventually she was told that if she wanted to continue to perform at Tootsie's, she had to learn how to play guitar.

The obstacle did not deter Rogers. She began practicing four hours a day, recording every session and listening to them. Within six months, Rogers said she felt comfortable enough with the instrument to begin playing in front of a crowd or post videos of herself playing.

Almost every weekend for the past three years, Rogers has taken to the road and played a different city every weekend. The other four days of the week, Rogers said she spends time writing, booking shows, and managing promotional content for upcoming shows. Still, she said she would not have it any other way.

"It's been incredible. A lot of people you ask around Nashville may not feel the same, but I really enjoy (it)," Rogers said of touring. "Right now it's just my dog and me driving through Tennessee back to Nashville. I'm listening to podcasts, Spotify, and calling people and catching up with folks, and doing some business stuff if I have to, but I enjoy seeing the country. ... I get to see different places all the time and meet new people and I absolutely love it and all I have to do is go and play music for a couple of hours a day. I get to play tours every weekend too and to me, that's the dream."

Currently, Rogers is working on a project in which she will release a single, which will be followed by three or four additional songs next spring.


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