Musician stakes out career

By Alia Boyd -

Briana Atwell performing at The Living Room on August 4.

Briana Atwell, an East Surry graduate, started her music training at the tender age of nine when her grandfather taught her how to play guitar and she hasn’t put the guitar down since.

Atwell explained that over the years, she’s come into her own as a musician and is now a singer-songwriter with a CD that’s available for purchase.

Atwell’s first performance was at Nana’s House in Pilot Mountain and was to a small crowd, but she now performs in front of large crowds at The Living Room with little anxiety.

“It was a little nerve wracking, but the more you do it, the less stressful it becomes,” Atwell explained of her first time performing in front of an audience.

Atwell explained that she has performed ten times at The Living Room over the past three years, although her local performing opportunities are now limited due to the fact that she’s entering her sophomore year of undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

She is double majoring in psychology and special education with a minor in religious studies. Atwell explained that she limited the amount of performances that she did during her freshman year of college so that she could focus on her academics, but she hopes to seek out possible performance venues in Davidson and Charlotte this upcoming year.

“I always had time, even if it was just for 30 minutes to pick up a guitar or to write a song,” Atwell said of the balancing that she had to do between her school work and music. “School hasn’t posed a problem yet and hopefully it won’t because I always want to have time for my music.”

Atwell plans to continue her education past a bachelor’s degree, noting that she wants to get her master’s degree in either psychology or special education and isn’t ruling out the possibility of a doctorate degree.

While a student at East Surry, Atwell participated in chorus during her sophomore and senior years, although she said she wasn’t able to during her junior year due to scheduling complications.

Atwell explained that over the years her musical tastes have evolved and she doesn’t identify with one specific type of music, rather draws from many in her performing and writing.

“I don’t fall under a specific genre, I don’t like to steer myself towards just one type of music,” Atwell said of her versatility when it comes to music.

As for her musical influences, Atwell cites recording artist Alison Krauss as being a major influence in her youth, explaining that her mother had a rather large stack of Krauss’ CDs that she listened to frequently.

“I loved the way she told stories and I try to do that in my own writing,” Atwell said of Krauss.

Other musicians that have impacted Atwell throughout different phases of her life include Nora Jones, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Rascal Flatts, adding that she gravitates toward strong female performers and writers.

As much as Atwell loves to perform, she said that her real point of pride is her songwriting, explaining that she can sometimes sit down and write a song in five minutes, but other times it can take her days to get the music and lyrics just the way she wants them.

“I get to share my life through my music,” Atwell said of why she gravitates towards songwriting.

Atwell explained that wanting to pursue a musical career didn’t come as a shock to her family, adding that everyone from her grandfather, parents and siblings either sing or play instruments.

“My family is pretty musically inclined,” Atwell said. “They’re very supportive and their support really pushes me to want to pursue my music more.”

Atwell recorded her first CD at Creekside Recording and Lesson Studio in Cana, Virginia.

Since recording her CD, Atwell said that the outpouring of support from community members and friends has been heartwarming and serves as a reminder that she’s headed in the right direction.

“There’s something humbling and rewarding when you make your town proud,” Atwell said.

Despite her big academic and musical aspirations, Atwell said that returning to Pilot Mountain is definitely in her future.

“Pilot is a great small town, I would love to raise a family here,” Atwell said.

Briana Atwell performing at The Living Room on August 4. Atwell performing at The Living Room on August 4.

By Alia Boyd

Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.

Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.

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