Brittany McLamb is ready to prove you can come home again, and that you can do it in grand fashion.
She’ll try her hand at doing both come Jan. 23 when she returns to the area as an accomplished singer and recording artist, performing in neighboring Harnett County at the Stewart Theater in Dunn.
McLamb, the daughter of Sara and Jimmy McLamb of Salemburg, wanted to perform in native Sampson but, she said, there wasn’t a venue she could book during the time she would be in North Carolina. “Dunn is close to home, really right over the county line, so I thought if I can’t do it right in Sampson, I’ll do it as close as I can.”
The spunky 31-year-old said she is excited about returning to her roots, the place she readily admits instilled in her the love of music that pulses through her veins.
“I love my home, love coming back here and love that I can sing. Music is me, there’s no question about it.”
McLamb shared her musical journey during a recent telephone interview, bubbling over with excitement as she recalled her life growing up in Salemburg, the road she traveled to get to Nashville and her hopes for the coming year and the concert she’s putting in for “home folk.”
“I am so excited about this concert. I get goose bumps just talking about it. This is going to be so special for me; I cannot wait to get back there.”
One reason it will be special, McLamb acknowledged, is because it will be the first time her sister has ever seen her perform with a live band. “It just dawned on me about a month ago, and I thought, ‘wow’ that is going to make this event even more special. To say I’m super excited about this opportunity would be an understatement.”
McLamb plans to perform all her original material and, as she mentioned, will do so with a live band. “It’s the first time I’ve ever had a show where I’m not singing cover songs. I’ll perform some cover songs, sure, but it will be mostly the material I’ve written.”
She labels herself and her music as a mix between traditional and contemporary country with a bluegrass influence. “That’s a little weird, I know, but it’s really how I think of my music. It’s hard to pigeon hole it for sure. When I was little, I just wanted to sing; now people ask me what I sing and this is what I came up with. When you hear me sing, the sound, well it makes more sense.”
The road to Nashville
Brittany McLamb grew up in Salemburg, attended the Lakewood District schools and graduated from Lakewood High in 2003. Music seemed to always be a constant in her life from a very young age.
“I guess it all really started when I sang in the church youth choir and then, later, in my first beauty pageant,” she recalled.
She was around 7 then, and loved being part of the church choir, so much so, in fact, that she eventually wanted to do some things solo. When she entered the Little Miss Salemburg pageant and won, it opened a door no one actually expected.
Although you didn’t have to have a talent to be in the pageant, the winner had to perform when she gave up the title. McLamb, who had taken dance since kindergarten, woke everyone up when dance wasn’t the talent she wanted to highlight at the end of her reign. Instead she told her mom she wanted to sing.
“My mother nearly fell out,” McLamb recalled, laughing. “I’d never even mentioned wanting to sing before, so there was no question she was nervous for me. I mean, I had never actually sang a solo in public before either, and I guess she realized how traumatic it might be for me.”
But trauma never entered McLamb’s mind, only the opportunity to sing, and from the moment she belted out the first note in front of that audience, she was admittedly hooked.
“I loved it. Honestly, I can’t really put into words how it felt that day. But the truth is, I’ve never lost that feeling nor that love. Music is who I am.”
Ever since that first performance, McLamb has found a way to be involved in music, recording cover songs at Circle Sound studio in Newton Grove when she was in the fifth and sixth grade. “I just wanted to sing, and I was blessed to be able to do so.”
For McLamb, music, she said, was a way of finding her own “happy place,” somewhere she could be herself and express herself in her own unique way.
But even though music was — and still is — her first love, when she graduated, McLamb attended East Carolina University, majoring in what she called a “safe” course of study — social work. “It’s an admirable profession and I knew I needed something to fall back on, even though all I really wanted to do was sing.”
With her degree in one hand and an itch in the other, McLamb weighed her options, deciding that social work just wasn’t her calling. Music, on the other hand, was. “So as soon as I graduated college, I moved to Nashville. I knew if I wanted to sing, and sing country, that’s where I needed to be.
“Look, that’s where my head was. I called my mama and told her social work wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, that I needed to be in Nashville. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had my family’s support, even when they probably thought I was nuts.”
McLamb has been in Nashville now eight years. Her day job, as she calls it, is working as an administrative assistant for a sales company. But at night she comes alive, singing her songs at venues across the country music capital and beyond.
“Actually I try to book things out of Nashville as often as I can. In many ways, I think that’s smarter.”
In addition to playing clubs, McLamb and her music can be found on YouTube, she has a Facebook page, Facebook.com/BrittanyMcLambmusic, her own website, www.brittanymclamb.com, and she just released a music video in October, a live performance. And she’s now completed her first webcast.
“I’m living the dream in many ways. I get to do what I love and there aren’t all that many people who can say that.”
Among those dreams is returning home to perform, a dream she will realize on Jan. 23 when she hits the Stewart Theater stage as the main act.
It’s being dubbed the hometown show even though it’s a few miles from Salemburg. “It’s close enough to my house that I can call it a hometown show. And, after all, I’m hoping and praying I’ll be performing to a lot of hometown folks, as well as some newcomers, too.”
It’ll be a family affair of sorts, considering that her cousin, Lauren McLamb, will be her opening act, performing a 30-45 minute show of her own.
“My set will be about an hour, so people will be entertained during a nearly two-hour show; I think they’ll really enjoy it, at least I hope they will,” Brittany McLamb noted.
The bluegrass band Grass Towne will perform with her. She calls the show uptempo but not as high energy as say a Miranda Lambert concert. “There will be some country, some bluegrass, some ballads, something for everyone I think.”
And afterwards, they’ll be a meet-and-greet catered with snack foods provided by Simplly Southern Catering, a time, McLamb said, when she will have time to talk to family and friends and meet new acquaintances.
“This is an opportunity in a lifetime for me. To come home, to see my friends and family and to be able to perform my music … it doesn’t get much better than that for me. I’m very blessed,”McLamb said.
The Dunn show begins at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23, but the doors open at 6. Tickets can be purchased through McLamb’s website, www.BrittanyMcLamb.com or by going directly to Brown Paper Tickets.com and search her name.
“I really hope people will come out. I plan to give them their money’s worth.”
Reach Publisher and Editor Sherry Matthews at 910-249-4612, and follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960. Like The Sampson Independent on Facebook and follow the paper @SampsonInd.