NEPA Scene’s Got Talent spotlight: Scranton singer Awnshae Smith
Every week of NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, our free open mic and talent competition at Thirst T’s Bar & Grill in Olyphant, we feature a quick Q&A with the latest audience vote winner, which was young Scranton singer and ukulele player Awnshae Smith on Sept. 15.
The weekly winner receives $50 in cash, courtesy of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and the headlining slot for the following Tuesday, and all other performers are encouraged to compete again as often as they’d like or simply show off their talents for fun. The event is sponsored by Samuel Adams; LT Verrastro, Inc.; Fireball Cinnamon Whisky; Fuzz 92.1; TwentyFiveEight Studios; and Thirst T’s.
After 12 weeks, the 12 winners will face off against each other at the Finals Showcase on Dec. 1 in front of a panel of local celebrities who will determine the winner of the grand prize – a winter getaway package with ski passes and more, $250, an interview broadcast on Fuzz 92.1, and a free 10-hour recording session at TwentyFiveEight Studios in Scranton. The second place winner will receive $100.
We asked Smith, a 15-year-old 10th grade student at Scranton High School, about winning Week 3 with her take on songs like Sam Cooke‘s “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On,” also famously covered by Adele.
NEPA SCENE: How did you hear about NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, and what made you decide to come perform last week?
AWNSHAE SMITH: I saw some things about NEPA Scene on Facebook, and one day my mom tagged me in the competition post. It looked like a lot of fun, so I started looking up songs to perform.
NS: For those who don’t know you yet, tell us a bit about your background as a musician.
AS: I think I started getting into music when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I really enjoyed singing in my elementary school shows, and my ballet theater had just started up Green Ridge Youth Theatre, so I joined up with that. The first musical was “Annie Jr.,” where I played Tessie, and it all just went up from there.
I also competed in many school talent shows and won a few. Now I’m a Scranton Knight Rhythm, which is my high school’s traveling choir. I just hope that I can still fit track, step team, and diving into there.
In regards to my ukulele, I got into string instruments when I was in 4th grade. I played violin from 4th to 6th, and switched between viola and cello throughout middle school. One day, I was browsing Guitar Center and I fell in love with the uke. I got one for Christmas and taught myself how to play.
NS: What are some of your favorite songs to cover?
AS: I absolutely love soulful songs that I can tweak to my own style, but I also really enjoy quirky little tunes for fun.
NS: Who are your biggest musical influences?
NS: Have you created any original songs, or are you working on any currently?
AS: I have a notebook dedicated to songwriting that I have mostly filled up; I’m just really shy when it comes to sharing the songs. I feel like they’re really personal, and I have to get used to the idea of letting other people into my head.
NS: Is music something that you’d like to pursue as a career or is it just for fun?
AS: My whole life, I’ve wanted to be a famous singer, but honestly, I think that had something to do with me being young and thinking I was the only singer in the world. As I’m getting older, it’s more about expression and bringing enjoyment to others. I still would love to do something in the music industry, but as a Plan B, being an English minor, a criminologist, or a lawyer would be wicked.
NS: You were featured by Ryan Leckey on WNEP-TV. What was that experience like?
AS: I actually went to “Leckey Live” just to see and support my younger cousin, Tanner, play his drums, but then Ryan asked what I did and I told him that I sang. It was really exciting and surprising to be put out there like that.
NS: What was your immediate reaction when you won the audience vote last week?
AS: I was super-duper surprised that I won last week, since there were so many great acts and they all seemed so much more seasoned. It was a pretty nice feeling to win.
NS: Why do you think you won the audience vote?
AS: I’m still confused as to why I won, but I like to think that I won because I was different.
NS: How will you spend your $50 prize?
AS: I need to buy my own step team uniform (since my school doesn’t fund us), so it’ll go towards that. And maybe some hair products.
NS: What are you most looking forward to about the Finals Showcase?
AS: I’m looking forward to meeting more new people and seeing what local talent we have around here in NEPA.
NS: What is your opinion of the local arts and entertainment scene? What is great about it, and what needs improvement?
AS: I think that the local arts scene is wicked. Most of the people are so nice, and it’s awesome to know there are so many other people like me who just enjoy music and art that I can relate to. I wish that all the talented individuals were better recognized.
NS: Where can people find your music online?
AS: I post a couple covers on my Instagrams. My main account is @awnshae, which has a few old covers, and my music account is @shae.music. I also plan to start posting full covers on YouTube and SoundCloud, so stayed tuned for those details!
For more information on Season 2 of NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, which is always free and open to anyone, click here.
See more photos from last week’s event here.
Photo by Daring Damsel
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.