The Voice of Campus: Song Written by Colby-Sawyer Student Receives Grammy Consideration

Kara Colvin ’23 was in the Lethbridge Lodge at Colby-Sawyer when she got an important phone call.

“He asked me if I was with my mom, and I was like, ‘No, I'm at school.’ And so he made me call my mom so that we had a three way phone call.”

“He” is music career consultant Al Goynes, who has facilitated the careers of acts like the Beach Boys and Christina Aguilera. And the news that Goynes was calling to share was big: Kara, an aspiring singer/songwriter, had made it past the first tier of the selection process for a Grammy nomination.

Of course, it’s a long way from consideration for the ballot to an actual nomination. Tens of thousands of performers are considered, their musical performances assessed, compared and rated by some of the most influential names in the music business before the votes are tallied and the official nominees are announced. And Kara would have major competition. Her song “Fired Up” was under consideration for Best Pop Solo Performance, a category whose nominees in 2022 included Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. But, although Kara acknowledged that it would be nice to see her name beside such iconic figures, that was not necessarily her goal.

“I mean, obviously, I don't want to get my hopes up too high,” Kara said. “But even if I don't get selected for the ballot, just the fact that I got past the first stage is a big deal. Especially being an independent artist, even just getting to where I've gotten is good for pitching to labels.”

This ambition is hardly a whim. In fact, Kara has shown a natural predilection for music and songwriting since childhood.

“My mom said that we were at Disney when I was around five,” recounted Kara. “We were at the Tony's Town Square restaurant, where they had the little kids watch Lady and the Tramp. My mom told me, ‘Go watch the show.’ And I said to my mom, ‘No, I have to go write a song.’ And so I went off with my little notepad, and I wrote a song instead. And so I've apparently been writing songs for a very, very long time.”

In the years that followed, Kara continued to show a significant interest in music, learning how to play five different instruments, taking singing lessons, and even trying her hand at mixing the tracks on her first album. She also continued to experiment with songwriting, which she considers her primary focus.

“I had written a song called ‘Devil's Daughter’ when I was in freshman year of high school,” Kara said. “A lot of times songs aren't even about anyone in particular. You just come up with stories. Like, I wrote that when I was fourteen, and that song’s about like a boyfriend cheating. I'd never even had a boyfriend.”

The music industry can be fickle, and Kara has come to believe that, much like a gymnast or fashion model, a pop performer’s chances of commercial success will drop sharply after reaching a certain age. For this reason, she plans to focus on developing her career as rapidly as possible while she’s still in her early twenties.

“I want to take at least a year to really focus on the music stuff and see where I can get with it,” she said. “And I'm very lucky that my parents are on board with that.”

Ultimately, while Kara hopes to make it big and stand alongside her idols, fame isn’t the point for Kara — rather, it’s a means to an end.

“That's not the most exciting thing,” she explained. “I just want to be able to help people with my music. I want my music to touch people, but the only way you can really get to do all that kind of stuff is if you're famous, so it's a double-edged sword. But I just want people to like it and to make them happy.”

Kara later confirmed that “Fired Up” had not advanced beyond and would not be featured on the 2023 Grammy ballot, but that didn’t seem to discourage her. She still has time, and until she makes it big, she’s going to continue doing what she loves — writing and performing her music. That night, Kara was scheduled to play a show at the Lodge, the place where she’d received that exciting phone call from Goynes, to do what she does best: perform on a stage, singing her heart out for her fans.