Born c. 1979 in Salyersville, KY. Addresses: Record company--MCA Nashville, 60 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203. Website--Rebecca Lynn Howard Official Website: http://www.rebeccalynnhoward.com.
Songwriter, musician, and singer Rebecca Lynn Howard began receiving significant country radio play with "Forgive," the first single from her second album of the same name. The recording established her as a younger-generation heir to such female pop country artists as Faith Hill and Shania Twain due to Howard's physical attractiveness and her ability to record songs that blur the distinctions between country and pop. Her crossover success, however, also reveals a knack for writing strong songs that defy easy distinctions between hardcore country, pop music, New Country, and gospel. Possessing a powerful voice, which she has modeled after that of French Canadian singer Celine Dion and which has been compared to those of Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless, Howard also writes songs that have been recorded by such artists as Yearwood, John Michael Montgomery, Lila McCann, and Jessica Andrews.
Howard was born in Salyersville, Kentucky, a rural area best known for producing singer Patty Loveless, who was raised in nearby Pikeville, and Loretta Lynn, who was born and raised in nearby Butcher Holler. Howard began playing piano when she was six years old, wrote her first song at age seven, learned guitar at age ten, and picked up the fiddle when she was 14 years old. She told a CountryStars.com writer: "It was truly fascinating to me how you could take chords and make up your own song. I didn't understand the concept fully, but I knew how to make everything relate somewhat. I was like an old soul in this little girl's body." She continued, "I never thought those songs were any good, but it was the most natural thing for me to start writing. It was just like breathing."
Howard developed an affinity for country music at an early age, especially admiring the strong vocal style of Reba McEntire. The influence of McEntire blended with Howard's Pentecostal upbringing and love of bluegrass music. She later developed an appreciation for pop music singers Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston. "I always admired people who could really just sing," she told CountryStars.com. "So I guess that kind of molded my sound into what it is. It's why I write very rangy songs." With a minimal use of vibrato, Howard's voice clearly enunciates the lyrics of her songs in a style that the CountryStars.com writer described as an "unadorned style [that] displays a pitch-perfect purity that glides and soars as the songs demand." She explained to the writer: "I think that pureness goes back to my bluegrass background. I've really worked hard at establishing a style that doesn't sound like anything else. As a vocalist, it's nice for someone to say, 'You sound like Whitney Houston,' but what you want to hear is, 'Your voice is great and you don't sound like anybody else.' That's the ultimate compliment."
Howard first visited Nashville in 1989, when she was ten years old. While staying at the Opryland Hotel, a bellman recommended that the young singer attend an open-microphone session at Nashville's famous steakhouse and music venue. She took the bellman's advice and met guitarist and future music publisher Curtis Green in the Stockyard's Bullpen Lounge. After she turned 13, Howard joined the Kentucky Opry as a member of the Kentucky Opry Junior Pros. The Opry provided her with the opportunity to tour and perform songs originally recorded by Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, and Patty Loveless. She told the writer from CountryStars.com that her tenure with the Opry "gave me a lot of stage experience. I learned so much being in that group. I got really comfortable onstage and really comfortable in front of an audience."
During the 1990s, Howard kept busy as a Nashville songwriter and performing as an opening act for such country artists as Martina McBride, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Van Shelton, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, and Kenny Rogers. Her songwriting credits also appeared on recordings by such acts as John Michael Montgomery. She relocated permanently to Nashville when she was 17, signed to Rising Tide Records when she was 18, and recorded the song "Softly and Tenderly" for the label's soundtrack album to the Robert Duvall film The Apostle. When the label went out of business shortly thereafter, Decca Records picked up her contract. However, the latter label soon experienced the same fate as Rising Tide Records. MCA Nashville signed Howard, allowing her to proceed with the recording of her first album. She remembered the experience in an interview with CountryStars.com: "I live by the motto that everything happens for a reason. I never try to question anything because I know there's a much bigger plan. Now looking back on it, I realize that I wasn't ready.... I told my parents, 'If I can shut down a label as big as MCA Nashville, then I'm moving back to Salyersville.'"
Howard wrote or cowrote ten of the 12 songs on her debut album, Rebecca Lynn Howard, with Kim Williams, Jerry Salley, Carl Jackson, and Larry Cordle. While the release did not provide Howard with a hit single, two of the album's songs were later recorded by Trisha Yearwood, both ballads written by Howard: "I Don't Paint Myself into Corners" and "Melancholy Blue." Yearwood's renditions of the songs appeared on her Inside Out album. Howard's debut also features "Tennessee in My Windshield," a song detailing Howard's arrival in Nashville. About Country Musiccritic Matt Bjorke made the following assessment about the album: "With her expressive voice falling somewhere in between Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood, Rebecca Lynn Howard should be a big star. While none of the songs on this CD were hits for Rebecca, they showcase her rising talent. A wonderful debut."
Following the release of her debut album, Howard provided backing vocals to Dolly Parton's bluegrass album Little Sparrow, the Patty Loveless album Strong Heart, and the Jim Brickman album Simple Things. For her second album, Forgive, Howard worked again with Mark Wright, the producer of her first album. Trey Bruce was also recruited to help craft the album that eventually provided Howard with her first hit as a performer and a songwriter: "Forgive," which was co-written by Bruce. The song, rendered in Howard's clear, immediately recognizable voice, is distinguished by lyrics about a woman who can neither accept nor forgive her lover's infidelity. The song was originally optioned for recording by Faith Hill, who politely declined to record the song when Howard decided she wanted to record it herself. She appeared on the television drama Providence, performing "Forgive" in a college venue frequented by the show's characters. "When I first started, I had all these vocal techniques," she told CountryStars.com. "Now I just concentrate on singing the song with conviction. Having experienced what I have in my life, I don't take anything for granted. I just want to pour my heart into my music."
by Bruce Walker
Rebecca Lynn Howard's Career
Toured with Kentucky Opry variety show, served as opening act for Martina McBride, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Van Shelton, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, 1990s; recorded "Softly and Tenderly" for Robert Duvall film The Apostle, 1997; signed to Rising Tide Records, c. 1997; contract picked up by Decca Records, c. 1998; contract subsequently picked up by MCA Nashville, c. 1998; released debut album, Rebecca Lynn Howard, 2000; released second album, Forgive, 2002; performed "Forgive" on television drama Providence, 2002.
- Billboard, March 4, 2000, p. 38; April 1, 2000, p. 65.
- "Beauty and Brains," CD Shakedown, http://www.cdshakedown.com/071400.htm (October 24, 2002).
- "Featured CD Review: Rebecca Lynn Howard," CountryCharts.com,http://www.countrycharts.com/albumreviews/Howard/Howard.htm (October 24, 2002).
- "Rebecca Lynn Howard," About Country Music, http://www.countrymusic.about.com/library/reviews/aaprrebeccalynnhoward.htm (February 10, 2003).
- "Rebecca Lynn Howard," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusicguide.com (October 29, 2002).
- "Rebecca Lynn Howard," VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/howard_rebecca_lynn/bio.jhtml (October 24, 2002).
- "Rebecca Lynn Howard--Forgive," CountryStars.com, http://www.countrystars.com/artists/howard_rl.html (October 24, 2002).
- Rebecca Lynn Howard Official Website, http://www.rebeccalynnhoward.com (October 24, 2002).