Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
A few years back this writer was tapped to emcee and help judge a Battle of the Country Bands contest at a local roadhouse. Even if country music isn't your thing, it's wildly popular outside the Portland city core, and there’s an army of talented country artists in our midst.
The standout winner of that year's competition was Carrie Cunningham & The Six Shooters—a tight, versatile band of stellar players, led by a petite dynamo who owns the stage the moment she arrives. You wouldn't guess that the brunette wailing Miranda Lambert covers hasn't always been a social butterfly.
"I was an extreme introvert until I met my husband," Carrie says. "A completely different person off stage —you would find me in a corner watching people versus interacting with people." She says her mate helped her become comfortable with herself, and subsequently, with others.
Hearing her sing, you'd also never guess her big voice hasn’t been turning heads since she was a kid. But growing up in Nebraska, Carrie says she really only sang around the house.
"I remember in 5th grade, my mom liked having me do her hair and make-up," says Carrie. "I'd be curling her hair, singing along to Sylvia on the radio."
Carrie developed an affinity for animals at a very young age — dogs in particular. "My mom loved cats, but my favorite pet was our golden Lab, Ashley," remembers Carrie. "It was traumatic for us when we lost her to cancer."
The family moved to Spokane shortly after that, and it was there a 6th-grade teacher noticed Carrie's talent, and encouraged the shy, self-described "ugly duckling" to join the chorus. There she developed her singing chops, but Carrie says it was watching Reba McEntire, Diana Ross, and Barbara Mandrell that taught her how to charm an audience.
"They took me out of my shell as far as performance goes," she says.
These days, Carrie is a long way from the awkward kid who was teased in middle school. In addition to a sassy style that often includes vintage Corral cowboy boots, she's also found her place as a respected local performer and songwriter who regularly travels to Nashville to collaborate with other musicians. In fact, she recently achieved one of her musical goals by accompanying herself on guitar on stage in Music City.
"Normally I rely on someone else to do it so I can really focus on my stage presence and singing," she says. "I was so nervous that after my first song, I thought I was gonna get sick!" She finished an hour-long set, however, and vows to play guitar on stage more often from here on.
Another goal on Carrie's bucket list is a bit more high-profile. "Win a Grammy," she says bashfully."I would love to win an award that pertains to my music."
Obviously, someone that driven has very little downtime, but when she does, Carrie likes to indulge her inner homebody by binge-watching House of Cards and hanging out with her family. She and her husband Tim have a full house, including daughter Laney, sons Justice and Keenan, as well as Sandy the Peek-a-Poo and a year-old white Siberian Husky named Addison.
"They lift your spirits," Carrie says of her pets. "And they don't talk back!"
Want to have your spirits lifted with no back talk? Catch Carrie Cunningham & The Six Shooters at one of their upcoming shows. You’ll be wowed by the lead singer and have a great time...even if country music really isn't your thing.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.