Twenty-one-year-old Sophie Braswell has been singing for as long as she can remember. She loves touching the lives of others through her gifts and, after some prompting from her mother, decided to throw her hat into the ring for the 2019 Statesboro Voice Competition.
Braswell was mentored by Chris Mitchell, owner of Pladd Dot Music in Statesboro, and says her experience with him was great.
“Right off the bat, he was a lot of fun to work with. He was very helpful for sure, pulling out the best in my vocals. He immediately kind of just knew what direction to go in song-wise, to pull the best out of my abilities and my vocal range. He worked with me great. He really helped me be the best that I could be,” she said.
During the competition, which was held at the Emma Kelly Theater on April 27, Braswell sang “I want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, a choice she said she and Mitchell made because “it’s an upbeat, fun song and a crowd pleaser.” She also performed, for her finale, a song she has sung many times: an arrangement of the old hymn, “It Is Well.”
For her duet with her mentor, Braswell took a little advice from last year’s Statesboro Voice winner, Miranda Winter, who suggested that the duo perform “Shallow,” which was originally performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the remake of the film, “A Star is Born.”
“She thought it would be great for my range and for my vocal style, and for Chris,” Braswell said.
Braswell calls her experience an exciting and enjoyable one, and she loved being able to support and encourage the other contestants. She was named to the top four with Christopher McCollum, Lucy McGuire and Sydney-Claire Smith.
Rounding out the field of contestants were Aleah Costoulas, Shaylin Finch and Maddy Kuhne, as well as Joshua Davis, this year’s People’s Choice winner.
Even though she has been singing for so long, Braswell was surprised to hear her name announced as the winner.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win, so I was a little shocked, because there was some great competition, for sure. I got to have fun and got to work with great musicians and great singers. I think it’s important to remember that there’s always great talent out there, but we have to always be encouraging and support one another,” she said.
As the Statesboro Voice winner, Braswell took home $1,000, and she plans to use the money to fund her trip to Nashville to record an album. She was selected by Jody McBrayer as one of 10 artists to come to Nashville to record a 10-song album after submitting a video performance. McBrayer, a Christian music artist for more than 20 years, is a former member of the group Avalon.
Although she hasn’t selected the songs for the album yet, she is sure that the style of the album will be simple, featuring her voice and the piano, and will focus on Christian music.
Braswell hopes to one day travel and sing with her own family. She is a member of Restoration Worship Center in Metter, where she and her fiancé, Caleb, are the youth leaders. She also began work at Pladd Dot Music in Statesboro recently.
Davis, an 18-year-old who has been singing since the age of 2, says he is heavily influenced by 90s R&B and the music of Michael Jackson. Davis chose to perform two Jackson songs in the competition, singing, “You Are Not Alone” and “She’s Out of My Life.”
“I didn’t really want to do anything outside of the box too much, and I really didn’t do any Michael Jackson songs last year, so this year, I really felt like I should do some sort of tribute during my performance,” he said.
This was Davis’ second year competing in Statesboro Voice, and he says his experience this time was much different than the first go around.
“It was more about it being fun instead of it just being a competition. That was the main focal point this year just, you know, everybody have fun and don’t take it too seriously,” he said.
Last year, the advice he received was to be more active on stage and move around more. He took that to heart during this year’s competition.
“That was my main objective, to show my abilities on stage, and to really get the crowd going,” he said.
Davis was mentored this year by Robin Holmes. He says that although his experience both years was great, he has accomplished what he wanted to by entering the competition and is ready to move forward. He has aspirations to write and produce his own music someday.
Davis became the People’s Choice winner with 771 votes, giving him the win by a landslide. As the winner of that award, he received $500. Davis credits family and friends who showed up and voted for him.
“And the rest is history, pretty much,” he said.
The Statesboro Voice competition is a fundraiser for the Averitt Center for the Arts Creative Growth Capital Campaign. This year’s event was sponsored by Lanier, Proctor and Deal, Statesboro STEAM, Servpro of Statesboro and Renasant Bank. Clothing for the women in the competition was provided by Frills by Scott, and The Sir Shop provided the tuxedo worn by the show’s emcee.