Sounds Like: Terri Clark, Heidi Newfield
Hometown: Warren, Ohio (The proud Buckeye even recorded a regional hit called 'Ohio,' which was adopted by
Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel and played for over 100,000 people in Ohio Stadium during every home game.)
Why We Dig Her: Karli, whose arts-obsessed parents were into rock and pop, also had plenty of country music to listen to at home. But her first passion for performing arrived in a different art-form.
"I started dancing at three and continued through high school," she says. "I was good, but more importantly it was great experience for putting together my performance as a singer."
While she won championships and competed at the national level, Karli initially battled stage fright when first transitioning to singing in front of an audience. "Finally, my mom said to me, 'The basement walls can't be your audience.' So I had to conquer that fear."
With classical voice training at 12, she soon entered singing contests and was performing with area bands at 14. Karli reveals that one of country music's most iconic performers changed "everything" for her, when she heard one of his songs for the first time. The song was 'Unanswered Prayers,' and the performer, of course, Garth Brooks.
"Over the years the thing that has always struck me about him -- whether it was through a CD, an iPod or from a stage to the very back row of a stadium -- was his ability to make you feel like he was singing directly to you and nobody else," she explains. "That one-on-one connection was his hallmark, it's something all the greats can do and it's definitely something I try to emulate in my career."
Making her first trip to Nashville at 15, she began visiting Music City on a monthly basis after graduating from high school, and was also opening shows for Taylor Swift, Phil Vassar, Darryl Worley and Joe Nichols, among others. While she has enjoyed regional success on her home turf, thanks in part to the success of 'Ohio,' Karli concedes that she is mainly a singer at this point in her career, but that's not keeping her from aspiring to the hyphenated title of full-fledged singer-songwriter.
"The voice is the instrument for the song and we have a rule when we're recording that the best song wins," she notes. "So far, those have mostly been songs by other writers, but I'm working hard at becoming a better writer. Not because I feel a strong need to write my own material, but because I enjoy how it challenges me in a way that's very different from the way I challenge myself to improve as a performer and vocalist."
Karli's latest single, the bitingly funny, 'I Didn't,' was penned by Sherrié Austin, but Karli's connection to it and the other sassy, attitude-heavy material to which this Midwestern gal is drawn have helped define her as an artist and created a connection to fans as well. (Listen to 'I Didn't' here.)
"I'm a very honest person," she says. "Maybe too honest and blunt. But attitude songs fit me very well and tend to be what I gravitate toward in an uptempo. On the other end of the spectrum, I love the Reba-style rip-your-soul-out ballad. That's just special to country music."