Emily West is no stranger to the music industry. In fact, the former country star is quite well known in Nashville, having debuted on Billboard Hot Country Songs in 2008 with her single Rocks In Your Shoes, and later in 2010 with Blue Sky. She’s been singing and song-writing professionally for the past eight years, and has performed alongside illustrious country singers like Keith Urban. While West has enjoyed her experiences in Nashville, she’s come to realize that the country genre isn’t for her, and hopes that her performance on AGT will be a fresh new start.
West received a standing ovation from all the judges for her live performance at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know about the songbird.
1. She Appeared on ABC’s ‘Body of Proof’
In 2012, West appeared in an episode of Body of Proof called Shades of Blue. She played a drug addict named Kirsten trying to make it in the music business, and performs her hit single Head On at the end of the episode.
Emily told The Boot that the role of Kirsten had been in the works for a while but she was shocked to actually get the part.
When the phone rang in my Nashville apartment and the caller I.D said it was from California, I knew it had to be the casting director from ‘Body of Proof’ telling me, ‘I’m sorry but we went with somebody else to play the part of Kristen. I knew it had to be a rejection. After all, it was my first time auditioning for anything under a big time network series.
ABC Senior Vice President of Music Dawn Soler, however, called West to tell her she did, in fact, land the role. The song she ended up singing for the episode, called Head On, was written by one of West’s good friends Trent Dabbs, and matched the delicacy of both West’s character in the show, and the show itself.
2. She Was Signed to Capitol Records
After graduating from Waterloo West High School in 2000, West moved from Waterloo, Iowa, to Nashville in the hopes of pursuing her dreams of being a country music singer. She recalls moving with only $562 in her pocket. She told Great American Country,
I had the young, dumb and stupid thing on my side and no one was going to talk me out of it. I didn’t even know how to pay my bills.
After being in Nashville for only a month, West landed a deal with Warner-Chapell, and then with Capitol Records after producer Mike Dungan heard her demo tapes. She teamed up with Jeremy Stover and Mark Bright to work on her first album.
West’s first self-titled EP was released on iTunes on December 11, 2007, which was accompanied by a feature in People Magazine and a media tour. She described her first album as a concept record about her life.
I’m an open book. If I get really sad or excited, I can’t just put it in my heart and carry it with me—I need to talk about it. Writing songs is the same way for me.
3. She Won $25,000 On ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?’
In 2009, West appeared on the Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, where she won $25,000. In an interview with The Huffington Post, West said
Answering questions … oh, gosh … I’m not good with education. I’m good with being made over, but I’m not good with education. I can sit in a makeup chair and be redone but … oh, my gosh! … I think I broke out in hives, I was so nervous. I was on the plane and I was drinking gin and tonics and I was studying, you know, History for Dummies. And, oh my gosh, it just wore me out.
The money West raised on the show went towards the Alzheimer Foundation of America.
4. She Recorded a Song With Keith Urban
West’s song with Keith Urban did extremely well. Urban contributed his vocals and guitar skills to the song, titled Blue Sky, which was co-written by West and Gary Burr. The song is about her parents divorce after 32 years of marriage, and is written from the point of view of her mother.
West told Great American Country,
I wrote it because I didn’t have any money to go to therapy. There’s something really powerful about saying, ‘I’m not your blue sky anymore. I’m not going to be the good thing in your life.’ I have a love/hate relationship with this song because it’s so real.
West’s favorite country song is Holly Williams’ Keep the Change.
5. She Sang For The Beatles 50th Anniversary Celebration
In February 2014, West performed at the Beatles 50th Anniversary Celebration at New York’s Apollo Theater alongside other illustrious singers like Melissa Manchester, Al Jardine, Tommy James, and Gary DeCarlo.