WILLIAMSON — More than two decades of perfecting her craft has given Renea Jones a powerful voice and an intense desire to succeed in the cutthroat, over-saturated world of the music business.
Those adjectives notwithstanding, the 28-year-old county vocalist from Delbarton, with a background in rock music as well as opera, is undeterred in her quest for fame and glory.
“I’ve been singing all my life,” Renea told the Daily News. “I’d see the county musicians on the TV and think, ‘I could do that.’”
While she said that she was motivated by the likes of Martina McBride, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion, Renea said that she had a unique voice; one that could hit high notes somewhere in between McBride and Dion.
She shared a story of her first major performance. A time in which she found herself on-stage in junior high performing in front of around 200 people. She finished in third place with her rendition of Bette Middler’s “From a Distance.”
“It was the best experience ever,” Renea said. “I was so nervous. Once it was over, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
She has gone on to perform at other events as well, including Septemberfest in Louisa, Ky., and other contests, charities and fundraisers.
Once she finishes a song and those familiar sounds of hands slapping against hands hits her ears, it validates her aspirations in music.
“When the applause comes it feels that this (performing) was what I was born to do,” Renea said.
By day, however, Renea is a nurse, working in the Intensive Care Unit at the Pikeville Medical Center. When not singing on a stage, she said that she sings at home, at work, in the shower, car and to her dog: a Shih Tzu named Oliver.
“When I sing, if he likes it he’ll paw at me,” Renea said. “If I’m not, he runs and hides under the bed.”
Her profession, though, has changed her life in a big way, she said. It also prepared her for performing and functions as something else.
“It has opened my eyes. It’s a back-up plan for when I move to Nashville, Tenn.,” Renea said. “I watch people die every day and I have to try and cope with the families. It’s a similar rush of adrenaline I get when I perform.”
She said that her mother, Teresa, convinced her to have a back-up plan when she was 18-years-old.
“I’ve been taking care of people all my life. My mom was a Certified Nursing Assistant. Before that, she worked at Walmart. She took off work to care for my grandma who had cancer,” Renea said. “I would always help whenever I got out of school. My mom never had an education; she pounded it into me to get one.”
She said that when her mother married her stepfather, it gave her mother the opportunity to pursue a career, thus becoming a CNA.
“I come from humble beginnings,” Renea said. “I remember eating only mashed potatoes and chicken legs. I remember when mom married, we went out to a restaurant. I remember saying ‘I can order anything I want?’
“It’s been a crazy road, but I wouldn’t go down any other one,” she said.
She recalled a time when she and her family lost everything in a massive flood and had to live in a camper for a year. Being cramped in a camper with her family, she said, made her more appreciative of everything she once took for granted.
“Once the house was fixed, I was in heaven,” Renea said.
But now she’s out and on her own, and has a boyfriend.
“He’s very supportive. He tells me all the time that I should quit work,” she said with a laugh. “He comes to my shows when he can. He works in the coal mines.”
While her primary goal is to play her own music, she already has a bit of experience in that regard considering that roughly five years ago she was in a rock band called “Cold Harbor.”
“I sang ‘Evanescence’ and Gwen Stefani songs,” Renea said. “We eventually lost touch. Those were the best days.”
Renea also went into her opera background with the Daily News.
“I took (opera) thinking it was normal singing lessons,” she said. “I love all music, but this was challenging.”
But that’s no problem to her.
“I love challenges,” she said. “I auditioned at Morehead State University and got a scholarship to actually sing opera.”
She didn’t follow through with it, but did share her operatic voice within the Daily News’ office. She received a number of high-praise compliments from the employees inside.
“I sing opera to warm up. It’s all about feeling it. I don’t know where it comes from and I have no idea what I’m saying,” Renea said, laughing.
Her dream is to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, but said that she’d like to just visit Nashville, as she’s never been there.
“I just want to perform there once,” she said of the Grand Ole Opry. “But I’d prefer more times though.”
As the eighth addition to the Lyrick Talent Group Inc. roster, she will be accompanying seven other professional recording artists to perform at an Autism benefit concert in Louisville, Ky. The concert also functions as an audition for both “America’s Got Talent,” and “American Idol.”
Within one year, Renea predicts herself to be a more powerful singer with more stage presence. She said that she had recently been taking guitar lessons and hoped to reach a point within that same time-frame to be able to sing and play at the same time.
In five years, however, she said that she would “love to have my own album out with original songs on it. I’d love to have my own video and perform at the Grand Ole Opry.”
It remains to be seen where Renea Jones will be going, but she knows exactly where she has come from.