Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols nominated for vocalist, band of the year in Nashville, Tenn.
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Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols nominated for vocalist, band of the year in Nashville, Tenn.

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MATTOON — Singing has always been a passion and a dream for Missy Gawthorp.

Gawthorp, who grew up in Mattoon, got her first taste of the spotlight in middle school by becoming involved in choir and school plays.

“I started performing at a very young age, and it became more of a passion as I got older,” Gawthorp said.

Music was also a family affair for Gawthorp. Her dad was a musician for more than 20 years in a country band and her sister was in a top 40 pop band.

As she grew up, Gawthorp never lost her love for performing, which evolved into singing at county fairs in the area and eventually to a job at WMCI Radio in Mattoon, as a promotions director and on-air personality.

By working for WMCI from 2000 to 2004, Gawthorp said she met many celebrities, which fueled her to want to succeed in the music world even more than she wanted to in the past.

“It was so neat to see that side of the music business and learn how it worked,” she said.

While living in Mattoon, Gawthorp performed under the stage name of Missy Garnett and opened shows for big names such as: Keith Urban, Trace Adkins and Gary Allen.

Gawthorp said she goes by the stage name of Garnett because people have a hard time pronouncing her real last name. She added that garnet is also her favorite color birthstone.

As Gawthorp continued to perform she knew in order to make it big she would have to move to Nashville, Tenn.

That day finally came about eight years ago when her husband Bob got a job offer in Tennessee.

“I have always wanted to go to Nashville, but I was just waiting for the right opportunity,” she said. “That was our sign that we were supposed to make the move now. It worked in my favor, but it does take a lot to get things started.”

Gawthorp and her family moved to Smyrna, Tenn., in 2005 and Gawthorp said she played with three different bands before forming the group she is in right now called Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols.

The band includes: Gawthorp on lead vocals; John Pineiro, lead guitar and vocals; David Show, bass, vocals and songwriter; Bob Lewin, keyboards; and Kevin Lewin, drums.

Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols formed in January 2013 and mainly play cover songs from a wide variety of music, such as country and pop.

“We have been busier then we have ever been,” Gawthorp said. “It takes time to build that following of fans. “If I lived back in Illinois it would be so much easier because my friends and family are there, but after playing in Tennessee for a while people start taking notice of you. We have to start our way from the bottom and work our way up.”

Gawthorp added that it’s hard for musicians and singers to break through the business in Nashville because of the large amount of competition.

“When you move to Nashville you have to understand there is so much competition out there,” she said. “There is always going to be someone better, but you just need to be the best you that you can possibly be and you just have to keep crafting what you want to be. And as a female artist it’s very hard because you’re going up against the likes of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood —- those are powerhouse voices and you can’t even compare.”

As a mother to her 15-year-old son Jacob and a wife to her husband of 21 years, Bob, Gawthorp said family comes first. Right now Gawthorp focuses on her music career part-time, in addition to working full-time as a legal assistant at an attorney’s office in Nashville.

On the weekends Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols play as many shows as they possibly can to gain exposure, a move that paid off for the band because they have been nominated for vocalist of the year and band of the year for the 2014 Nashville Universe Awards.

“We were playing in a club in Tennessee and a promoter who came into the club saw us play and then told us he had nominated us for the awards to get us more notoriety in the Nashville community,” Gawthorp said. “We aren’t expecting anything. It would be great if we did win, but it’s just an honor to be nominated. Something like this doesn’t just happen every day.”

Even if her band doesn’t win, Gawthorp said Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols will continue to play shows in hopes of one day becoming famous.

“Music for me is an emotion,” Gawthorp said. “A connection to music is something you feel in your heart and mind. I’m passionate about music the older I get — it’s what makes me happy and I’m having a great time doing it.”

The next chapter for Missy Garnett & The Two Dollar Pistols is to record their first album and eventually get a record deal and tour.

“We would love to go forward in a big way,” she said. “My biggest goal is to one day perform on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. If I could do that once in my life then I would be a happy girl. I know it’s a long shot, but I’m never going to stop dreaming.”

Anyone can vote for the Nashville Universe Awards and can do so by going to www.thenashvilleuniverse.com. Votes will be taken until Jan. 31, and the awards will be announced Feb. 17.

Contact Bilharz at sbilharz@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6839.

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