The Beat - McCoy Center gala preview
Jazz artist Anna Wilson is among a host of modern jazz artists making waves, joining the likes of Norah Jones, Diana Krall and Michael Buble in attracting attention from traditional jazz and crossover pop audiences.
Country songwriter Anna Wilson migrated from Pennsylvania to Nashville, where she has penned songs for artists including Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Cagle and others.
You're forgiven if you thought perhaps these were two different Anna Wilsons.
"I moved (to Nashville) to find my voice as an artist but also for the opportunity to write songs," Wilson told The Beat. "I thought at the time I might pursue country as an artist, but I found out it was not a fit for my voice."
Having grown up in a home where one parent was a jazz aficionado and the other a classic country music buff, and having re-introduced herself to the piano in college as a basis for writing songs, Wilson found her muse kept pulling her toward jazz.
"(Jazz) has always been in my bloodstream," she said. "It has such a classic sound to it. You can't help but think of your grandma when you hear jazz. And when you hear it at a wedding, nobody crunches their nose. It's for you no matter how old or young you are."
So Wilson's most recent record, Countrypolitan, marries not only her two youthful influences but her two professional worlds. The CD is a collection of duets featuring Wilson and different country music artists performing old-time country songs, including Walkin' After Midnight, You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me and Just For What I Am.
"This project blurred a lot of lines," she explained. "And I got to play inside both sandboxes. It was kind of freeing."
Wilson hatched Countrypolitan as a way to both work with her contemporaries and honor her idols.
"Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts – those guys are my neighbors, and we grew up in the (Nashville songwriting) industry together," Wilson said. "They're my peers. It just made sense. And it's harder for them to come and do what I do. It's such a niche thing.
"But I also wanted to pay tribute to the songwriters in addition to the artists," she added, "and to shine a light on these classic country songs."
The record also features more "classic" country artists like Connie Smith and Kenny Rogers, as well as jazzmen like Larry Carlton and Rick Braun.
Wilson also hopes that, as folks discover the project, they might also discover artists both new and classic from either genre.
"If someone through this finds Lady Antebellum and then finds Patsy Cline. ... That's how seeds get planted," she said.