Technically, Tori Sparks is a singer-songwriter, in that she sings and she writes songs.

Technically, Tori Sparks is a singer-songwriter, in that she sings and she writes songs.

But the Chicago-born, Florida-raised Nashville resident recognizes the assumptions made about an artist tagged with that label -- with any label, actually.

"I tell people I sing rock and blues," Sparks told The Beat, adding that she most often tours solo or with a single side player because "it's more affordable."

The reality is that Sparks has as much in common with Bonnie Raitt or Melissa Etheridge as Emmylou Harris or Nanci Griffith, maybe more. (Check out her latest release, Under This Yellow Sun , if you don't believe us.)

"It can be hard for me," she said. "Especially in the (United) States, the industry is so genre-specific."

Being pigeonholed (and wrongly, at that) is hardly the only challenge facing Sparks, because in the ever-proliferating world of independent artists, the first step is getting heard. Sparks has proven up to the challenge, embracing the ultimate DIY ethic -- when the record label that signed her while she was still in college went belly-up, she started her own; she handles the lion's share of her booking and publicity; there's even a YouTube video showing Sparks helping make and model her T-shirts.

"Sometimes I'm really fiercely proud" of all the work," she admitted, and "other times I think 'This is getting ridiculous.' But it's worth it.

"You're constantly beating down doors," she continued, "but sometimes something random happens that makes a bigger difference."

Sparks started playing guitar and singing in her early teens, and writing songs came soon thereafter.

"I was 16 or 17 when I started playing open mics," she said. "I was nervous, but I was OK at singing and playing, it was more about being in front of people."

A hearty helping of touring, begun while in college in Florida, has not only taken care of her confidence on-stage, but off-stage as well.

Which is a good thing, as any singer-songwriter-rocker-record label executive-publicist-manager will tell you.

For more from The Beat's interview with Tori Sparks, read the BeatBlog .