Emilee Allan, of Edwardsburg, returns to The Lerner Theatre's stage with country music band Scarletta

September 17, 2014

Emilee Allan stepped to the front of the crowd in a smoky bar on karaoke night, and the fear set in. She was a maybe a little bit too young for the spotlight and the scene. But grandpa came to the rescue, though maybe not in the way you’d expect.

Joe Cronin joined her at the mic. He started singing. Of all things, it was a Shania Twain song. And Emilee joined in and knocked it out.

Behind That Curtain is a community blog for The Elkhart Truth written by Trevor Wendzonka, the marketing manager for The Lerner Theatre and SoMa.

“Grandpa saw something in me when I was really young,” says Allan, now the personable and carefree lead singer of Scarletta, which will perform Thursday night, Sept. 18, at Elkhart’s Lerner Theatre. “He and my grandma used to babysit me, but I was a mama’s girl through and through, and I didn’t like being away from her.

“One day, grandpa bought me my first karaoke machine, and from then on, I was comfortable there and loved going over. He’d sing Shania songs all the time – he was so great about it.”

Growing up as Emily Woodill in Edwardsburg, Allan always wanted a career in music. Thanks to the encouragement of her dad, David, she started making connections and set off for Nashville. One valuable connection turned out to be Preston Brust of the LoCash Cowboys – while the name and the group might not be familiar, he collaborated in writing “You Gonna Fly,” a No. 1 hit for Keith Urban in 2011.

Brust called Allan to see if she was interested in trying out as a vocalist for Benji Harris and Nathan Stoops in Scarletta.

“I hadn’t talked with Preston for a year when he called me out of the blue. He said these guys really need a singer - I literally met them on a Tuesday, rehearsed on Wednesday and went on the road with them Thursday,” Allan says. “By Sunday, after three shows, they said I could have the job if I wanted it.

Scarletta, with guest Paul Erdman

Showtime: 7 p.m. Sept. 18

Location: The Lerner Theatre, 410 S. Main St. in Elkhart

Tickets: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for students (10 percent discount with Gateway Mile card). Tickets available at www.thelerner.com.

“It was a really cool experience. I love spontaneity – this just came out of the blue, and I didn’t hesitate to say I’m down.”

Allan added her vocals to the already mastered album, and the band kept rolling. Scarletta’s credentials in the past year include a spot on Billboard’s top 10 country artists to watch and a 150-date tour, primarily in the Midwest and South.

She says she wanted to just fit in during her early days with the trio, but about six months in, she started to assert her style.

“I was totally being myself on stage, but as a musician, I wasn’t really doing my thing,” she says. “They were so welcoming to that. … We’re a little country, a little rock. Personally, I love blues music. I keep asking them if we can bring in a couple of horns – let’s try it. I’m writing our new single, and really, ‘anything goes’ is the new rule.”

Allan is no stranger to The Lerner stage. She opened for the late George Jones in October 2011, then returned for her own CD launch concert in early 2012. Thursday’s show marks her first back in town with Scarletta.

“I would love to break out with Benji and Nathan, and with all the build-up, next year will really determine where we stand in the industry,” she says. “Scarletta is helping me grow my strengths and pick out my weaknesses so I can improve. Getting our single on the radio or 10 years down the road – who knows? The music industry has no security in it. We could be on the radio next week and everybody will say we made it! Then that could be it for us, the rest of our careers.

“My goal is to always be doing something in music. I’d always want the possibility to go on stage and interact with people. Being on the road is one of my favorite things. We don’t have people to load in and load out for us – we have a 15-passenger van and trailer, and I help set everything up, even the merch table. Whatever happens, I know I put in the hours every single show – it makes me feel good that I’m earning it.”