If you could only hear her, you wouldn’t guess Shannon Fitzsimmons was only 14. Armed with a guitar and a sugary set of pipes, this ambitious young musician sounds like a seasoned folk singer in her 20’s.
“When I was six I remember looking through a magazine and saw a picture of a guitar,” Fitzsimmons recalled. “I decided I really wanted one.”
Influenced by her musical uncles at family reunions, she was mesmerized by their songs and harmonies. The next year, she brought her own instrument (the guitar she wished for) to the family jam and the rest is history.
Over the years she has taken formal guitar lessons and learned a thing or two from her uncles. She also sings in her school choir and performs in musicals. The stage is an organic extension of Fitzsimmons musical personality.
This summer she has broadened her performing horizons and played a few gigs at events like the 11th annual Realties Ride and Rally For Children and Women Rock The Night.
Crowds receive her well. They cheer and clap and sometimes they even cry.
“That makes me feel good,” Fitzsimmons said. “Especially if I’m crying too.”
She likes to play contemporary songs, “stuff that everyone likes to listen to,” but puts her own twist on them. She’s turned Kanye West’s, Heartless, into a Taylor Swift-y type rendition that’s a little breath taking to hear when Fitzsimmons belts out the lyrics with raw emotion.
“People tell me sometimes that they like my versions better.”
Recently she opened for Tickle me Pink at the Aggie. A little daunted by a crowd she wasn’t quite used to, she started out with her own version of Leonard Cohen’s, Halleluiah. The crowd hushed and listened but soon went back to socializing.
But don’t let her angelic appearance fool you. She’ll throw a mean petite punch of passion right in your face from the bottom of her lungs, like she did when she ended her set with belt-y version of Bobby McGee.
“I got a beer cheers for that one,” Fitzsimmons laughed, recalling how people in the crowd toasted her with their drinks and hoots and hollers.
When asked how she felt playing a venue like the Aggie, Fitzsimmons admitted it was kind of scary but it was also fun getting a little taste of rock stardom.
“I got to go backstage. That was really cool.”
Fitzsimmons writes her own songs too, though she’s a confessed perfectionist so only two are self-approved for public consumption. Another Day is a song for outcasts and those feeling down. Inspired by a friend’s suicide, the lyrics aim to encourage those to feel better about themselves and life. Without You is “kind of a cheesy love song” but a lot of girls my age can relate to it. She’s working on one called, Vincent, influenced by Van Goh’s painting, Starry Night, which features some intricate guitar riffs. She’s also teaching herself to play the piano.
A child prodigy in the works? Not so much.
“I don’t want to become famous…well maybe in Fort Collins,” Fitzsimmons said. “My goal is to make people happy with my music. I don’t want to be like those people that get famous and then loose their mind.”
With her first year of high school on the horizon this fall, Fitzsimmons worries about academics.
“I want to get good grades,” she said. “I don’t know if being famous for me would be the best thing.”
Until she cracks the books, though, she’ll be singing away this summer, “trying to get better and better.”
You can catch her next performance on Saturday, August 4th at the 2012 Carbon Valley Music Festival in Dacono (just north of Thornton).