Tacoma singer has eyes on Nashville success


By John Larson

A local country/pop singer is off to an impressive start to her career. Abigail Neilson grew up in Tacoma, where her first foray into performing began at Tacoma City Ballet. She spent several years in the program there, before she stopped at age 13 after spraining both of her knees and tearing some tendons. While at home healing from her injuries, her mother purchased her a guitar as a Christmas present. Learning from the book of music and lyrics for the Taylor Swift album “Speak Now,” Neison performed several of the songs on stage while a student at Jason Lee Middle School. A big fan of Swift, Neilson has seen her in concert four times.

Soon after, she performed at WE Day, an event put on by Tacoma Public Schools. Finding singing a more enjoyable activity than ballet, Neilson decided to pursue a career in music. Instead of enrolling in a traditional high school, she did an online program through the school district, graduating earlier this year. Neilson said the online schooling allowed her to get an education while balancing her musical activities, such as live shows and vocal lessons. An outgoing young woman who enjoys performing in front of a crowd, it seems odd for Neilson to describe herself as introverted a few years ago. She felt the online schooling was better suited for her personality than going to a traditional school. “I am not good at making friends,” she said with a laugh. Her grades improved from Cs to As and Bs, she added.

Neilson has made a number of trips to Nashville. In April she was there with a producer to record some songs. The video for one of them, “Without You,” was recently released. She spent a week in Music City, staying in a hotel and spending her days in the studio. She travels with her mother. While an adult at age 19, Neilson noted that she cannot drive a rental car until she turns 25, so her mother acts as her chauffer.

She was in Nashville in July for a songwriting conference. She gave six or seven performances while there, as well as hitting a few open mics. Neilson is interested in working as a songwriter in Nashville, noting that several country singers she admires got their start writing for other artists.

Neilson plans to put five songs on an EP. Releasing a song now is a way to get people to anticipate the future EP.

Neilson works through a booking agency that gets her work performing at Sea-Tac Airport, as well as gigs for clients such as Amazon, Microsoft and the park system in Seattle.

“I like to look at myself as a small business owner,” Neilson said. Living with her parents helps with her living expenses, but she spends her own money on things related to her singing and performing, such as lessons, videos, travel expenses and stage outfits.

Neilsen will perform at Louie G’s in Fife on Sept. 21, opening up for Skinny Blue. The show begins at 8 p.m.

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