They call Nashville a 10-year town.
The nickname tells the struggle side of Music City. Aspiring musicians move there in hopes of making it big overnight, but many end up taking the long way to only make it a little. They say it takes 10 years to break through there.
If this is true, Tawnya Reynolds has earned her due. Twice over.
She moved from New Mexico to Nashville in 2002. It’s been 20 years, but it can feel like “700 years,” Reynolds said.
“It has flown by and in other moments it has crawled by,” she said.
Reynolds moved to Nashville because she felt she had to. At age 6, she started singing in pageants and then fell in love with country music to the tune of Reba McEntire. The more she listened, the more Reynolds heard her life plan: move to Nashville.
“It’s definitely a big move,” she said. “But when you know that’s what you want, it doesn’t seem as daunting. It was a no-brainer.”
It hasn’t been easy, though — this road of chasing record deals, playing four-hour gigs five nights a week, touring and finding time to write music for albums.
“It’s always been a struggle, but in a way that’s very welcomed,” she said. “And you just wait for those small wins.”
A “highly unexpected” win came in 2013, when Reynolds found herself singing on NBC’s “The Voice.”
“I never thought I would do something like that,” she said. “That’s why they say never say never.”
Reynolds made an impression on the judges, which then included Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Shakira and Usher, with her version of “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. She ended up on Shakira’s team and made it to the top 32.
It was a win. But not the kind of win that skyrocketed her career.
It did help her get some gigs, as booking agents are more likely to pay attention to Reynolds after learning she’s been on “The Voice.” When Googling her name, the audition video is still the first result.
“When people see that, they automatically assume you’re good enough to be doing what you’re doing,” she said. “But because reality shows are so commonplace now, a lot of people don’t really care.”
In the years since, Reynolds hasn’t stopped caring. She has released four albums. She plays weekly shows at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville on the main strip in Nashville, where’s she one of many musicians covering familiar country hits for tourists and where’s she one of many still trying to make it.
And as she sings in her 2020 single “Hey, Mama,” some years can get kind of tough.
So Reynolds keeps looking for small wins, like gigs in new places. This weekend, she’s playing shows at Front Range Barbeque and Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub in Colorado Springs.
They will mark the singer’s first shows in Colorado.
“If I ever tried to stop, I think I’d lose my mind,” she said. “I don’t think I could live without music. Why would I?”