Sitting in a coffee shop in Nashville, her new home, rising country music star Peytan Porter smiles and concentrates on a journal entry. “It’s about mindful meditation and songwriting. Journaling gives me a first draft from the messiness of my brain out before I write a song and helps me capture what’s going on in life,” she says. She had just returned from a weekend in her hometown of Dawsonville. While a lot of her favorite haunts have changed and disappeared over the years, she can still see the stars from her front porch, visits with family, meet up with high school friends, hiking and visits to local breweries. And, that’s what matters most to her.
Her songs are written from her heart and one of her hits, “Therapy” is about a breakup and resinates with many. “I always feel sorry when people can relate from that one because it didn’t come from a great experience for me, but it’s also nice that people find some comfort,” says Peytan. While she first started writing for other performers, “a dream job,” this one was special. “Therapy was the first song I wrote that I felt like I didn’t want anyone else to sing it. It was personal. It sits in hope and is about reclaiming strength, and doing work on yourself before blaming others. It’s the heart of what I do.”
While much of her songwriting is about unresolved emotions and conversations, she clearly has a message. In one of her personal favorites, an easy listen - “First Stone,” she tells us: “If everybody lived in big glass houses, bet we’d all think twice before we threw the first stone.” And, in the chorus, she reminds us, “that love is really all that matters.” Recorded a year ago when she had not yet even played a show or launched her songwriting career, it’s still one she is proud of.
Growing up in Dawsonville, one of three girls, she spent time in the basement listening to music, studying songwriters, literature and marketing. And, when she moved to Nashville, she surrounded herself with a supportive professional team but never stopped listening to her mom’s advice. “Personally, my mom is so tough and reminded me to figure it out. My strength comes from her and life is too short to get hung up on things and not heal.”
This month, Peytan will come home and gather at her Nan and Pop’s house with her parents and sisters, cousins and extended family. She has been experimenting now more than ever with cooking on her own and is honing a harvest salad recipe with apples, pepitas, walnuts and a dressing with a kick.
After such a busy year, in this moment, she says is most thankful for the freedom and the space to pivot, surrounded by people who aren’t afraid to help her become the best version of herself.
Now that her first record is out, In My Head, she is catching her breath and giving herself space. She will continue to write music and discover what version of herself she likes best. “I want to keep coming home to Nan’s food, but also hope to be touring and working on a new signature project.” With her spirit and self-reflection, it’s going to happen.
Leah Belle Faser
Leah Belle Faser may have shocked you with her powerful voice on Season 20 of American Idol, but the high school senior has been busy ensuring she enjoys life like any teenager would. Even with Idol last year, she was attending school in person, and anything she’s doing musically is a walking side by side with her life. But that’s how it’s always been - Leah comes from a musical family. Outside of the house that she still lives in with her parents, she has a brother at the University of Michigan studying musical theater.
She studies with a vocal coach in Nashville (remotely, online) and formed a band in January that has been touring. “It’s the biggest thing that’s happened since Idol. We had a busy summer and they are like my older brothers, very creative and talented musicians,” says Leah Belle. “I love the full sound of a band and to be able to bond is very special.” She hopes to dive deeper into songwriting with her band this year when the outdoor concert season wanes.
Working from her home in Vinings, with her cat and kitten by her side, she enjoys the quiet and solitude. “You have to be serious and grounded to be a songwriter and it’s a space I enjoy,” says Leah Belle. In her rare downtime, she walks through Atlanta’s neighborhoods to clear her head and breathe. She finds herself inspired. “I’ll drive to a new neighborhood or park, and will have 27 epiphanies!” This month, she’s performing around north Atlanta in some old haunts like the Olde Vinings Inn where she’s been playing since she was 13. “I couldn’t play guitar and would sing a few songs with Mark Miller and his band and that morphed into my passion for live performance and I learned to self-accompany and to land my own gig.” She worked up a set of 30-40 songs and is now forever grateful to that place and people.
Earlier this year, Leah met Corey (pictured) when she auditioned for the 20th Season of ABC's American Idol where she received three yeses from the celebrity judges and the coveted golden ticket to Hollywood Week. "The whole thing is very involved and a bit terrifying, as you can imagine, but it was so exciting and I'm grateful for the opportunity. I got some really interesting feedback during the process which I've been able to put to good use. Since I was under 18 at the time, my mom got to come with me to everything so this was a really cool experience that we shared and definitely one that neither of us will ever forget," she says.
This year, her family is hosting Thanksgiving, so it will be full of tradition and some personalized hosting. “I’m really excited for this year’s Thanksgiving,” she says. “My mom and I have a tradition, we always make the charcuterie board and we get creative with cheeses and local honey.” Her grandparents live six houses away, and extended family will join too.
Corey Curtis isn’t just an American Idol contestant - he’s a Summerville, Georgia native. “Every time I return, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. It’s not easy making something out of nothing.” Spending the holidays at home, he says is special, because, “it’s where my journey began, all those years ago. It’s home.”
In talking with him, you get a sense of his gratefulness. He’s happy for the opportunity to play music and does not take it for granted, treating his voice as a tool and his body as a working component. “I take care of my voice and my body,” he says. “I take about 15 to 20 minutes out of every morning to do my vocal lessons. I workout five days a week, intake plenty of protein and drink a lot of water. Healthy mindset, healthy body, healthy voice. They all go hand and hand for me.”
Thanksgiving for him is one of fellowship, as Corey is one of eight siblings. Family is very important to him, and they have his back. “I’m thankful to say I’m close to my family and that they support my dream,” he tells Roswell City Lifestyle. The holiday is a time to celebrate that. “On Thanksgiving day, my seven siblings and their families, all come together at my mom’s house,” he says. “We collectively prepare the meal, sit down, eat, and enjoy a special fellowship!”
The next three months for him are career nurturing - traveling, playing shows, recording songs, and releasing one of those recorded tracks. “Keeping my focus on the main thing,” he says, summing all of it up. “You can’t expect the reward without the work.”
Thank you to our photo shoot location partner, The Gaslight Supper Club. Cheers to your kind hospitality and support of these exciting young musicians!
See you there for fine dining, specialty cocktails, a speakeasy and live music.
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