The title of the music-based reality television series on which Julia Knight finds herself this fall pretty much says it all: Chasing Nashville. But the ironic thing about her involvement is that Nashville — or, more exactly, the Lifetime network, which is producing the show — came calling on the Lexington musician first.
"The opportunity to do this show pretty much just fell in my lap," said Knight, 16, who returns to her hometown performance haven, Natasha's Bistro & Bar, on Saturday for a performance with Brandon Chase, a finalist on season 5 of The Voice.
"The producers saw me on YouTube. I mean, that's crazy. I never dreamed of anything like that happening," she said. "I was totally good with just doing my own thing here and stuff like that. Then they found me, and we ended up doing the show. I went from doing a lot of hometown things to going to Nashville and working with cool people there. For anyone, I would say that would be pretty insane."
Insane, sure. But the Lafayette High School senior, who has been performing and writing much of her material since she was 12, isn't about to become part of the usual gossip and infighting that is standard on most reality shows, Chasing Nashville included. (The show also includes two other Kentucky singers: Celeste Turner of Prestonsburg and Tyra Short of Knott County.)
"I basically told them, 'I don't care how much airtime I have to lose.' I was never really worried about not being featured maybe as much as the other girls," Knight said. "I was really happy to just do music because my fear going into the whole thing was that this would just be a show. When you're a true artist and you're making your own music, it gets a lot more personal. That's why I'm really thankful that I got to do my music and not do anything else."
The singer's mother, Gina Knight, agreed.
"We pretty much told them, 'If you want music, Julia is your girl. If you want drama, you probably ought to go somewhere else.' That's just not who she is," Gina Knight said. What has really been great in watching her on this show was seeing how she has been able to be true to herself. She did not want to play any scripted role or anything like that. So it's been really cool that she would have a venue just for her ability as a musician, her art and her talent, and at the same time be the genuine person she is without getting caught up in the drama."
Similarly, the singer said her goal of pursuing a career in music doesn't necessarily include stardom. Julia said she is simply hoping for a work life built around performing and songwriting. If doing that means being removed from the spotlight, that's just fine.
"I don't really have the dream that I think a lot of people new in the business have. That goal of just being famous was never really appealing," she said. "The ultimate dream for me will always be about getting to do what I love, which is music. To grow up and get to do that every day would be the ultimate dream for me."
Said her mother: "I've always told her that if this ever stops being fun or if you want to do something else, I will support that, too. But the experiences that we've shared, whether they have been part of the show or not, and just the friendships and connections that she's been able to make in Nashville, have been wonderful.
"Plus, we've been able to spend some time on the road together. That's always a bonding experience, because a lot of teenage daughters don't spend that much time with their moms, so I feel pretty lucky that I've been able to be part of her pursuing her dream."
IF YOU GO
Julia Knight and Brandon Chase
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 23
Where: Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade
Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. Available at (859) 259-2754 or Beetnik.com.
There are no episodes currently on Lifetime's broadcast schedule, but past episodes are available at Mylifetime.com/shows/chasing-nashville.