Carlton teen wins song contest and a trip to Nashville


May 3, 2024

Carlton teen Abrianna Schmidt just won the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's "Journey of a Song" contest.

Schmidt's song, "Small Town Girl," won her an all-expenses-paid trip to Nashville, where she will be able to participate in the Hall of Fame's weeklong songwriting camp working with music producers and other artists.

"I saw an ad for this specific competition," Schmidt said. "And they had a pamphlet and I came up with the idea of writing about Carlton and growing up in a small town."

While Schmidt has been writing songs since she was 13, she got her first guitar and started participating in musical theater when she was 9.

Since then, she has acted in many productions at the Duluth Playhouse, her most recent role being Liesl in "The Sound of Music," along with teaching in some children's programs.

"I love working with young kids and getting to pass my love of music along," Schmidt said.

Through working with the Duluth Playhouse and other theater programs, Schmidt has attended many musical theater camps across the country, visiting places such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Nashville, but this will be her first songwriting camp.

Schmidt started transitioning to online school in the sixth grade - she is a senior at Minnesota Connections Academy - so she could travel more for her music.

With all of her traveling, Schmidt finds herself yearning for the town she grew up in.

"I wrote down kind of everything that I love about my town and found what rhymes and strung everything together," Schmidt said. "And then I recorded it in my bedroom, actually, and I submitted it along with my lyrics and I don't think I really expected anything. I'm just always trying to push myself outside of my comfort zone because it's a really vulnerable process."

It took Schmidt about an hour to write "Small Town Girl," but her songwriting process fluctuates.

"I think every song is different for me," Schmidt said. "I always thought of myself as a 'lyrics first' kind of person. Some people write the music first, but recently, I've been switching it up and sometimes the melody will come to me first."

A big part of her songwriting process is to start with what she calls a "spider map."

"I'll put a main idea and then branch out of different concepts of what ties to that and find unique ways to describe what I'm feeling or thinking about," Schmidt said. "I love to find different ways to tell a story and something that feels really authentically me."

Schmidt finds inspiration for authenticity from country singers Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves.

"I think they are very authentic to themselves and tell the story in such a special way and are able to describe the emotions that we can't necessarily put a name to," Schmidt said.

One of the emotions Schmidt writes about is her appreciation for her small-town childhood, and all of the people who made it special. Some of her favorite memories are from her time at South Terrace Elementary School.

Max Thibault

Abrianna Schmidt sets up her guitar before performing at Magnolia Café in Carlton.

"I'm so grateful for the education that they gave us," Schmidt said. "Being able to be surrounded by the nature and all those wonderful humans who always got us outside and got us to do unique things and take advantage of this really cool town that we live in. It's something I'll always be thankful for."

Schmidt gets full support in her endeavors from her mom and dad, Kim and Ryan Schmidt, as well as her four siblings, Will, Kyleah, Peyton and Sophia. She is unsure of her plans after graduation, but hopes to continue traveling and working on her music.

"I think I'm going to try to branch out for now, but I love paying homage here and I think that I couldn't see myself growing up anywhere else," Schmidt said.

Check out more videos on her Instagram page, @Abriannaslittleditties.


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