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MARK BRADLEY ASHTABULA COUNTY native Sarah Marie Blanton will release her first album at the end of this month. The Texas resident is a 2001 Ashtabula High School graduate.

Sarah Marie Blanton wants to own or be a partner in a race-car team, have her own record label and open a school for aspiring female vocalists — after she becomes known as America’s top bad-girl country artist.

“I want to be the Shania Twain (Canadian country singer) that America never had,” says Blanton, who graduated from Ashtabula High School in 2001.

Blanton, a Houston, Texas, resident, is visiting her hometown this week to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of her grandparents, Bob and Jean Hamilton of Kingsville Township, and promote her upcoming eponymously named compact disc. The 11-song release should be ready for Internet sales by the end of the month, but Blanton is promoting two of the tracks in advance: “Listen Here Boys” and “Straight Jacket Love.”

Ten of the 11 tracks on the new CD were written by Blanton, who draws upon her life experiences for the lyrics.

“Every single song I write is from some time in my life,” she says. “If I get upset or have my heart broken, I immediately write about it.”

Blanton has written about her home state, a Texas rodeo and the crazy way love makes you act. That’s the theme of “Straight Jacket Love.”

“It’s about being in love and being crazy. I think that would be a really fun video. We’d have fun with it,” she says.

She lists the Beatles, Shania Twain, Gretchen Wilson and Gwen Stefani as her primary musical influences.

“I want to be a bad girl of country,” she says. “It’s fun, but (offstage) I’m very sweet, though. But my music is very bad-girl. It’s very rock, very happy.”

Blanton, who was named “Sarah Marie” after her great-grandmother, was known to local radio audiences as “Veronica West” when she worked as an on-air personality. As a high school student, she was in show choir and chorus and often sang the national anthem for sporting events. Her interest in music really took off after she moved to Texas and was exposed to the many incarnations of country music practiced there.

“I moved to Houston right after I graduated Cleveland State University in 2006,” she says. “When I arrived, my first experience was the rodeo, and this Ohio girl was not ready for that cultural shock.”

Blanton wandered through the fair and discovered tent after tent of bands playing Texas country music.

“It’s very hillbilly rock or, as I call it, rebel rock. It allows the artist to put emotional words and fun bar lyrics into very fast-paced country music,” she says.

The variety of styles incorporated by Texas country music appealed to Blanton, who “realized there was a part of me that just couldn’t stay away from music. And as I always did before, I picked up my pen and started writing country music.”

Blanton did marketing for the Grand Prix of Houston and managed a nightclub while she was developing her music career. A fortuitous introduction to an investor who was a club guest helped put her on the road to producing her first CD and funding a promotional tour.

“(Having the investor) allows me to just do all my music stuff,” she says. “I’m very blessed.”

She and her band, Sarah Marie and the Bad Boys, will tour four Texas cities this fall, doing five concerts in each city to promote her new CD, which will be available for purchase and download online.

Blanton makes extensive use of social media to promote her concerts and stay in touch with fans and friends. Her Web site is www.sarahmarieband.com and she can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Blanton says being on stage is very natural to her.

“I must have been born on the stage,” she quips. Blanton credits the experience she received as a Miss Cleveland Grand Prix and Miss Ohio contestant for helping her feel comfortable in front of thousands of people.

She credits part of her success to her positive attitude and accessibility. After each concert, she mingles with the audience and enjoys being photographed with her fans. She says she’s amazed by the faithful following of friends and family who come to every performance.

Her parents, Wayne and Cathy Stock, followed her to Houston, as did her brother, Trevor, and sister Melissa. Another sister, Tammy, is in Philadelphia.

As for a romantic interest in her life, Blanton say’s she is too focused on her music for love.

“There was too much time for that before,” she says. “Now it’s only music. I want to concentrate on that.”

Then, just as one would expect from a country singer, Blanton adds: “But I used to be in love … .”

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