MARION -- Country music fans at the July 20 Country 4 Country concert at Marion's Rent One Park will be on the cutting edge of country music history.
Newcomer and rising star Jenny Tolman will open for Brantley Gilbert on July 20, just a day after the official release of her debut CD, "There Goes the Neighborhood."
Tickets for Country 4 Country are available at www.eventbrite.com.
Tolman, a native of Nashivllle, Tennessee, ventured to Marion recently, where she met with the Marion Republican at The Vault on Tower Square.
Gracious, kind, and smiling, the 23-year-old singer-songwriter chatted easily with fans and local dignitaries like a seasoned pro.
"I'm really excited to be here," she said, speaking of the upcoming concert sponsored by Pepsi MidAmerica that will benefit several area veterans' organizations. "I'm so in love with performing. That's my favorite part of all this."
Tolman said her love of music has been with pretty much all of her life. She also enjoys writing.
"I thought maybe I'd write children's stories," she said.
However, the gift of a guitar for her 16th birthday changed her world.
"It's like a light bulb went off," she said. "Everything I love to do can come together."
Just two short years later, Tolman found herself on stage before a crowd of about 5,000 in Springfield, Massachusetts, opening for the legendary country band, Alabama.
"It was an amazing experience to play for that many people," she said.
For her debut CD, Tolman said she created a fantasy place she calls "Jennyville." Her gift for storytelling is evident as she casts herself as a member of a high-class, white trash -- one of the titles -- welcoming committee, an observant woman who sees other people on her own fictitious block through a humorous, surface-scraping veneer.
Along with the comedic look at life in "Jennyville," Tolman also manages to grab the seriousness of life with another tune, "So Pretty," that tells of meeting the new girlfriend of the guy who dumped her.
Tolman has written over 200 songs.
"Not all are good and going to be heard," she said, grinning.
However, one song, "My Welcome Mat," caught the attention of Jeff Bridges, who decided to perform it as the opening number at Lebowski Fest.
"What do you do when Jeff Bridges is going to sing your song? You buy a ticket and fly out!" exclaimed Tolman, with schoolgirl excitement, her blue eyes twinkling.
Tolman said she is looking forward to the upcoming Marion appearance.
"It will be my biggest crowd so far," she said.
Although marriage and babies are definitely part of her future plans, Tolman says she is loving life on the road.
"I haven't gotten to the point where I complain about it yet," she said with a grin. She also pointed out that having a family won't hinder that part of her career.
"These days, people take their kids on the road," she said. "We're in a society now that is welcoming to that."
While Tolman says she loves being in a new place every day, one of her dreams is destined to take place in her hometown.
"My biggest dream is to appear on the Grand Ole Opry," she said. "That's my goal right now."
Performing, though, is her passion.
"It's fun," she said. "Why does anybody do anything ... it's to benefit the betterment of humanity and society. It's about bringing people joy."