Sara Burns is the epitome of a self-sufficient musician.
While most University of South Carolina students went home for fall break in October, the 20-year-old Hilton Head Island native and USC senior headed to Nashville's Music Row to lay down tracks on her first full-length album. Burns wrote all but two songs on the album -- a creative rarity in today's music world -- and financed it independently, using the money-savvy skills she learned from pursuing an accounting degree.
When Burns returned to class a week later, she had a finished album under her belt. Titled "Girl on the Run," the album is a follow-up to the three-track EP, "Past Tense," which Burns released in April.
"I can't even describe the feeling of hearing my songs come alive," Burns said. " It was an amazing process."
To celebrate, Burns will play a CD release show Feb. 15 at Riptides on Hilton Head, with local songstress Taylor Kent as the opening act. There will be CDs for sale and giveaways throughout the night.
For the uninitiated, Burns' voice has a sparkle to it that makes little girls run up and request Taylor Swift covers when she plays summer gigs at the Old Oyster Factory. It also has enough substance to draw comparisons to country superstar Kimberly Perry from The Band Perry. Burns appreciates the compliments now, but in the beginning any association with country artists was a surprise.
"When I first started, I didn't think I was country," said Burns, citing alternative rock influences like Alanis Morissette, Jewel and the Goo Goo Dolls.
"I come from '90s rock. Today's country music kind of has those same vibes that late '90s/alternative rock had, so I think that's why I've been fitting into that genre," she said.
The combination in "Girl on the Run" is pretty seamless. The slight twang of Burns' songs will resonate with country fans, while their rock energy and alternative backbeat will make them appealing to a broader audience.
Finding time to write and record songs has been challenging, Burns said, especially during her final semester of college. But knowing how to manage her finances, thanks to her accounting degree, is something she expects to pay off in the future. If there's one thing Burns won't be, it's a starving artist.
"Some of the mistakes that a lot of people make entering the music industry is that they don't know the business or the money side. They just go into it happy and go-lucky and before you know it, their money is gone," Burns said. "I like keeping track of my money and knowing where it's going."
With the release of "Girl on the Run," however, it appears Burns' emotional, creative side is winning out over her practical, number-oriented side.
The album runs the gamut of tangled emotions standard in the trials and tribulations of young love, from the guarded and wary strokes of "I Warned You" to the infatuated croons on "I Wanna Know You" to the heartbroken lament of "Two."
"We positioned the songs in a way that they all tell a story," Burns said. "It's about living and learning in love."
The album ends with a raw acoustic resolution song, "Learn With Every Season," where Burns' young yet mature self-awareness peeks through as she sings, "I still have tears to cry and stories to write, dreams to live and dreams to die."
Overall, "Girl on the Run," is a solid LP effort, and an indication that Hilton Head will not be able to entice Burns to continue her gig at the Old Oyster Factory for much longer before she runs off to success in Nashville.
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.