Dream Chaser: Local singer opens for Oak Ridge Boys, pursues Nashville dreams

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Local singer/songwriter Kara Cole recently opened for the Oakridge Boys at the Palladium in Carmel. Cole, who grew up in Hancock County and manages a local recovery house, is working toward her dreams of becoming a full-time musician in Nashville, Tenn.

CARMEL — Kara Cole’s musical tribute to her grandmother, Mary Francis, has racked up more than 13,500 downloads on Spotify since being released last month.

Cole, a Mt. Vernon High School graduate who manages the Talitha Koum recovery house in Greenfield, hopes those numbers continue to climb, along with her career.

The Irvington-based singer has high hopes of moving to Nashville, Tenn. to play music full time as early as this summer.

On March 17, she came one stop closer to that dream by opening for legendary country act The Oakridge Boys at the Palladium in Carmel.

Cole reflected back on her biggest performance to date while hanging out with residents at the Talitha Koum house Monday morning.

“I looked out at the crowd and my legs were shaking. They were still shaking when I walked off stage. I was nervous the whole time,” said Cole, 38, who was flattered to be chosen to open for The Oak Ridge Boys, who have been nominated for 23 Grammys over the course of a storied career dating back to 1947.

After the show lead vocalist Duane Allen approached Cole and commended her singing and songwriting.

“He gave me a lot of words of encouragement and told me he really liked my stuff. I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is happening,’” she said.

Cole said you could hear a pin drop in the nearly sold-out theater, with a crowd of roughly 1,300 people.

The local singer-songwriter has been making waves in the local music scene for years, having performed as part of the duo Keller & Cole with longtime friend and fellow musician Landon Keller.

Cole recently launched a solo career with the release of her single, “Mary Francis,” a tribute to the late grandmother she lost to dementia in September 2001 after serving as her main care provider.

In it she sings, “I’ll start the coffee and leave the talkin’ to you, but you ain’t got much to say these days…Where do you go when you drift away?”

The two were incredibly close over the years, said Cole, who spent many nights at her grandmother’s house listening to her father and uncle sing and play guitar.

She’s been hooked on music ever since her parents gave her a guitar when she was young.

Now with at least five released singles and more on the way, Cole has her sights set on becoming a full-time professional musician.

“I’d love to move to Nashville and get picked up by a label,” she said.

“I’ve got a lot of momentum right now and a lot of really cool things are happening,” said Cole, who describes her sound as Americana “with a heavy alt-country influence.”

On March 3, she opened at a sold-out Arlo McKinley show at Hi-Fi Indy in Indianapolis, and will open for Jennie DeVoe as part of the Greenfield Parks Department’s summer’s concert series at Depot Street Park in July.

She’s planning to record more new music in the next few weeks and releasing her next single in May.

“I started writing songs by writing poems and turning them into songs,” said Cole, who finds fulfillment in expressing herself through music.

“My new music is what I’m most excited about,” she said. “It’s just a different sound, and probably the best material I’ve written so far.”

No matter how far her star rises, Cole said the song she wrote about her relationship with her grandmother, Mary Francis, “is the most important song I will ever make. If I stopped right there I’d be totally fine with that.”

The professionally-recorded music video for the song has racked up nearly 20,000 views as of press time, since it was first launched in February.

“Everybody seems to love the song because it’s about my experience with her and Alzheimer’s, and everybody knows somebody who has battled with something. For some it could be about losing someone in general,” said Cole, who had many people approach her after her performance at the Palladium, talking about how much they related to the song.

“It just kind of connects to people across the board,” she said.

The future is looking bright for the local songwriter, who aspires to share her music with a wider audience.

“I’m hoping come summer to be in Nashville,” she said this week.

“We’ve got some cool things up our sleeve and are going to put out an album this summer. We’re doing another video, and the next step is trying to get on mainstream radio,” said Cole, referring to her and her band. “We’ll just hope for the best and see where things go.”

To hear Cole’s music, search for Kara Cole on any streaming or social media platform or visit KaraCole.net. Her music can also be heard on Indianapolis radio station 92.3 WTTS-FM.