Ready to go a country mile

Though he’s not old enough to buy a pickup truck—let alone whiskey—16-year-old singer Cody Purvis might have all it takes to become a famous country singer. The look? He commands the stage with a 6’4" frame, his top three buttons undone as if in anticipation of chest hair. The attitude? On his MySpace, he lists his heroes as “anybody that works hard for the money they earn and don’t look for people to hand ’em stuff all the time.” The voice? Well, he’s got that too: Readers voted Purvis Best Emerging Artist.

Cody Purvis, the 16-year-old winner of this year’s “Best Emerging Artist,” competes in the Colgate Country Showdown at the Virginia State Fair next month in Richmond.

“He’s only 16, but he’s mature for his age,” says Marlina Smith, Purvis’ mother and manager. He started performing solo last October, when the owner of Nelson County’s Lovingston Opry heard him singing karaoke. Soon he was invited back to sing for crowds that numbered in the hundreds there, says Smith, and earning hundreds, too.

“It’s just a lot of fun to get out there and do what I love to do,” says Purvis. He’ll take any opportunity to show off his voice, which bears all the trademarks of greatness, from the throaty low end to the fluttery melismata. He took the region in this year’s Colgate Country Showdown—the nation’s oldest country music star search—with an expert rendition of Luke Bryan’s “Do I.” (He competes in the next round at the State Fair in Richmond September 24.) He also traveled to Nashville this summer to audition for “American Idol,” a longwinded process that consisted of waiting in lines, only to wait in other lines, only to be turned away. “It was all pretty crazy,” says Purvis.

According to songwriter and producer Tim Spears, who has collaborated with Purvis, all that stands between Purvis and a successful career in country music is the ability to consistently write good songs. “The first question they ask you when you get to Nashville is whether you can write a song,” says Spears, who owns Tim Spears’ Music City in Waynesboro and a management company in Nashville, Tim Spears Management Co. “I’m going to produce two or three songs for him to shop around in Nashville. Cody definitely has the talent and the looks. All we need to do is get his writing ability up. What does Purvis like to write songs about? “Oh, you know. I write about stuff that’s happened,” he says. “Stuff comes to me, and I write it down, and it all just comes together.”

At 16, it’s already been a long road for Purvis, who first performed at a summercamp talent show at age 6. “Even in his car seat, as soon as he could talk, he was singing all the words on the radio,” says Smith. “I think he wore out about three karaoke machines before he was 10 years old.”  

Bogdanovich: A fine fellow

When the Virginia Film Festival held a conference at the Paramount Theater on August 16 to unveil a new permanent logo, Executive Director Jody Kielbasa also announced this year’s Film Festival Fellow: the director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich, whose The Last Picture Show, Mask and Paper Moon established him as a superliterate legend of the form.

It’s also a display of the festival changing directions under Kielbasa. Fellows from past years include Maria DiBattista, a feminist literature scholar who teaches at Princeton University, and Hamid Naficy, a Northwestern University expert on media in the Middle East. As an Oscar nominee who has also written histories of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Howard Hawkes, Bogdanovich has credentials and marquee appeal.


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