When aspiring country singer Fiona Culley went out for lunch in London, little did she know she was about to cross paths with someone who would change her life forever.
A chance meeting with Darius Rucker, frontman of Grammy Award-Winning band Hootie and the Blowfish, led to her jetting off to Nashville just weeks later and landing a prestigious music contract.
The 25-year-old today spoke of her joy at finally being on the brink of fulfilling her hope of stardom.
Miss Culley, who is originally from Lichfield, said: “It all feels like a dream at the moment. I can’t quite believe what has happened to me in the space of a few months.”
The former Lichfield Cathedral School pupil moved down to London at the age of just 16 to pursue her country music career.
After working in a number of small jobs and performing in pubs and clubs every week in the capital, it wasn’t until April this year that things really started to look up for her.
She was enjoying lunch with friends at a restaurant in Soho when she spotted Rucker with his manager.
Miss Culley continued: “I saw him in the corner and I knew who he was straight away. No one else seemed to recognise him.
“I plucked up the courage to go over and say hello. He looked a bit shocked when I went over. Then I decided to sing him a song then and there. He must have been impressed because he invited me to see him play at the O2 in London that night.”
Weeks later Miss Culley received a phone call from Rucker’s manager and to her amazement she was invited over to Nashville – the home of country music – to record a duet with Rucker.
Since then she has been signed up to New York music label Marro and is on the verge of releasing her first mini-album which she recorded in May.
Rucker has even invited Miss Culley to join him on tour in the near future as his support act.
Miss Culley added: “Things have changed a lot for me in the past few months, I’ve got a manager now and a PR agent. And I’ve given up my day job as a beauty therapist to focus on my music. I have always been interested in country music and singing it. From an early age I learned to play the guitar and piano.
“Country is the biggest genre of music in the world. There is no country music in the UK charts at the moment so if I can get into the charts that would be fantastic.
“I have two blonde backing singers and I’m blonde so people have compared us to the Dixie Chicks.”
Miss Culley said she caught the country music bug from her father Steve, aged 65, who used to listen to the likes of Kenny Rogers and Alison Kraus.
The profile of the genre has arguably never been higher as hit TV show Nashville has captured the imagination of the viewing public. And Miss Culley said her family, including her mother Val, brothers Nick, 34, Richard, 30 and sister Stephanie, 23, were all proud of her achievements and were supporting her every step of the way.
Miss Culley, whose parents live in Barton-under-Needwood not far from Lichfield, is planning to release her first release – Country Til Monday – on September 28.