Rebecca Lynn Howard

One can hardly talk about Rebecca Lynn Howard without mentioning the Rising Tide record label, which closed four years ago. It was the first label to shutter before it could release Howard’s record, and not the last.

The country singer was 16 when Rising Tide first showed interest. She was 18 when she signed a record contract and recorded “Softly and Tenderly” for the label’s soundtrack to the Robert Duvall film “The Apostle.” Then, it was no mas.

“When I first heard the news, I was in Savannah, Ga., on a radio tour,” Howard told POLLSTAR. “I’m like, ‘Great. I’m stuck in Savannah, Ga., promoting something that nobody gives a hill of beans about. I flew home and took some time off, and I got moved to Decca Records. It folded four months later.”

Her agent, William Morris Nashville chief Rick Shipp, said Howard had to be upset but she didn’t show it.

“She just kept her head down and continued to write. I must have 180 songs on three or four CDs that she wrote between Rising Tide closing and finally settling on MCA. I was impressed with that. She writes like an old soul.”

One of her songs from the never-released Decca album, a honky-tonk ballad called “Was It As Hard To Be Together,” was later recorded by Trisha Yearwood. In the interim between Decca and MCA, respect for Howard’s songwriting ability climbed in Nashville. When Forgive was released last year, the title song finally got the 23-year-old the hit she had been waiting so long for.

She’s been touring with Alan Jackson. He chose her for his tour after seeing Howard’s performance on the CMAs, which gave her a chance to get her band out of the honky tonks.

“They’re playing bigger venues and out on a quote ‘star tour’ with somebody who’s finally broken through,” Howard said of her band. “It’s really good for them. I just try to keep them working as much as I can.”

Shipp said the next step will be fairs, festivals and radio shows, with some interest in getting opening slots for headlining acts. Howard’s not in a position yet to sell a large hard- ticket show, he said, but, at the same time, there’s no interest in the smoky honky-tonks.

The WMA Nashville Senior VP handles just a few artists, including Patty Loveless and Vince Gill, so there was some curiosity as to why Howard ended up under his wing.

“It just kind of started out that way. I really got close to her manager, Howard Fields. I like him a lot. My buddy Ken Levitan ran Rising Tide and I just kind of fell in love with the project,” Shipp said. “I met her and she’s just wonderful. I dunno. I just wanted to. … I don’t think anybody can hold a candle to her.”

Rebecca Lynn Howard

Howard signed on to Dreamcatcher Entertainment for management last summer when longtime manager Fields joined its team.

“I didn’t realize how many people it actually took to run a management company,” Howard said. “It’s almost like a whole other record label. They can get so much done for your career. Having a great management company like that is a very vital part of an artist’s career.”

The singer has been writing music since she was 7 years old. She started playing piano at 6, guitar at 10 and fiddle at 14. At 12, she toured with the Kentucky Opry’s Junior Pros, raising money for a mountain arts center. She met Fields a year later.

“I was down in Nashville doing demos,” she said. “At the time, he was trying to look out for me, trying to keep the snakes and wolves away. There’s a lot of crooks in Nashville that say, ‘I can make you a star. Just give me $10,000.’ Howard was the one who actually got me my record deal, shopping my projects around town. I think I got passed on by everybody at least twice.”

Fields was also the person who put her in touch with Shipp.

“He doesn’t handle many artists because he’s sort of the boss over there,” Howard said.

“But he wanted to be hands-on in my career. That made me feel good about being at William Morris. It made me feel like a priority, so I didn’t hesitate at all to sign.”

She said she’s been writing her tail off and should currently be in the studio recording her next album, which she thought would be out around April.

“I’m so grateful for the things that ‘Forgive’ has done for my career but, as my management says, this next single is more crucial than the first one,” Howard said. “In this day and time, in our format, you have to stay busy or people forget about you.”

She added she’s hoping she can continue to tour with Jackson and that her current dates may lead to future tours with him.

The photogenic singer has also made an appearance on the WB’s “Providence,” but there’s no sign yet that she’s ready to be a thespian.

“We will be trying to get more of her music into television, maybe soundtrack stuff,” Shipp said. “But there’s no real burning desire right now for her to go be an actor.”