The Long Stretch of Dreaming

October 2014 was a pretty magical month that I never would have seen coming in a million years. Being a college student comes with many challenges…Is it going to bring a good job after you graduate? Is all of the hard work going to be worth it?
At the time, I was starting to feel discouraged and was really starting to question where I belonged. But, now I see just how those days make it all worth it.
Here’s what I mean specifically… One day, out of the blue, I’m sitting in the living room, getting ready to go somewhere with a friend, and my mom shows up at my side to ask if I’m busy the following week. I start looking at my schedule. I have a couple classes, I told her and rattled off other responsibilities, like the student newspaper I was involved with and so on. I asked her whyShe responded with, we’re going to Nashville! 
Apparently, or at least what she told me at the time, was that she had won a radio contest to Nashville for a few days. I am SO there, I thought. I didn’t care where it was from or what we’d be doing. Just the fact that I was going to be in my favorite city was all I needed to know.
After we got there, well, that was a whole different story. Lady Antebellum surprised me on our second day there, as part of their ‘7for7’ campaign for the latest record. They gave me a laptop, a recorder and informed me that I would be interviewing stars on the red carpet for “The Best of Me,” including James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan and Nicholas Sparks. I was at a loss for words. That was a dream come true and something I know could only happen with God’s help. Trust Him with your plans and He will boggle your mind, let me tell you!
The article below is what happened after, and what I turned in to Country Weekly.

Lady Antebellum Helps Journalism Student’s Dreams Take Flight


Photos courtesy of Shelby Parker

As a college student, the opportunity to interview some of my favorite stars on a red carpet seemed like a pipe dream. But, on Oct. 7, I found myself doing just that at the premiere of the new Nicholas Sparks film adaptation,The Best of Me. Suddenly, I was speaking with actors James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan as well as Nicholas Sparks himself. I was pinching myself the entire time, surrounded by celebrities and the flashing cameras of other reporters. How in the world did I get there? My mother had won a trip to Nashville in a radio contest, or so I thought. On Oct. 2, we arrived in Music City. We had a great time touring the historic Grand Ole Opry House and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. But that wasn’t the real prize. I was about to be surprised by Lady Antebellum as part of their 7FOR7 campaign, which found the trio traveling across the country to surprise and fulfill seven wishes for seven fans in seven days as part of the release of their new album, 747. On Oct. 3, we met Jen, our contact at the radio station where my mom had won the contest. We had coffee and talked for a few minutes. Jen mentioned that she had a contact at Country Weekly and asked if we would like to tour the office. My response? “Absolutely!” At Country Weekly, we met Lisa Konicki, the editor in chief. She led us to Kix Brooks’ office, where a film crew was set up. I was posing for pictures in Kix’s chair, when the door opened. I looked up and saw Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood walking in. When Charles addressed me by name, I realized something big was about to happen. I’m not one for surprises, but when your favorite group shows up to meet you, it’s not so bad when you’ve been out of the loop. I was invited to “work” the red carpet at the premiere of The Best of Me. I was at a loss for words. It felt like everything I’d been dreaming of for so long was coming true.

(From left) Country Weekly editor in chief Lisa Konicki, Shelby Parker, Lady A’s Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott
photo by Carissa Riccardi

Fast-forward to Oct. 7 in sunny Los Angeles. After finding my spot on the carpet, the stars were arriving and nerves were setting in. I spoke with many of the actors and listened to their experiences working on the film, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ 2011 novel of the same name.

Nicholas Sparks

As an avid reader of Nicholas Sparks books, I was so excited to speak with him about his writing process, as well as how important music is to the stories he tells. “A soundtrack is incredibly important because music is a way to really amplify emotion,” he said. “It’s a way to bring extra depth and feelings. It’s a way to move the viewers to additional feelings.” In addition to Lady Antebellum, there are many country artists featured on the soundtrack, which Sparks said he believed fit well, since lead character Dawson is “just a country boy in many ways.” He also felt very blessed that Lady Antebellum sang the movie’s theme. Getting to talk with Lady Antebellum on the red carpet was something else I had been looking forward to. Would they remember my name? They sure did, and they greeted me with hugs and smiles. Hillary told me the story of how they were asked to record the song for the movie. Nicholas Sparks was a fan of the group, so Relativity Media reached out to them about the film. It seems fitting, since both Lady A and Nicholas are always trying to come up with new ways to talk about love.

Shelby greets Lady A on the red carpet.

“That’s always a challenge for us as songwriters to write about, you know, the subject of love and make it fresh and different each time,” said Charles. “So to have been given a script before anyone had ever read it, it was really cool. We were able to kind of put our voices to the song. It was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun.” “This is the first time we’ve ever had an actual distinct project to work from,” said Dave. “I think this is one of the most unique projects we’ve ever had.” They also used a lot of imagery in the lyrics that would reflect in the film. Charles added that the line Love comes in circles and love takes its own time really put the song in motion. It seems to be the overall theme for the movie, as love circles back around for the story’s main couple, Dawson and Amanda. I had the time of my life and will be eternally grateful to my mom, Lady Antebellum and Country Weekly for making this experience possible. It was like a dream that I don’t ever want to wake up from.

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