News icon Mitchell Scholar Adele Edelawit’s Path to Nashville Begins with ‘Coastal Cowgirl’ Music Made in Maine

Adele Edelawit, the 2023 Mitchell Scholar from Greely High School in Cumberland, has a clear vision of where she wants to be in five years: standing on a Nashville stage, an acoustic six-string slung around her neck, singing one of her original “coastal cowgirl” hits to a packed arena—and there’s a Grammy on the mantle at home.

Based on what Edelawit has already accomplished and her strong desire to succeed, don’t bet against any of it.

“I’ve had the dream of going to Nashville since I was 10 or 11, and everything in my life has been about getting there since then,” she said.

Edelawit began the road to Nashville in earnest back in her junior year at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS), where she first learned studio recording techniques and how to use a digital audio workstation. Spying her skill and desire to learn more, a supportive Greely H.S. teacher encouraged Edelawit to pursue additional non-credit weekend courses at Studio Portland, a Portland-based commercial recording studio in the city’s arts district (where Edelawit is pictured above). Soon after, Edelawit leveraged what she learned at Studio Portland into an internship with Fulton Street Music Group, right next door.

The extracurricular experiences at Studio Portland and with Fulton Street Music Group allowed her to learn from accomplished professionals, like Grammy-winning Maine singer-songwriter Dave Gutter and Wells-based rapper Ryan Michael Peters, better known by the stage name Spose.

“We learned how to record, where to place mics, and how to conduct a studio recording session with an artist,” Edelawit said. “We also learned how to mix audio tracks, making sure all the vocals and instruments are at the right audio levels, and how to create a master that’s radio ready.”

Edelawit has continued her informal recording apprenticeship at Studio Portland and with Fulton Street Music Group during the first of her two years at Southern Maine Community College, where she is pursuing an associate degree in business. And the Mitchell Institute has supported her educational journey with a fellowship to fund classes at Studio Portland.

Adele Edelawit received a fellowship from the Mitchell Institute to help fund her study of professional music recording techniques at Studio Portland.

Edelawit says pursuing a four-year degree in business (with the two beyond associates at a college to be determined) and continuing to learn music production on her own is the best path to reach her career goals.

“I’m super interested in the audio production side, but I’m also very interested in the music industry and how everything works—how people make money, how they don’t make money, and who makes the money,” she said.

As for the music she plans to write, record, and perform, Edelawit says her favorite genre is an unusual choice.

“I like how fun country music is and how sincere and honest the stories are,” she said. “For a while, I didn’t want to tell people that because nobody around me liked country, and I would look at all the country stars and never see anybody who looked like me.”

But Edelawit says the traditional themes of country music resonate with her—and are alive in her own songwriting.

“I love the country music tropes of cars, fields, tractors—life type of stuff that has a youthful feel to it,” she said. “I would say my music is ‘coastal cowgirl,’ kind of like you’re driving down the highway with the windows down on a sunny day. Just chill vibes. I want the opportunity to build an album the way that I see the songs going and not just acoustically.”

She also wants her music to change the cultural expectations associated with country music.

“I want to be in Nashville, working with the big names in the industry, either writing songs for them, recording them, or playing my own music,” she said. “And I want to break the idea that Black people don’t listen to country music. It’s something we can do and enjoy.”

To make that happen, Edelawit is honing her skills with songwriting, singing, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and piano. She has a five-song EP in the works. And just as a developing novelist reads voraciously, Edelawit listens to a lot of music. She counts Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, and Luke Combs among her favorite artists.

Edelawit, who was born in Ethiopia and adopted when she was three and a half, also invests in an adage her mother often says.

“I kind of live by ‘hold the vision and trust the process.’ You just have to have your eye on the prize and trust that it’s going to work out for the best,” Edelawit said. “Making it in country music is the only thing I can see doing with my life right now. Everything I’ve done so far, I have worked for and saved my own money for—everything I have needed to do. This is my baby.”