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Native experiencing success in country music

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By Panzi Blackwell

Page 28 of the May 23 issue of Country Weekly magazine features a pretty, winsome face framed with long blonde hair that may seem familiar to many Fayette County residents, especially those in Vandalia.

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It is Dani Flowers, who attended Vandalia schools until she was 17, when she moved to Nashville, Tenn.
Country music mega-star Willie Nelson, and his upcoming tour, “Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown,” is featured in much of the magazine, and among the artists accompanying him is Flowers.
Dani is also accomplished and recognized songwriter, and has recently made a CD on which she sings some of her original songs.
She has already toured with country stars Lee Ann Womack, George Strait and Reba McIntire.
Meet, or get reacquainted with, Dani Flowers, who consented to an interview while on a visit back here to her self-proclaimed hometown, Vandalia.
In Person
Her natural beauty is accented by her friendly personality … and she is very talented.
Dani said that she was befriended and given a jump-start in her songwriting by country music star Womack, whom she met at the age of 12 at a fan club meeting. She shares Womack’s and George Strait’s manager.
She is being featured in country music magazines, and other artists have shown interest in recording some of her original songs, some of which she co-wrote with other well-known professionals, including Womack.
She has been touring with the “Willie Nelson Country Throwdown Show” since May 27.
She is co-writing songs with Womack and others, and recently signed a contract with Sony/ATV Music Publishing Co. She is working on her first album for Universal Records with award-winning producer, Frank Liddell, with its release planned for the near future.
She has remained natural, unassuming and even humble, to the point of saying that she has been “incredibly lucky.” But just luck did not get her where she is today in a business that is overflowing with talented hopefuls who never make it.
“I was born in Effingham, but never lived there. I grew up here, in Vandalia, for the most part. I went to school here until I moved to Nashville. But this is my hometown.“
The Sound of Music…
…has been a part of Dani’s life as long as she can remember, and she attributes her love and gift for music to her mother and her family.
“My mother (Susie Flowers) grew up in St. Elmo, and her parents were Ida and Truman Rhodes.
“There were 11 children all together. They could all sing, and a lot of them played musical instruments, such as guitars, so I was just always around it growing up,” Dani said.
“Some of my earliest memories are listening to Mom singing around the house, playing her guitar and playing records. Her grandfather played only country music around their house,” she said.
“I guess I was allowed to listen to other music,” she said, “but until I was about 12 years old, I had no idea there was anything but country music.”
“Mom lulled me to sleep every night with a Patty Loveless cassette tape. She also sang another Patty Loveless song, ‘Don’t Toss Me Away,’ as she played her guitar. For the longest time.
“I thought it was Mom’s song, not Patty’s.  I still love Patty Loveless. She is one of my favorite singers of all time,” Dani said.
The Dream Was Born …
… when she met her idol, Lee Ann  Womack, when she was a member of her fan club. Dani has patterned her career after Womack’s. Womack must have recognized something special in Dani, even at that young age  She showed an interest in Dani and invited her to watch her shows from the wings of the stage.
A Look Back at the Past … and into to the Future
Many will remember Dani as a little girl, singing at events such as Fayette County’s Evergreen Outreach, at churches, and winning second place at the Bond County Fair, which she remembers as a new experience.
“Most of the contestants had karaoke music tapes and were all older than me. I was just 6.
“Mom just came onstage and played her guitar for me, and I sang, just like we did at the First United Methodist Church in Fillmore. And I won second place.”
Dani’s mother played the fiddle. “I wanted to learn how to play the fiddle, I liked the Dixie Chicks, and I asked for a fiddle,” she said.
“I was told I had to learn how to play a song on one before I could have one. I learned how to play ‘Silent Night’ that night, so I could get a fiddle,” she said.
Blessed with musical gifts, she also plays piano, guitar, banjo, and mandolin.
“I took piano lessons and fiddle lessons from a woman here in town, Melody Freeman. She is an incredible lady,” Dani said. Dani also played trombone in the Vandalia junior high and high school bands.
And Now
She is preparing to release her debut album.
“I signed a record deal with MCA Records in August of last year, and we just finished making my first record ever with producer, Frank Liddell, who is married to Lee Ann Womack.
“My other producer is Chuck.He produced all kinds of people like Steve Earl, and he works on all the George Strait records. He is really a great guy,”  she said.
“I’m working with professional people that I never thought I would be ever be working with, and they are all just the nicest people. I can’t believe they are helping me out like they are.
“On this record, I co-wrote all the songs. I got to work with some really awesome songwriters who helped me write the songs. I also write for a company, Sony, and another company called Carnival Music,” Dani said.
“Now that my record is done, we are hopefully going to get some cuts by other artists. I think Lee Ann is going to record one of my songs, which is really cool, because she is my hero.”
She also admires Vince Gill and actually sang with him.
The Future …
… is looking bright for Dani Flowers. As she already has traveled with country stars, and is “On the Road Again” with the “Willie Nelson Country Throwdown,” her talent as both a songwriter and a performer has been recognized and helped along.
She can’t say enough about Womack.
“When I moved too Tennessee, Lee Ann found out about it and found some of my music on My Space, which were  actually covers of her songs.
“I got a call one day from her assistant ,who said, ’Lee Ann wants to know if you would like to come and write with her tomorrow.’ Of course, I would.
“Two days later, I had a meeting with the head of the  publishing company, Sony/ATV, and two months later, I had a deal with the company and we were talking about making a record,” she said.
Back Home Again
Loyal and loving her hometown, she tries to visit fairly often between tours and dates. She still has her hair done by a Vandalia “angel,” namely Angel at Cut Loose Salon.
“That way, I get to see her and my family,” Dani said.
But Nashville is where she needs to be at this point. She is in the process of moving from an apartment to a house in Nashville … or rather, Susie, her mother, is moving things for her.
Susie was on the way home from Nashville on Tuesday evening, when she shared by telephone that Dani is still on the road with the show and won’t be home until mid-July.  They had appeared in Sparta last week end.  
“I really like it there (Tennessee), a lot,” she said … and it seems that Nashville likes Dani – her talent, her music and the person that she is.
It seems that while her dream came true, and she is singing among the stars, Dani Flowers’ feet are still on the ground, and her heart still anchored safely in her hometown.