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Patriotic singer finds her niche in country

Submitted photo/ Andy Plavny Candace Campana of Struthers has performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at many major sporting events and is attracting attention for her own songs, like the pop country single "Goodie Two Shoes Girl."

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of Saturday profiles of area residents and their stories. To suggest a profile, contact features editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com or metro editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com

Candace Campana is a songwriter herself, but the song she’s sung the most is a familiar one

by a composer named Francis Scott Key.

When she’s not performing her own contemporary country songs, the 30-year-old singer from Struthers regularly performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events and other gatherings.

She’s sung the national anthem for all three Cleveland major league sports teams — the Browns, Indians and Cavs — along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Bears.

The first time was in grade school when a neighbor who worked for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers asked her if she wanted to sing the anthem before game at Eastwood Field in Niles.

“I was so scared,” she said. “I was a wee little tot, and there were all these people there, but I grew to love it so much. From a very young age, I wanted to do it all the time.”

Campana is a traditionalist when it comes to the anthem. She sings it straight and doesn’t jazz it up or take too many liberties, but she sometimes has to adapt to the demands of the venue.

“With the NFL, you can’t go past a minute, 30 (seconds),” she said. “I have to practice a lot by myself, making sure I have room to hold out the word ‘free’ — people really like that and it’s fun to sing that high note. But other venues, they don’t mind at all if I go 2 minutes, 2:10.”

She also sings at events that aren’t a big as professional football games, but they’re more emotional. Her last anthem appearance was last weekend performing at a motorcycle run to raise money for a memorial park to be named for Rowan Sweeney, a 4-year-old boy from Struthers who was shot and killed last September.

“That was so moving,” Campana said.

Campana has wanted to be a performer since she was younger than Rowan. She told her parents she wanted to be a singer at age 3, and her parents let her audition for a Youth Theatre show at Youngstown Playhouse. She got strep throat shortly before the show opened, and her mother made her drop out.

“I still haven’t forgiven my mom,” she said.

She had other chances on stage at the Playhouse and with Easy Street Productions, where she started as one of its Little Rascals before becoming a featured vocalist.

“I love Easy Street Productions,” Campana said. “Maureen (Collins) and Todd (Hancock) are just awesome. They’re my musical parent figures.”

Campana still has a love for musical theater. Last month. she posted a video to Instagram of her singing “Think of Me,” the “Phantom of the Opera” song sung by Christine Daae, which Campana called her dream role. The video was liked by none other than “Phantom” composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (or at least the person responsible for his social media).

But these days, she’s more likely to be singing contemporary country. And in a genre where singers relying on outside songwriters is the norm, Campana writes her own material.

Her latest single is “Goodie Two Shoes Girl,” a catchy confection about the kind of girl a country boy can be proud to take home to mama.

“So many songs on the radio glorify the wild life,” Campana said. “That’s fine if that’s what you’re into, but that’s not my thing. It’s a song that relates to people like me.”

Campana said she’s very much like the woman in her song — she’s already signed up her horse to compete in the Canfield Fair and has picked out a costume. And the horse is just part of a menagerie of pets that include a dog, a cat, a goat and a skunk.

But she also has a bit of wild side too. While she’s sings country, she listens to Korn, Metallica, Ghost, Alice in Chains and other hard rock / heavy metal acts.

“I don’t drink, I don’t swear and I don’t listen to the kind of music I write,” she said.

She’s using music videos and social media to promote her songs while live performance opportunities remain limited due to COVID-19. And she’s used the down time in the last year to learn how to play drums, violin and mandolin as well as studying ballet and dance.

Campana said her dream gig would be to open for Carrie Underwood on tour, and becoming a country star could help Campana achieve her national anthem dream.

“I want the Super Bowl real bad.”

agray@tribtoday.com

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