He’s living out that dream, taking it to the national stage Tuesday (September 1), playing guitar with country star Cam, on Good Morning America, as she performs her hit song “Burning House.”
“This is a cool experience, because I’m working with an artist I’ve had a hand in making the music with, and these are my great friends,” Showalter said in a phone interview from his Nashville home. “The ability to get on TV and play for everybody watching, playing music with my friends, and people seem to care, that’s the rewarding thing for me.”
A Kokomo native, he moved to Los Angeles shortly after earning his degree in communication arts from IU Kokomo in 2005. He enrolled at the Musicians Institute, both to improve his guitar skills and to get his feet on the ground on the west coast.
“At that time I had lived with my parents, and I had been to Chicago,” he said. “That is about as far as I had traveled. By the standards of our community, I was a great guitar player, but I knew I wasn’t ready to make a living at it.”
Showalter worked hard, played gigs, taught lessons, and met other musicians, including Cam, who is now one of the newest artists on the Arista Nashville record label. He’s worked with her since 2010, and helped with her kickstarter campaign to fund her debut album. He also connected with songwriter Tyler Johnson, and Grammy award-winning producer and songwriter Jeff Bhasker.
“From the beginning, I thought she was very talented,” he said. “Having (Bhasker) in the mix over time definitely helped get the music out there and get people excited about it. It’s been like starting off working with friends kind of casually, and it’s turned into pretty much my full-time job.”
He’s played on television before, including on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan, and The Tonight Show, and while he calls those “cool experiences,” this one means more to him, because of his connection with Cam and the other musicians.
“The other times, I was hired as a singer or a guitar player, but it wasn’t anything I had part of the vision,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of writing and producing on my own. Cam is the first artist I’ve worked with from the inside out who has gotten some attention. She has definitely shown the star power through time, and the commitment to me and to the people involved.”
He admits to being a little more nervous about this appearance than others.
“The intro of the song is me playing acoustic guitar, and a part that’s not easy to play,” he said. “I’m more exposed than before. I’m also acting as the musical director, so I am kind of in charge of what is going on.”
He and the band flew to New York from Nashville Monday afternoon, and planned a rehearsal in the evening. They’ll arrive at the Good Morning America studios at 4:30 a.m., to play at about 8:30 a.m.
Showalter said his IU Kokomo experience helped prepare him for life as a musician, first in Los Angeles, and then in Nashville. He especially remembers when music instructor Cindy Ison gave him a small budget to record a song he wrote, as part of his final project as a music minor.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It wasn’t a lot, but it gave me the opportunity to be creative, and to record this crazy, weird, piece of music I wrote. They noticed I had this talent, and encouraged me to pursue it. Everyone knew where my priorities were, and told me to go into the world and experience it, don’t just stick around here.”
He will spend 2016 touring with Cam, and he anticipates they will perform in Indiana.
Since moving to Nashville, he’s been able to visit Kokomo more often, and helped with the local Rockstar Academy camp during the summer. He would like to start a program or scholarship to help other aspiring musicians.
“Some of the most talented people in my life are from the small towns of America,” he said. “There are so many untapped resources and people, I’d love to have a scholarship for small town talent.
A lot of people don’t know the opportunities that exist, and the kinds of things you can do if you want to work in music. There are so many ways to earn money to pay for your instruments and time to foster your art. I’d like to find these talented people in small towns, and figure out a way to get their music out there, and educate them so they don’t give up. A lot of people give up because they just don’t know how to get started.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.