For most of Sarah Turner’s life, all she knew personally lay within the horizons that surrounded Youngstown, Ohio. She accomplished a lot there as she grew up. People noticed her exceptional voice and love of performing when she began singing in church choirs and acting in plays at the age of 6. A few years later, she showed that her initiative mirrored her talent when she and her friend Kayla launched their own car-washing and sewing businesses.
Soon, Turner was a regional celebrity. She performed the national anthem for the Youngstown Phantoms, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the YSU football team and even the Cleveland Indians. At Boardman High School, she took three different choir classes each day and often stayed after to rehearse for plays until 11 o’clock at night. Through it all she kept her grades up high enough to be admitted to Kent State University.
After a year, she was back where she began, ostensibly transferring to Youngstown State University. Actually, though she didn’t know it at the time, she had come home to revisit all the places and people she loved, and the memories she had created, in order to write the song that would lead her down the road to Nashville.
That song, “Youngstown,” painted a vivid picture in just a few verses. “Youngstown, young girl, looking out the windshield at a big old world. I’m proud of where I come from, but I’ve got a full tank of gas and I’m ready to run … I’ve got a song to sing and nothing to lose.”
“I grew up loving all kinds of music but especially country,” Turner says, over a cup of steaming tea at a coffee shop just outside of Nashville. “That kind of made me stand out in Youngstown. I grew up going to country concerts. I remember seeing Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw. I saw Jennifer Nettles four times. And I loved older country — Loretta Lynn, Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, Johnny Cash. I loved the message it gives about being true to who you are and who you’re called to be.”
She had already made numerous trips to Nashville, where she collaborated with some of the Music Row’s top songwriters and began making connections in the industry. Her supporters back home predicted big things for her. Vindy.com lauded her “newfound Music City polish” and confirmed that “the budding country singer from Boardman … means business.” Valley24.com lauded her “undeniable vocal talent” and added “she has enough character and charisma to compete with any Top 40 recording artist.”
With the warm wishes of friends, neighbors and family at her back, Turner made the move. Buoyed by her trust in God to guide her, she worked hard, sustained herself with day jobs, sharpened her already impressive vocals through lessons and performances. The country music industry took notice as she performed at the fabled Bluebird, sharing the stage with two other Youngstown natives, guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy and songwriter Kirsti Manna. She got called to open shows for major artists, including Lee Brice, Billy Dean and Trace Adkins, with whom she appeared at Youngstown Covelli Centre.
And recently, Turner has returned to the studio to begin her first full-length album since reclaiming creative control of her music. The tracks she has finished — her compelling story of a young girl seeking self-discovery and finding love in “Tramp Alene,” her saucy rendition of the Jaron Boyer/Sara Haze song “Cops” and her remake of “Youngstown,” updating the progress she has made over the past few years — point toward an album of extraordinary depth, especially for someone as young as she is. (By the way, for all she has experienced thus far, she is just 23 years old.)
Those who have heard her earlier recordings will recognize the conviction in her voice, her ability to conjure and blend multiple emotions in her writing and singing. Those who have seen her onstage or on YouTube will know that her performance, her attractiveness and confidence, mirror the expressive she pours into her music.
And those folks back home who wished her well will have the satisfaction of saying “We knew her then, back before Sarah Turner took her place among the stars in country music.”
That day, when she becomes not just Youngstown’s but America’s hometown girl, is just around the corner.