October 2020

Women Who Rock:The Lowcountry’s greatest hits

Author: Cheryl Alexander | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

The past few years have seen a surge of women worldwide making strides and breaking records in just about every industry imaginable. Although trending hashtags are #girlpower and #bosslady, sadly, a Google search for famous women musicians from South Carolina offers scarce results. However, three lovely Lowcountry ladies are on a mission to change that statistic by making waves on both sides of the river.


Candice Rae
Candice Rae is a Hilton Head Island transplant, originally from Buffalo, New York. Her favorite performance style is contemporary jazz, but her range spans from classic to pop and opera to rock. “I channel the energy of Sarah Vaughn, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald when I perform,” she said.

Rae has been performing since childhood when she sang in musicals with her school chorus and played violin in the orchestra.

“In seventh grade,” Rae shared, “one teacher took a chance and gave me a solo. When my other teachers tried to shush and soften me, Mrs. Weider encouraged me to embrace what made me different.”

During her freshman year in high school, on a field trip to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, she saw La bohème, and it changed her life. Until then, Rae was not aware of how opera could move an individual even when one does not understand the words.

“It awakened something in me that I didn’t even know was there,” Rae said.

Rae then began to study opera, and everything she thought she knew about music went a little sideways. She still enjoyed performing in musicals, but now she wanted to fully immerse in the culture of opera.

She attended Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where she studied vocal performance and dance. There, too, she studied with a variety of guest teachers from Carnegie Mellon and was invited to sing a solo on NPR for Fred Roger’s requiem mass.

After college, Rae returned to New York to audition for roles on Broadway and in the opera, where she sang with Maestro Giacomo Franci with the New York Chamber Orchestra. However, she slowly began to realize that she was not cut out for Broadway.

“I got feedback that I was too tall, too Midwest-looking, had too many freckles, too young or that my voice wasn’t mature enough—all things that were beyond my control,” Rae said.

So, after three years, just when she was ready to give up, she had an audition with Casey Colgan, from the Art Center of Coastal Carolina.

“Casey pulled me out of a lineup and said, ‘There is something I like about you, and I think it’s your face,’” Rae said. “He invited me to Hilton Head to be in a show, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Rae eventually started her own band and has become a full-time musician, currently performing weekly at the Westin and at the Dunes House in Palmetto Dunes with A Welcome Distraction (with Jos Vickers) and Heart and Harmony (with her husband Liam Cronin). Both bands perform mostly covers, but Heart and Harmony songs are meaningful to Rae and Cronin as a couple and highlight their June-and-Johnny-Cash-esque dynamic.

With Vickers, the performances are more of an artistic expression and musical exploration of songs. The harmonies of Rae and Vickers are haunting, and many times when they sing, the audience is so spellbound you can hear a pin drop.

“We will sing our version of a song most people know,” Rae said, “and they will say, ‘Wow, I almost didn’t recognize that song.’”

Rae’s schedule includes a lot of upcoming jazz in October. Look for her at the Dunes House for a charity event performance for the Palmetto Dunes Foundation. She is also working with Mario Incorvaia of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra to do a “Live Stream Monday” special at SoundWaves.

Future plans include a new baby. “Liam and I are expecting and are overjoyed!” Rae said. “We are so excited to raise a music baby. We love that our little nugget hears live concerts from his parents every week in the womb!”
Learn more at awelcomedistraction.com, broadwayworld.com, and hhso.org/soundwaves/.


Taylor Kent
Taylor Kent is only 23 years old, yet she has the musical chops of a seasoned folk/classic rocker. “My dream voice is a combination of Susan Tedeschi (because she is in a jam band with no set style and an impromptu vibe), Allison Krauss (because her voice is angelic), and Nora Jones (because she is so soothing to the ear and has such tone control),” Kent said.

Music has been the biggest part of this self-taught singer and guitarist’s identity for as long as she can remember. Kent sang the National Anthem at Virginia’s Radford University where her dad was a baseball coach when she was four years old. Her earliest gigs (before she hit double digits) were performing at church festivals and city parades. When Kent was 10, her family moved to Hilton Head, and by the time she was 14, she was getting paid to perform at Hilton Head’s Smokehouse and Big Bamboo.

Songwriting is also part of Kent’s musical experience, and she believes that musicians and songwriters see the world through a different lens than others that makes them more emotionally perceptive. Her songs tell stories about the things she is going through and what she witnesses in the lives of those around her. Kent’s favorite original song is “Henry Road,” a street she lived on in college.

She started her foray into higher-learning at Belmont University in Nashville with songwriting as her major. Finding Belmont an awkward fit, Kent transferred to Ferrum College in Virginia where she studied English, communication, and philosophy. Due to the remote locale of Ferrum, for the first time, she had a lot of time to reflect, breathe, and observe. As well, because of the limited venues in the area, Kent had to go deep into the mountain regions and reach for work, so she experienced some unique places that she would not have otherwise.

She expresses gratitude for the doors her talent has opened to her. “I’ve been able to meet and collaborate with so many talented people and avoid monotony,” she said. Her current favorite offering is a collaboration with Jevon Daly on a song he wrote titled “The Great Divide.”

Kent’s future includes taking things day by day, learning, growing, and writing more.

“I recently went through dry spell,” she shared, “and I’ve determined that while inspiration is important, I need to be really disciplined about writing. And I want to work with more musicians. My ideal collaboration would be with Susan Tedeschi or Maggie Rogers.”

You can currently find Kent at the Whiskey Room every Friday as well as at Fish, Big Bamboo and Frosty Frog on various dates. Learn more at Taylor Kent on Facebook at Taylor Kent Music on Instagram @ taylorkent7 and on Twitter, and all music platforms with a simple name search.


Sara Burns
Sara Burns is a native Hilton Head Islander who grew up singing and writing songs. At age 13, she taught herself to play the guitar on her mom’s childhood six-string acoustic that her grandparents had stored in their basement.

“I remember feeling so frustrated at how bad it hurt my fingertips, pressing down on the strings,” Burns said. “Finally, when I had practiced enough and built up the strength, I developed those beautiful calluses that are required to effectively play guitar. They don’t look pretty, but I’m proud of what my hands have created and what they’ve allowed me to accomplish.”

Burns joined her church praise band at Providence Presbyterian where she got comfortable performing and where she met her producer Kevin Bruchert. During high school, she learned cover songs, developed about three hours of material, and began playing different island venues. Her first gig was on the patio at One Hot Mamas when they first opened.

With vocals that have been compared to Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Shania Twain and Patty Griffin, Burns’ self-proclaimed style is a sweet soulful, folky sound. “My big thing is variety,” she said. “I honestly play a little bit everything, depending on my mood.”

She plays mostly solo and accompanies herself on acoustic guitar. Her audiences will hear a little classic rock, a little country, a little ’90s alternative. Burns’ mood and her audience determine her set list when she plays a cover gig. With hundreds of songs in her repertoire, she prefers to let the playlist unfold as she sings by looking around the audience and tuning in to the people and the vibe. “That way,” she said, “somehow each song seems to resonate within someone.”

Burns still works with Bruchert and credits him with helping shape her style and introducing her to the experience of tracking and recording her original music. “The recording process is a lot more complicated than people think. Getting the timing and tempo right, layering the harmony on top of the main vocals … all are so time consuming,” she said.

Hearing her own songs come alive affirmed Burns’ confidence as a songwriter and gave her the acquired skill of envisioning the final piece. “It’s transformational to watch something I’ve created go from the raw version to the finished product,” she said.

“Gypsy” is Burns’ current favorite original song as it represents a big chapter change in herself and her songwriting. She found that she was able to express herself in a more poetic way than some of her other more commercial creations. “‘Gypsy’ is more authentic to who I am as an artist,” she said. “It reflects the spiritual awakening that we go through when we finally let go and let energy flow through us.”

When she is not performing, Burns takes time alone to recharge at home, where other creative activities include making jewelry and dream catchers, oil painting on wood, and repurposing furniture. Learn more at Saraburnsmusic.com, Sara Burns Music on Facebook @ Sara Burns and on Twitter/Instagram. Her album is available on Spotify and iTunes (search “Gypsy” by Sara Burns).


Follow us on YouTube and Facebook for behind-the-scenes clips of this photoshoot as well as Carpool Karaoke with these four.

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