Newcomer Margaret Durante is quickly becoming one of the hottest new stars in country music. Her new single, ‘Maybe Tonight,’ impacted radio earlier this week, and her four-song EP, also titled ‘Maybe Tonight,’ became available for purchase through iTunes. Durante, a gifted songwriter and talented singer, takes pride in her role in country music and hopes to be someone kids can look up to and emulate. She is putting the finishing touches on her first full-length album, which is set for release later this year on James Stroud’s newly launched Emrose Records. Taste of Country is thrilled to introduce you to emerging star Margaret Durante.

How was your time in the studio on your first album? Was it a comfortable experience?
It really was, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that James Stroud was producing. He was one of the first people I met after moving to Nashville three years ago. We are great friends now, but he has always been such a wonderful collaborator. He could be too proud to help a newbie like me or be open to any suggestions that I might have, but he was so welcoming to different ideas. He said recently if I always did my own thing and didn’t custom my production to each artist, I’d get burnt out. I think that’s why he’s so great at what he does. His priority is making music the artist intends to make with his James Stroud stamp on it. I love working with him. I feel like I’ve made the album that I wanted to make, with someone who knows what he’s doing guiding me along the way.

What was your biggest challenge in the studio?
In the studio my biggest challenge was really getting that emotion across on tape. It's really important to me. That's why I've always listened to music growing up, to feel like I wasn't alone in whatever it was that I was feeling. When you’re singing a happy song or a sad song, if what the singer is feeling doesn't come across, then it doesn't have the impact that the listener really wants from music. So it wasn't challenging, it was just what put the most pressure on me. James is so perceptive that if he wasn't feeling something, he'd say, "I don’t believe it," and I'd have to figure out what I need to do to make what I’m singing about believable. I wanted to make the listener realize these songs are coming from real life experiences, or with the songs I didn't write, I needed to really be as authentic as possible because I chose those songs for a reason. They spoke to me, and I want them to speak to the listener the same way.

Describe the music and the lyrical content on the album and EP.
A lot of it is coming of age and love gained and love lost. There's a lot of that. Leaving home … I grew up in Potomac, Maryland. That's where my whole family is. It's right outside D.C. We kind of have an identity crisis because we aren't the north or the south -- they call our region mid-Atlantic. But then I went to Clemson, S.C. in the middle of my sophomore year. That's when I moved to Nashville. So I think listening to the album, it's going to be songs that have been written over those three years. So much has changed, and I feel like I've evolved as a performer, singer and artist a lot in those three years because I’ve had to adjust to a new city and throw myself into this huge pool of talented people. Nashville has so much to offer musically, and there's a lot of maturing that took place in the process of making this album. My heart was broken significantly over the course of these three years, and I also fell in love, too, so those were happy times. So three years that have been packed with material and experiences that have yielded this album. That's the plus side to being a songwriter. This jerk who broke my heart can now help me write a song [laughs]!

When did you first start writing songs?
I was in college when I started writing music that I'd actually share with people. I've been singing my whole life, but there is something so vulnerable in sharing your original material, lyrics and melodies that come from no one but you. So I was probably a freshman when I wrote the first song that I really liked. So I would go out to my jeep and drive around Clemson and use a handheld recorder and write my music because there was nowhere else to do it. I was living in a dorm or sorority halls and no one there really wanted to sit down and write a song with me because it's hard. It's tough to do. It puts you in a vulnerable position. When I got to Nashville, just meeting with people who have accomplished so much as songwriters was so humbling, but also one of the most valuable learning experiences I've ever had because I love that part of this process now. I love writing. I think it's a great tool for any artist in connecting with your listeners. It really bridges that gap between the artist and listener.

It's always humbling to write with a lot of the writers around town. But like anything, when you are playing against a stronger opponent, like in a sport or something, it makes you better. You watch what they do, you see what you aren't doing, and one of the greatest things I've learned from the best songwriters I've written with in town is their acceptance of making mistakes. It's like the more ideas they throw out in a co-write the better, 'cause it might be something that is totally off the wall and doesn't work, but it sparks an idea in my head that allows me to fill in the gaps of whatever it is we are trying to finish. Just being as vocal as possible, that's what music is all about … really sharing stuff that is meaningful to the artist or singer.

Watch the Margaret Durante 'Maybe Tonight' Video