Everybody in Fort Wayne knows Addison Agen. She’s the northeast Indiana girl who was the runner-up in season 13 of NBC’s singing competition series The Voice in 2017 when she was still in high school.
About a month after the final episode aired in January 2018, Agen came back to Fort Wayne to perform two shows at Embassy Theatre, playing for thousands of local fans.
Although conversations with music business executives followed her season on The Voice, Agen didn’t want a musical style to be dictated to her by the pop producers who took an interest, so she struck out on her own.
Today, out of the television limelight, Agen is forging her own career as an independent artist, and that suits her just fine.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29
Baker Street Centre
323 W. Baker St., Fort Wayne
$20-$40 · (260) 426-6434
In June 2021, she released her second solo album, When the Morning Comes. She wrote all the songs and recorded it with producers and musicians in Michigan, using a small budget funded through a Kickstarter campaign, and released it independently. Agen, with her distinctive voice, made the record to define her own style as an Americana artist with an acoustic folk sound.
Agen recently completed an associate’s degree in graphic design, and since then has taken up residence in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is immersing herself in the songwriting culture.
Forging her way in Nashville, she’ll be visiting with her Fort Wayne friends for an intimate performance at Baker Street Centre on Friday, Sept. 29.
“We’ll be traveling through and playing a show with our friend Max Lockwood,” she said in a phone interview with Whatzup. “I just travel as a small intimate setup at this point. It’s me and Mike Gronsky on guitar. And then Max Lockwood will join in for a couple songs. It’ll be a small, intimate night just purely for storytelling and song sharing.
“I moved to Nashville about a year ago and have been writing so much,” she added. “I have had quite the crazy ride with music over the past couple of years.”
In the concert at Baker Street Centre Agen says, “I’ll be telling a little bit of my life story, with a couple songs of other people’s stories. All the stories that have really impacted me to make me who I am will be told throughout the night, weaved through with, obviously, plenty of songs.”
Going her own way
Agen’s musical journey in Nashville has been fruitful.
“I fell into the kindest, most wonderful community of songwriters, and a lot of female songwriters, too,” she said. “It’s cool to be around such like-minded community.
“It’s been really good for me, for my inspiration. It’s been easier than I thought it would be — super challenging to meet new people, but in this town it’s sort of like everybody wants to meet everybody and write songs with everybody. The way to hang out here is just like, ‘Oh, let’s go write a song together.’ And to me that’s the greatest thing ever.”
Agen is planning a new album with no definite timetable, but this one will be a Nashville production, with co-writers — the people that are mentoring her and increasing her musical knowledge as she writes with them. She’s going to fund the project herself since she is still working without management, a publishing company, or record label.
“It would be awesome to have all that one day, but that hasn’t come around yet,” she said of representation.
In the meantime, she’s on the subscription service Patreon, where a few dozen patrons encourage her to keep putting out music. She also gets opportunities to tour across the country and play house concerts.
“Patreon has been a blessing for sure,” she said. “The money from Patreon is definitely going back into getting music out there for people.”
Learning As she goes
Finding opportunities to collaborate with more established songwriters in Nashville and building up a catalog of new songs is Agen’s priority. She’s determined to develop her craft and become a better musician.
“I’m learning from the people that I’m co-writing with,” she says. “It’s just not through structured education.”
Still, the road calls to her, and she’s not neglecting opportunities to win new fans in live performances.
“I play probably 50-60 concerts (in a year), but that includes travel days, so probably a third of the year I’m traveling,” she said.
In addition to house concerts for Patreon fans, she books other opportunities.
“We do venues, festivals, house concerts, churches,” she said. “It’s a mix of all of the things that we love.”
Jumping at opportunity
Agen has popped up in a couple of performances here recently, including June 2022 at the Middle Waves festival and this past July at the Three Rivers Festival. But she was featured in a unique performance last holiday season that not a lot of people know about.
On Dec. 17, the musicians of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra had just gone on strike over contract negotiations. On nothing but a couple days of word of mouth and social media posts, the 65 or more musicians gave a free Christmas concert at Purdue University Fort Wayne. More than 1,000 people attended and gave donations. Robert Nance of Heartland Sings conducted the orchestra, and the featured singer was Agen.
“I got a call the week of , and they said, ‘Hey, would you be willing to come up and play with us?’ ” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever say no to playing with an orchestra!”
With Nance at the piano, Agen sang one of her favorite songs, “River” by Joni Mitchell, from 1971. In a thrill for folks my age, she sang “Grown-Up Christmas List,” in the orchestral arrangement Amy Grant sang from 1992.
“I grew up singing that song with my mom at different Christmas functions and things,” Agen said. “It had been years since I’d sang it, so it was cool.
“We’re friends with a lot of people in the orchestra, and also I would have done anything to support them. It was super worthwhile for me.”
No matter where she travels, Agen is thinking about her friends in Fort Wayne. With the concert at Baker Street Centre she has a chance to catch us up with stories from her musical journey.
“It’s going to be great. I’m super excited,” she said.