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Most parents don't encourage their kids to try to become singers. But when Shannon Brown's dad heard her powerful voice, he told her to go for it.

"For a father to tell his daughter she should be in one of the most unstable professions there is, I figured there must be something to it," she recalls. "I started thinking about it very seriously then, because I knew he wouldn't just say that."

A decade after Shannon's father had that conversation with his teenage daughter, he's been proven right - she recently hit the charts with her version of Deborah Allen's 1983 hit "Baby I Lied."

Shannon has come a long way since she began singing in her parents' nightclub in the small town of Spirit Lake, Iowa. "It was when karaoke first came out," she explains, "so my dad asked me if I would get up and sing, just to motivate others to get up and make fools of themselves, too! After that, it was like fate."

One of Shannon's karaoke-night performances caught the ear of a local club owner, who invited her to come sing for his patrons. Before she knew it, she was playing up to 220 shows a year throughout the Midwest.

Shannon made the move to Nashville in 1994 and scored a record deal three years later - although label shakeups delayed her first album, now to be released in January. "It's a contemporary country album, but it's got key elements of traditional-sounding country in it as well," she reports. "And I'm a real rock, R&B and blues fan, so I lean more to the heart and soul of that, versus the polished sound of pop music."

As if the pending release of her debut isn't exciting enough, Shannon recently made her Grand Ole Opry debut. "That was probably the ultimate thrill," she says. "I was so relieved that I actually got through it, because I was a nervous wreck! My parents were there, and as soon as I came offstage, we were all bawling, hugging each other."

Now Shannon hopes to take her career to the next level. "I want to headline my own show, sell a lot of records and share my gift," she says, "but I'd also like to be involved with some of my favorite charities, and help people. Right now I'm trying to do that at this small level, but hopefully I can reach a place where I can really make a difference. I think that's the true blessing of being here."

- Chris Neal