Emma White got the news about two months ago in an email from a booking agent, in all capital letters.
"WE GOT ARTSCAPE."
When the Towson singer first found out, "I was nervous, and then I just got really excited," she said. "I've never done anything big like that. I've sung the national anthem in places that are bigger, but not my own songs."
White is scheduled to perform at noon Sunday on the Wells Fargo Stage at Cathedral Street and Mount Royal Avenue—the largest stage at the festival.
"The day before is my brother's wedding, so it's going to be crazy," she said.
White, a 2006 graduate of , is known for her soul-infused pop lyrics. Many of her past shows have been at small theaters and coffee shops, so Artscape represents a major upgrade.
She about how she first got into music.
Asked about her influences, White brought up Aretha Franklin, Justin Timberlake, Patty Griffin, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston and James Taylor—and it's easy to hear a little bit of each of them in her sound.
White, 23, graduated Boston's Berklee College of Music in 2010, and then moved to Nashville to find her big break, and still splits her time between there and Towson. She cherishes the time she's spent there with its "huge community and camaraderie," but said she's not sure if Nashville's ultimately the life for her.
"I like going there, but I've kind of decided recently that I don't think it's my home home as a musician," she said. "I feel so much more like myself here and on the East Coast, just how I grew up."
In Nashville, she originally felt pressure to work more country stylings into her act, but said it "wasn't working" for her.
"As an artist, it's really important to hone your own thing that feels right to you, because if you don't believe it, then no one else is going to believe it," she said.
However, she added, "I love country writing, I want to learn from it because I feel the clarity in country music, they can do so much with the craft. Rather than spitting out words, they can really construct songs."
She said she tested the waters out west with a show in Los Angeles and has another performance coming up in New York. (She will also perform the national anthem before the Orioles game at Camden Yards next Tuesday.)
White grew up around music. Her mother, Retsy, is a musician, and her family briefly considered a move to Nashville when she was younger so she could pursue a career. When White was little, her mother recalled, she would sit down with her and they would write songs together.
"We have pictures of her playing the guitar and dancing when she was young," Retsy White said. "All kinds of music would play in the house."
The entire White family is musical, and growing up around that was a tremendouse influence on Emma White.
"I really was into it with [my mom]," she said. "She's also kind of taught me... like, I freak out if I can't finish a song and she'll be like, 'You have to kind of let it take shape on its own. You can't smother it.'"
When Retsy White found out her daughter was invited to perform at Artscape, there wasn't much more to teach her. She just told her to "get some good players and just get up there and have fun with it."
"She really wants to go after it and she wants to give it the best try she can," Retsy White said. "To be able to perform at Artscape is such a fun thing to be able to do your hometown."
Now, White said, she's putting the finishing touches on two new songs for her Sunday setlist. She's planning to work in a couple Aretha Franklin covers, along with Tower of Power's "What is Hip" to go with her softer originals.
"I'm always nervous until I get on stage, then I'm fine. Literally, I live my life nervous like all the time. I don't know why," she said. "When I perform I get like really settled for some reason and I feel like that's why I do it."