Newcastle novitiate Catherine Britt is on the verge of a major breakthrough in the U.S. with a little help from her new friends.

And, it's not just Sir Elton John, with whom she recorded a duet on a tune penned with Jerry Salley for her second album.

It has been well documented how Sir Elton went into bat for Catherine after hearing her excellent Aussie debut disc Dusty Smiles and Heartbreak Cures on an Australian tour.

But a big coup is the co-write with Texan songsmith Guy Clark - a revered singer-songwriter who has toured Australia twice.

Britt wrote Poor Man's Pride with Clark and Salley on one of her frequent writing sojourns in Nashville.

Catherine also wrote Hot Doggin and Bad News Travels Fast with Salley and Too Far Gone with veteran hit writer Paul Overstreet.

They also survived the culling process for her U.S. BMG album debut produced by acclaimed hit writer and session supremo Keith Stegall and her mentor Bill Chambers.

A release date is dependent on success of debut U.S. single The Upside Of Being Down that reached #57 on the Billboard charts in its first week and climbed to #46.

It was the most added song on radio on debut with at least 22 stations selecting it for regular airplay.

The track was also being tipped for a top 10 spot on the Billboard country music charts.

It appears Britt wrote or co-wrote most songs on the untitled album fermenting as Stegall fine-tuned it for a belated launch in 2005.

Britt's single is scheduled for Australian release in September and - she is making a video for it.

"Catherine has just recorded an AOL Session which hopefully will be shown soon," father Steve Britt revealed, "this is unusual for a country artist and unheard of for a new artist."

Britt co-wrote six of the 11 songs on the untitled album that is fermenting as Stegall fine-tunes it for a belated launch in 2005.

"I only get in the mood to write songs when I'm down, when I'm depressed or missing home," Britt recently revealed.

"When I'm happy, I don't want to be sitting at home songwriting, I want to be out. I don't think I've ever written a happy song. It's funny like that."


They include Fallin' Out Of Love With You, Nobody's Fool, Too Far Gone and Where We Both Say Goodbye - the duet with Sir Elton.

That Britt-Salley collaboration was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 13.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but it was awful," Britt joked in a recent interview.

"It was so nerve-racking. We were singing to each other, he was looking in my eyes and smiling and it killed me. I think you can hear it in the track, the emotion that was going on and how hard it was to stand in a room and sing with Elton John. It was quite scary but we really had a lot of fun."

It's a compliment to Britt that Elton allowed her to choose the duet and dedicated his song Tiny Dancer to her at a recent Las Vegas concert where she and mother Anne were his VIP guests.


The label spent $30,000 on a photo shoot and made a radio documentary to maximise her exposure.

"I've been doing some video shooting since I've been here for RCA to send out to the radio stations with the new single," Britt revealed in a missive from the war front, "just a little 10 minute documentary on me and my music."

Catherine had cosmetic surgery to remove a facial scar, obligatory weight loss and media training to ensure she doesn't upset precious programmers and power brokers.

"I've been spending some time with the top vocal therapy doctors in Nashville, learning how to look after my singing voice," she added.


Chart topping Tennessee troubadour Kenny Chesney harmonised on her tune New Pair Of Shoes after Britt joined him on tour.

"I saw Keith Urban at Starbucks and was sitting and chatting with him for a while," Britt revealed recently.

"He invited us to his concert with Kenny Chesney in Memphis. I went and ended up staying on the tour for the weekend and saw them in Mississippi the next night - the last night of the tour. I had a ball and spent a lot of time with Kenny. I played him my album and he freaked out big time. He liked it so much he wanted me to get up at the stadium concert that night and do a duet with him. I backed down but I still got up on stage during the set and just sang with him and some crew for fun."

Britt has also featured a cameo by Don Helms - pedal steel guitarist for Hank Williams Drifting Cowboys - on Hotdoggin.'

The singer has also cut Bruce Robison song Wrapped, title track of his 1998 Lucky Dog disc and covered by his singing spouse Kelly Willis (mother of their twins) - on her 1999 Rykodisc album What I Deserve - on the eve of their Australian tour.

Catherine also changed the gender of Robison song He Don't Care About Me - one of his 67 songs on the BMI site.


Songs may be the fossil fuel of an artist but there's also a necessity to frock up for a genre with huge visual appeal in the world's most lucrative and competitive market.

Ms Britt confessed her penchant for hair extensions to compete with made for TV belles that ring in Nashville and beyond.

What about those hair extensions?

"I'm gonna ask them to do my hair like Paris Hilton so I'm happy about that," Catherine joked, "pity I don't look like her."

Britt spent five hours awaiting a Tennessee driving licence to commandeer her prized Jeep around the streets of Nashville and beyond.

Meanwhile her version of Paul Kelly song If I Could Start Today Again is a highlight of ABC-TV series Fireflies soundtrack.

Britt is likely to return home at the end of the year to spend Christmas with her family and perform at Tamworth in January.

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