New York-born, Nashville-based singer and songwriter Ruthie Collins had the Herculean task of giving the first Mane Stage performance at Day 3 of Stagecoach but never let her sunny demeanor flag even though she and her trio were playing to just three dozen or so fans immediately in front of the stage.
The rest of the crowd was behind partitions at least half a football field away. In this age of male-dominated country sales charts, Collins saluted several of her female musical role models, including Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain and Stevie Nicks.
After her set, relaxing in the backstage media tent, Collins said she grew up on a grape farm in upstate New York that had been in her family for more than 100 years.
Her musician mother's musical tastes leaned more toward the gentle folk-country of James Taylor, but she developed an interest in country "from this guy I dated in eighth grade. We'd go to his hockey games and his parents would play country in the car.
In Nashville, she has worked with producer-songwriter Nathan Chapman, and she's co-producing a debut album scheduled for release early next year.
As a woman writing, playing and co-producing her own records she said, "Of course Alison Krauss is a huge inspiration. She seems to be the one most people compare me to, along with Dolly Parton."
One song she's working on for the album, in fact, is "Dear Dolly," which she describes as her open letter to the country music veteran.
Dispensing with any further elaboration, Collins said, "I just love Dolly."