KARLSTAD, Minn. — Twenty-year-old Dariann Leigh of Karlstad, Minn., has been singing and writing songs for as long as she can remember.

“It’s your emotion. It’s your soul,” Leigh said. “No matter if you’re writing it or just listening to it, it’s solely where people can relate to it.”

Now her dedication and passion is paying off.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, Leigh will be at the Midwest CMA Awards in Medina, awaiting the results on two nominations: New Artist of the Year and Music Video of the Year for her song “Give Me a Minute”.

The video was shot entirely in the Brainerd Lakes area, where her family has a cabin.

“I wasn’t expecting it," said Leigh. "Honestly, no matter what comes from it, I’m totally floored just to be nominated.”

Supporters like her family say the recognition proves taking a leap of faith to follow a dream is worth the risk.

 20-year-old Dariann Leigh is up for two Midwest CMA awards. (WDAY)
20-year-old Dariann Leigh is up for two Midwest CMA awards. (WDAY)

The 2017 graduate, from a class of only 14 students, first went to the University of North Dakota before following her dreams. Leigh's mother, Lori Wikstrom, said she could tell it wasn’t truly what her daughter wanted. So when Dariann asked to come home after a semester, it was a no-brainer.

“We said we support you. We’ll stand behind you,” Lori said. “I guess one thing I always say, as a parent, when your children get to be 18, you shouldn’t tell them to stop dreaming.”

Not long after that, Leigh began spending time recording her music on music row in Nashville. Her song, “Give Me a Minute,” debuted a year ago. Since then, she has been splitting her time between Karlstad and Nashville.

Within the next year or two, she plans on moving to Nashville full-time. Despite that, the Minnesota native says Karlstad will always be her home base.

“They’ve known me since I was in diapers,” she laughed. “Everybody here knows me really well, and it makes it fun to come home and see all the smiling faces and the welcome and the support. It’s crazy the small town support you can get.”

The Midwest CMA Music and Award Show begins at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Medina Ballroom.