It's a dream come true for this Quad-City area singer.

Meeting your idol is a big deal, but there's so much more to this story. Sure, a possible handshake, an 'atta girl,' and being the opening act is huge for a local singer sharing the same stage as her idol, but Wynonna Judd helped change this woman's life. Big time. More on that in a minute.

Quad City native, Monica Austin who currently lives in Muscatine will be the opening act when Wynonna Judd and the Big Noise come to East Moline, Fri., Feb. 21 at the Rust Belt. Monica takes the stage with her four piece band at 8 pm and will play a 45 minute set and is hoping her idol will be listening backstage. She's also hoping to tell Wynonna how she changed Monica's life.

It's a quirky collection of coincidences that led up to this performance.

Monica grew up in a trailer park just down the road from the Rust Belt  and this Friday, she'll be on the same stage as the woman she listened to and a child in her trailer's tiny bedroom.

 "This isn't just a case of 'oh here's someone I liked hearing on the radio and learned all her songs. This woman changed my life. Gave me hope. It was in that trailer just down the road from the Rust Belt at age 5 when I decided some day I'm going to have a big strong voice like Wynonna."

Childhood wasn't easy for Monica. She grew up in an unstable environment with a parent who was more focused on scoring the next high than cultivating a nurturing environment for a child. Monica was shy, didn't speak much and her social anxiety was crippling.

"I wanted to be in the 4th grade talent show, but when it was my time to sing, I had to leave the stage to vomit."

5th grade wasn't much better. Monica says she sang with her eyes closed tightly and cried during her performance, but she made it.

"I knew if I could somehow have the confidence and power like Wynonna exudes; I could handle anything. So I did everything I could get that confidence including singing my heart out."

After practicing Wynonna's big sound and gravely, growly voice, Monica eventually gained the confidence to regularly perform. She is grateful to the late local musician and mentor, Ellis Kell for his encouragement and suggestion that she put a band together start gigging.

Monica's first band, Fickle Filly and the Haymakers started 9 years ago and she's been gigging and writing her own songs ever since. That bit of advice has created the momentum for Monica to open for one of the most important women in country music history.

Monica says she actually started writing songs before she started performing. She chose some of the Quad Cities most talented players and has recorded and released her first EP with all original songs.

You can purchase her CD (and super cute t-shirts) at the show and at her website. She hopes to use the merchandise proceeds to fund her first LP.

Monica is also a member of the Midwest Country Music Association, which she hopes may open doors so she can start touring regionally.

If it sounds like I'm a big fan, I am. Not only is Monica a talented singer and writer, she's also a wonderful mom to three boys and one of the biggest supporters of other women in the Quad City music scene.

Now here's hoping Monica and Wynonna have time to share stories and wouldn't it be great if Monica's idol and inspiration invites her up on stage to sing together? Fingers crossed.

Tickets are available for Wynonna and The Big Noise with Monica Austin as the opening music act, Fri., Feb. 21, 8 pm at The Rust Belt, 533 12th Ave., East Moline. 

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