From singing in local coffee shops in front of about 50 people, to performing for national artists, to playing at a campus festival, UCF student Cat Ridgeway continues to build her career with the intention of never giving up.
Born and raised in Orlando, Cat, a freshman mechanical engineering major, strives to turn her singing dream into a reality by moving to Nashville and playing in the big leagues.
After visiting a recording studio just five minutes away from her house when she was younger, Cat decided to sign up for open mic night as a fun event to participate in.
"I then began to play open mic night every single week," she said.
She took music lessons and was involved with different school activities, but Cat was mostly influenced and learned a lot of the musical instruments she plays now from her brother, Mitch.
"I really have to credit my brother for learning instruments," Cat said.
Her brother, although focusing his time on studying engineering and not so much making music a career, still joins his sister and backs her up in shows.
"Performing with her is a lot of fun. She brings a lot of energy to the stage and makes a really entertaining show," Mitch said. "I'll back her up with vocals and lead guitar most of the time."
Nicole Frye, Cat's best friend since meeting on their high school cross-country team, has always been someone Cat can count on and share her musical ambitions with.
"Sometimes I go hang out with her and she just spends hours playing music or messing around on the guitar, singing to me," Frye said. "She is authentic and dedicated and absolutely loves what she does and is so grateful to be where she is today."
Cat went on to perform at her Lake Mary High School graduation in front of 618 graduates at the CFE Arena, at festivals such as the Florida Music Festival 2013 and 2014, and opened up for The Voice runner-up Dia Frampton at The Social.
"The night I performed for Dia Frampton was the night when I really felt like I could really do this. The crowd actually wanted me come out for an encore, as an opener," Cat said.
She has also recorded a track that was featured as a soundtrack to the 2011 film, Bernie, featuring Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey.
The indie-pop artist draws her inspiration from her surroundings and what she is interested in at the time.
"I'm mainly influenced by just what's around me," Cat said. "I would sometimes wake up at 4 a.m. and have to turn on a voice memo on my phone to record what's in my head. The melody just hits me, or sometimes I would just be in a creative mood."
Through mutual friends and family members, Cat received the opportunity to work with Ben Cooper, a Nashville singer-songwriter and producer for Writers Den Music Group.
Cooper has worked on Grammy-nominated albums, including Ricky Skaggs' album Mosaic, and is currently working on going in the studio with Cat to finish her record.
"Cat is one of the most gifted and creative musicians I've had the privilege to work with. She has the ability to blend an honest message with a playful melody that creates a powerful connection with the listener," Cooper said. "Cat and I will be going into the studio in December and I can't wait for people to hear her personality through the songs and messages she's been crafting."
Cat said Cooper really understands her dreams and the direction she wants to take her music in, and and together they have a really "good-working relationship."
Cat's future goals include collaborating with her favorite artists, such as Fleetwood Mac and Lorde, going on a world tour and one day and headlining a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.
With her experiences in playing many different shows for various amounts of people, one might wonder how Cat drives away any nerves and keeps a calm composure.
"One of my biggest fears in life is people thinking I'm self-centered or a jerk," Cat said. "I've worked really hard to get where I am, I have a lot to learn still and I definitely try to come across as genuine as I can."
To continue pursuing her dreams, Cat started a Kickstarter campaign called "Cat Goes to Nashville."
"I think Kickstarter has the most recognizable name and that's why I chose it," Cat said. "On my own, I have raised $5,000. I need to raise $5,500 more in order to pay for equipment, mixing and mastering, lodging and more."
According to the campaign's website, Cat has already raised more than $2,000, almost hitting the halfway mark.
On Oct. 28, Cat is set to perform at this year's Harvest Festival, hosted by UCF's Academic Village. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be live music from local artists, duos and bands, as well as pumpkin painting, a photo booth, a bonfire and tons of food.
To follow what Cat is up to, visit bencooperproductions.com to listen to and watch what she has been working on.