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Kickstarting her career

Local country singer Courtney Gunsalus, also known as "Courtney Guns," created an online Kickstarter campaign to help her make her first music video. The 2009 Bemidji High School graduate plans to move to Nashville to further her country music career. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Courtney Gunsalus has always loved to sing and perform, but it wasn't until she graduated from Bemidji High School in 2009 that she decided to put her heart and soul into a country music career.

She has since been building her singing resume, keeping busy writing songs and performing wherever she can.

Gunsalus, now 23, has released a CD, "Never Let the Dust Settle," of all original songs, participated and won multiple singing competitions, opened for Eric Church in front of 50,000 people and auditioned for television shows "American Idol" and "The Voice."

This summer, Gunsalus, known on stage as "Courtney Guns," has been working hard to raise money to create a music video for her song "All We Have".

"We just reached our goal of $7,000 yesterday (Wednesday) because the bids closed today," Gunsalus said. "We will start making the music video next week."

Gunsalus used the online fundraising source Kickstarter to make her music video a reality. People can donate as little as $1 to as much as $500 or more and then receive rewards depending on how much they donate.

The money raised will go to cost producing the video, as well as other miscellaneous fees. Gunsalus is thankful for all the help, because without the generosity of others, she said, the video wouldn't be a go.

"It's so great to have people that really do support me. We just raised $7,000 for this music video, but I have to say, at first I was really scared about how it was going to turn out. I felt like it was way too much money to ask for, but a lot of people really stepped up and helped me out," she said.

Former BHS grad Harlan Hegna, currently a freelance director and producer in California, is traveling back to Minnesota to make the music video with Gunsalus. She is excited to be working with him, she said, and making the video could help her get her name out there.

"I think my song is really catchy and powerful, but having it on a CD really doesn't do much," Gunsalus said. "But having people actually watch a video about your song really draws attention to it, because it puts into perspective what the song is really about."

Although Gunsalus said she doesn't want to share too many details about the music video just yet, she doesn't mind talking about her inspiration for her song "All We Have".

"I was actually taking a nap one day, and I woke up thinking the words 'I don't travel the world, but I see what I can.' That's where it started out," she said. "My brother is in the National Guard, so it just turned into a song about him and about other veterans."

Gunsalus said when the video is finished, it will go on Youtube for people to watch and share, hopefully garnering some regional and national attention. "I think that if someone big hears it, they will go 'I want this song'. And that's what I want."

On to Nashville

Gunsalus will be performing at Turtle River Day on Aug. 23 and also that night at the 33rd annual Country Showdown at Northern Lights Casino in Walker. Those will be some of her last local gigs this year as she plans to move to Nashville with her band no later than January.

"It's hard to get somewhere with a music career when you live in northern Minnesota. I get a lot of support here, and I really appreciate it," Gunsalus said. "But there comes a point where you can only do so many things with what you have."

For now Gunsalus said she's just going to keep smiling and playing her guitar.

"I like to keep other people happy and inspire them with my music. And I'm really a happy-go-lucky kind of person."