North Dakota native and Grammy nominee Kat Perkins has been performing since before she could tie her shoes. From singing with her big sister at a school talent show at four years old to her top-five finish on NBC’s hit TV show The Voice, she can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of her life. This past year has brought Perkins success she never thought possible, and she attributes this success to support from her family and her strong North Dakota roots. Early Years Perkins grew up in the tiny town of Scranton in southwest North Dakota, the daughter of musicians. She says she is proud to say her dad, who has been the band teacher at Scranton High School for 30 years, has been her biggest musical inspiration. “Growing up, he was always playing records and singing – he and my mom were actually in a band together,” she says. “My earliest memory is of him teaching me to sing harmony. I was jumping on my toy trampoline and he said to me, ‘just sing what I sing,’ and I did. It made me feel so warm – even though it was wintertime.” Perkins’ mom was also a big part of her musical beginnings as her first piano teacher when she was just five years old. “I don’t know where I’d be without my parents’ support and guidance,” she says. Perkins sang at a variety of local events before she landed her first big “gig” as a Burning Hills Singer in the Medora Musical at 18 years old, where she performed as “Little Miss Kathy Perkins” for five seasons. Her career then took her to singing with two Midwestern rock bands, Scarlet Haze out of the Twin Cities and Dirty Word out of Bismarck. After surgery on her vocal cords, she took a break from performing for about three years and became a nanny in Edina, Minnesota for a family with five children. Then last year, producers of The Voice asked her to audition for the show. The Voice After a lot of encouragement from her North Dakota family and her nanny family in Minnesota, Perkins auditioned for The Voice, a television show which features contestants performing for four superstar judges. During the show’s “blind auditions,” the judges listen with their backs to the performers so they are judged solely on their voices. If a judge feels strongly about the potential of a contestant, he or she turns around to face the performer. If no judge turns around, the performer is eliminated from competition. If more than one chair turns, the performer chooses which judge they want as a mentor, and he or she will compete until all but one performer is eliminated from the competition. For Perkins, three chairs turned. She describes this moment as “amazing.” She says, “I prepared for so long for that moment. When the first chair turned around, I couldn’t stop screaming and doing back flips in my head. I was so proud that all my hard work paid off. It is a moment I will never forget and it changed my life forever.” Perkins advanced to the top five finalists with a lot of help from her North Dakota fan base. “I had support not only from the people in my hometown, but the entire state,” she says. “There are no words that could ever thank everyone for their support.” Her Purpose in Life Perkins says while The Voice was one of the biggest highlights of her career so far, the other is the first time she performed for the U.S. troops overseas about three years ago. “It changed the way I think about why I do this,” she says. “It was life changing. These people needed to just exit their lives for a couple of hours and just be entertained. I loved being able to help them do that. I knew at that moment that this is what I was put on Earth to do.” A Grammy Nod Since The Voice, Perkins has released a now-hit single, “Fearless,” with a message about what people can accomplish if they put their fears aside and follow their dreams. It debuted at number five on the rock iTunes charts its first week. “Fearless” was also nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance categories. “It’s crazy,” says Perkins of making the first round of cuts. “I can’t believe that this small-town girl has made it this far! Anyone can submit a song – this year, there were about 15,000 songs submitted in these two categories – and only 350 made it to the first round of nominations. This just makes me smile, because this is proof that all my hard work has paid off – that’s a great message that kids to 85-year-olds can relate to.” Her Most Successful Year Yet Perkins credits her success, dedication and hard work to her North Dakota roots. “Growing up in North Dakota, I learned the value of hard work. North Dakotans have great work ethics, and I am proud that I have that, too,” she says. From auditions in front of superstars and performing on television for millions of viewers, to a Grammy nomination and being on a nationwide tour, Perkins describes the past year as “exciting, terrifying, really busy and extremely fulfilling.” She says she had to step out of her comfort zone, push her limits, and take risks, but that is what it took to get to where she is now. “This has been the most successful year of my life,” she says. “It’s crazy that at 33 years old I can say that – that’s actually kind of old to have this type of success and still be moving up.” With all this success and change, one thing has stayed the same – the Perkins family is closer than ever. She says, “My parents and my sister have always been supportive and super proud – but it’s always been that way – not just this year.” Perkins says her 60-year-old mother showed her support in a big way when she got on an airplane for the first time in her life to come watch her perform on The Voice. She came twice again after that. “At the end, we got matching tattoos. She is the most fearless person I know. I couldn’t ask for a more loving and supportive family.” As a tribute to her family and an account of her musical journey, the music video for “Fearless” features family photos and video footage of her performances beginning when she was a small child up to her time on The Voice. She says the music video is the perfect way to showcase her life’s journey in four minutes. “I love being able to show that this has been my dream since childhood, and that my family has been there supporting me and that dream every step of the way.” Future Plans and Goals Even with the success she has experienced in the past year, Perkins is still working toward three major goals. First, she plans to complete an album consisting of all original songs. Her current album includes “Fearless” and the songs she performed on The Voice. “I plan to release one more single, then do an entire album featuring songs written and recorded by me.” Having been a nanny for five years, she connects very well with children. She already travels to schools in rural areas, speaking to students about the value of hard work and following their dreams, Perkins plans to write a children’s book on the same premise. “I read to the kids a lot when I was a nanny,” she says. “I think an inspirational, encouraging book would be great.” Perkins is very thankful for the opportunities she has been given, and wants to be able to give back. Because of this, she is in the beginning stages of establishing a program to help make others’ dreams come true. “The program I’m working on would be similar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but the recipients wouldn’t have to be terminally ill,” she says. “Television stations are already starting to show interest, and travel agencies have expressed their desire to help, as well. It’s very exciting.” Coming Home Though she is busier than she’s ever been, Perkins still finds time to visit North Dakota often, but shw says things have changed a bit. “I seem to get recognized wherever I go when I’m back home,” she says. “I was recently in a grocery store and the cashier told me she and her family watched me on The Voice, and thanked me for bringing her family together every Monday and Tuesday evening. That meant so much to me.” Perkins says she loves coming back to her home state whenever she can. “It’s where my roots are. I’m so glad I got to grow up in a small, rural, tight-knit community in North Dakota,” she says. “So many people have supported me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had grown up anywhere else.