From historical accounts, Emma Smith was a strong, talented woman. She was one of the scribes for her husband's translation of The Book of Mormon, and the founding president of the LDS Church's Ladies' Relief Society auxiliary. In addition, six hymns she composed were published in the first issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, an early church periodical.
That pioneer spirit of powerful womanhood -- as well as music -- is on exhibit throughout Katherine Nelson's new album "Born Brave," released Aug. 1.
When you see Nelson's face, you might think you've seen her before, and maybe you have. Nelson portrayed Emma Smith in the 2008 film "Emma Smith: My Story," directed by longtime Utah director T.C. Christensen and Gary Cook, which found a wide audience in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community.
"I've been blessed to be able to do lots of things," said Nelson, a 33-year-old Kaysville singer-songwriter. "I would choose music as my No. 1 outlet."
With this album, Nelson -- a Mormon mother of four -- aimed to create a largely secular concept album about the struggles, sacrifices and honor of women. "I wanted to create something that women could relate to, and push them forward," she said.
"Women react to her," Deere said. "When she opens her mouth, people listen to her. She wanted to bring hope to women."
Nelson's smooth voice -- with a hint of sandpaper -- complements the often-gritty mainstream country music she's co-written with Deere and others.
Deere learned of Nelson when he and his band watched a screening of "Emma Smith: My Story" in Nauvoo, Ill. "We were blown away by her performance," he said.
After learning Nelson was an aspiring singer, Deere contacted her in 2008. Since then, she has toured with the Nashville Tribute Band.
Gaylen Rust, who runs the local record label Legacy Entertainment, said he was first attracted to her "unique voice" -- not only her musical sound, but the voice of hope she offers to women, "a shot in the arm."
Nelson grew up in San Bernardino, Calif., and at an early age she and her seven siblings sang at church functions and fairs as the Nelson Family Singers. "Like the Partridge Family," she said.