Scotty Butters has been interested in the guitar from a young age, as seen in this childhood photo taken at his grandparents’ home in Jefferson County. <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Butters, formerly of Madison, is trying to secure enough votes in an online competition to win a recording deal. (Submitted photos)
Scotty Butters has been interested in the guitar from a young age, as seen in this childhood photo taken at his grandparents’ home in Jefferson County.

Butters, formerly of Madison, is trying to secure enough votes in an online competition to win a recording deal. (Submitted photos)
When Scotty Butters was young, he would sit in the car while his mother was driving and the two would sing.

"Just whatever was on the radio," Butters said.

Five years ago, his mother, Rhonda Jean Rivers Freese, lost a 10-year battle with cancer. Her death, he said, forced him to come out of his shell and focus on his music.

"You have to do what you have to do in the time you have," he said.

Butters is now a professional musician living in Michigan, but he's trying make his way south. Earlier this year the former Madisonian entered into an online competition put on by Dark Horse Institute, a recording arts school in Nashville.

The "Nashville Dream Recording"contest will award one entry with a week's worth of studio time to record, mix and master a six-track EP.

There were more than 500 entries. That number was whittled down to 114. Now Butters is one of three acts left still vying for the prize. 

Butters found out about the contest after his father sent him a link. 

"Normally, I don't join contests," he said. "I don't know, maybe it's just the pessimist in me."

He decided to take a chance and look at the details. He knew he was going to go for it when he saw that the first voting deadline was March 16 - his mother's birthday.

After his mother's death, Butters started writing more and performing whenever he could, and he is now able to support himself solely from his performances.

While he has always been musical, he always considered himself shy and didn't like performing in front of people, a  trait he shared with his late mother. While they would sing together in the car, their music didn't extend much further.

"Mom could sing, but she was like me. Very shy. She would never sing in front of anyone or anything like that, but she could sing," Butters said.

"Mom pretty much taught me how to sing," he added.

As Butters started to come out of his shell, his songs began to change, too. They were good before, he said, but, "they weren't coming from the same place that they're coming from now."

He also began writing more frequently. 

"They've been pouring out. It just hits you. I feel like I've been on fire lately."

If he wins, he'll get to put six of his original songs onto an EP, but he says he has at least 20 that are ready to go.

His song, "I Miss You More This Time," is the one he submitted to the Dark Horse contest. 

"Basically, if you want to wrap it up, it's about the different degrees of missing someone," Butters said. "The song goes through when I left home, to when I left the state, to the time she passed."

Butters said he finished "I Miss You More This Time" a few weeks before the contest opened. Finishing a song, he said, is a "never-ending battle" for him.

"I learned to let go. The hardest thing for me to do is decide a song is done."

He went with his instinct and recorded the song. He posted links online and received immediate feedback. 

At the time he was debating which song to submit to the contest. He had just wrapped up three songs that he liked, but the comments he received on "I Miss You More This Time" sealed the deal.

"I got a huge response," he said. "It just seemed like the right pick."

The responses continued after he submitted his song and have continued to pour out. 

"I absolutely want to win, but I feel like I've already won. I've already gotten so much out of this."

Anyone interested in voting can go to www.darkhorseinstitute.com. You can vote up to once a day until voting ends Monday.