When Katie Ainge was a teenager, music was her outlet.
But writing and performing took on a healing role for the West Jordan native.
Ainge, now 21, suffered from social anxiety as a teen and hated to be in large crowds. While a student at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, she listened to music and started to write lyrics about how she felt.
Now with six CDs to her credit, Ainge has garnered attention from Indie Music Reviewer Magazine as one of the top 50 artists you don't want to miss. Her song "Fond of You" made the top five in Songwriter Universe's Best Song of the Month contest in June and is currently No. 24 on FMBQ's adult contemporary radio play chart.
The young artist has a soft, Sarah McLachlan-like voice that clearly conveys her lyrics and emotions. She performs with a guitar and a mix of drums and guitarists in the background.
Ainge began composing music when she was 13 with her older brother. After a few songs, her family recognized the talent and persuaded her to perform solo on a stage. She played in a Starbucks when she was 14 in one of her school's showcases. She said her anxiety vanished.
"Not once was I nervous to get onstage," she said. "People liked what they heard, and I was confused as to why, but that fueled me to record those four or five first songs."
Her most recent product is a Christian album called "Then Sings My Soul." One of its songs, "He Is Here," recently won recognition from International Song of the Year Songwriting Contest in the Christian category.
"It's the most important thing to me," Ainge said about her faith. "When I had no one to turn to, when I found God, my life righted itself."
The radio popularity of some of her songs comes as a surprise to her.
"It's kind of surreal to me," she said. "It just makes me happy that it's getting heard. I just know that music many times has changed my day and life. If I can do that for anybody else, that's worth it."
Songwriting is what Ainge is most proud of, specifically her ability to be honest about her feelings. And receiving recognition for her work shows her she's on the right track, even though she believes what she writes is not mainstream.
"I've always used songwriting as communication, and a lot of the lyrics are in letter form," she said. "I write what's real, and it's usually what people don't want to say."
In the song "Honest Mistake," Ainge sings of a breakup that was her fault, not the other person's. That's against the norm, she said, and what other artists usually edit from their writing, she sees as her pure emotion that needs to be shared.
"All my favorite songs that I've written is after writer's block for three or four weeks, and then I spew it out," she said. "Those are the ones that win awards: the ones I don't plan out a lot of the times."
Katie Ainge live
When • Friday, June 12, 7 p.m., on the Sounds of Summer concert series at the University Mall, Provo
When • Friday, July 19, 8 p.m. at Bar Deluxe, 666 S. State, Salt Lake City
Listen and buy • katieainge.com/ or on iTunes