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Ryan Oetken left Oregon for the country music capital in 2011 after graduating from Wilsonville High School

SUBMITTED PHOTO: RYAN OETKEN  - Left To Right: Benjo Marcus (guitar), Ryan Oetken (guitar), Natalie Spiroff (vocals), Daniel Kozlowski (drums), and Matthew Foss (bass)  Wilsonville native Ryan Oetken has stayed busy over the past couple years since graduating from Belmont University in Nashville.

The 24-year-old guitarist and songwriter has spent much of his time traveling, writing music and performing across parts of the midwest and south.

Most recently Oetken joined a one-time band headed by 18-year-old Natalie Spiroff, of Cincinnati, for her run in "Nashville Next," a country music competition aimed at finding Nashville's next young star with the prize of a recording deal with Big Machine Records. Spiroff advanced from a regional round in Cincinnati to compete as one of 10 finalists who will get a shot to impress judges Wednesday, Nov. 1, when the finals take place in Nashville.

"I met Natalie in August and she just asked me to play. We went up to Cincinnati and won that round. The judges up there said it sounded like we've been playing together for years. It was great to hear because we only had three or four rehearsals," Oetken said.

Oetken left Oregon for the country music capital in 2011 after graduating from Wilsonville High School. Since then he's been cutting his teeth as a young guitarist and songwriter trying to make it big in Nashville. He currently plays solo mostly, but also links up with fellow Belmont University graduate Lydia Dall on occasion.

"At the moment I'm just traveling with whoever I can really. Obviously if this takes off I hope (Spiroff) will keep me around to help with her record deal," he said. "It's an incredible opportunity. At 18 years old, it's amazing she's made it this far."

The two songs Spiroff will perform are both original tunes, according to Oetken. She sent a work tape to the band she assembled and each member came up with their own ideas for each part and collaborated when they met in person.

Unfortunately the event won't be on television nor is there an option for live streaming at the moment, but results are promised to be posted to the event's Facebook page immediately following at bit.ly/NashvilleNext.

Oetken said he will be returning home for the holidays, at which time he'll play a show at Wanker's Corner in Stafford Hamlet Thursday, Dec. 21.

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