It’s no surprise someone with the name of a goddess would have lofty goals.
Characteristics of the mythical Greek figure include inspiration, courage, art and skill, and each of those things are on display whenever Athena McIntyre takes the stage.
The hard-rocker-turned-folk singer has been especially inspired in the last couple of years performing at a variety of Northern Nevada venues and touring the Northwest, Southern California and the South.
“When I was 5, I knew I was going to be a singer,” said Athena, who grew up in Carson City, Dayton and Gardnerville. She sang in choir all through high school, but afterwards she went to where she calls a dark place in her early 20s.
“Then my friend said, ‘You need to snap out of it or you’re not going to be here much longer.’ The only thing that will pull me out of this rut is to sing again. I found in the paper an audition for a band in Carson City. And I got it. That shook me clean. It pretty much saved my life.”
For three years, Athena fronted the band, singing rock songs from the 1960s and ‘70s. She later joined a metal band, Sonic Anomaly. That band morphed into Workin Minerva, named for the goddess of wisdom, art, schools and commerce. All the while, Athena worked on songwriting and guitar musicianship.
She took a musical hiatus to spend time with and ailing friend. Since returning and performing as a solo artist, she has been rocking in earnest. Last year, she won the Reno Rodeo Idol crown and sang the national anthem a cappella for an audience of 10,000 — and traveled 18,000 miles, touring across the nation. She shared the stage with singer-songwriter Ian Moore and the country band Montgomery Gentry.
Athena’s solo shows range from seated performances to being background music at a restaurant. Last winter, she had a residency at the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, performing for three hours in the lobby, something she says is similar to busking on a sidewalk.
“It’s a really tough business,” she said. “That’s why they invented Rockstar and Red Bull.”
She has written many songs, and 90 percent of her seated shows feature originals. For casinos and restaurants, it’s 90 percent covers. A self-taught guitarist, the covers have helped Athena understand chord progressions and develop her songwriting.
Some of the tracks from an upcoming album are autobiographical. “Miners Town” is about Virginia City, where she lived for three years, “Never Give Up” is for an undaunting spirit, and “The Wanderer” is driving song that celebrates Athena’s wide focal range and a storyline left to a listener’s interpretation.
“I have a five-year plan and a 10-year plan,” she said. “Five years in an RV traveling on the road with my cat, and in 10 years traveling the world.”
She recently completed a rainy 10-day road trip up North that culminated with a satisfying performance with other solo artists at the Café Artichoke in Portland, Oregon.
This summer, Athena will be back on the road for shows in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. In the meantime, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch her. She plays at Canvas Café in Virginia City on Saturday, and in Carson City at the Fox Brewpub in a five-piece band on June 7, at the West Governor’s Mansion on June 15 for a wild-horses awareness event, and will open the Chris Janson Reno Rodeo Kick-Off Concert with a show in the Branding Room.
— Tim Parsons