From the Merrimack Valley to Music City

Local music lovers might not connect the Merrimack Valley with country music. But Jillian Cardarelli of Haverhill and Tom Dixon of Pelham, N.H. — two Valley natives who have taken their inspiration to Nashville, Tenn., in order to further their careers in performance and songwriting — are proof that country charm and likability aren’t confined to the South or Midwest. After all, the messages in country music’s lyrics are somewhat universal: pride in our hometowns, closeness to family, the need for after-work drinks, and the joy that results when life is made simple.


Photo by Plaza Photography.

Cardarelli, a 22-year-old singer/songwriter, grew up listening to Elvis Presley and George Strait. “When I was a kid, my grandparents were constantly playing country music,” she says. She began developing her skills at the age of 5, when she started taking voice lessons.

In 2012, Cardarelli released the EP “Just Me and You,” produced by Berklee College of Music graduate Johnny Duke, the current lead guitarist for the band Little Big Town. Last spring, Cardarelli opened for the legendary band Alabama at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn., and at the NYCB Theatre in Westbury, N.Y., and for Willie Nelson at the Newport Yachting Center in Rhode Island. In addition to her numerous appearances singing the national anthem for the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Nashville Predators and Baltimore Orioles, Cardarelli is coming off a sold-out performance in December at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury. Currently a student at Belmont University in Nashville, Cardarelli is hard at work writing and performing in the hub of country music.

For more information or to find upcoming local performances, visit


Photo by Almorinda “Amy” Samson of Almorinda Photography

Growing up in New Hampshire, Dixon, 34, had a love for country music, writing songs and playing guitar. But it wasn’t until after he graduated from Hesser College  in  Manchester, N.H., (today called Mount Washington College), that he began singing the tunes he wrote. Since 2007, Dixon has built a strong following as the front man of the Tom Dixon Band, opening for acts such as the Zac Brown Band, Sugarland and Alan Jackson. Last year, Dixon won the New England Music Awards’ Country Act of the Year. After years of working the New England music scene, Dixon moved to
Nashville in March 2013.

“The beauty of focusing strictly on writing songs is that you can be 90 years old and still write a hit song,” Dixon says. During his career, he has co-written songs with professional songwriters including Karen Staley, James Dean Hicks and Beau Fuller. Dixon returns to the Merrimack Valley for performances throughout the year.

For more information or to check out upcoming shows, visit