Full Steam Ahead – Country Singer Claudia Hoyser

Stage shot opening for Blake Shelton
by Nancy E. McCarthy

Growing up in Fairport, music was Claudia Hoyser’s favorite creative outlet. 

“I always loved to sing but I always saw it as a hobby. I never realized I’d get a chance to do this as a career,” said Hoyser. 

How this played into her success as a country singer/songwriter, social influencer and business woman is a tale of touchpoints and serendipitous encounters. 

These days, her unplanned music career guided now by her manager/business partner Tony Gross, is very intentional and focused. And Hoyser, 28, is just getting started. 

Making music

Hoyser was exposed to music making at an early age. Her father Michael played guitar and drums and her uncle, Jimmy Whitaker, was a guitarist in local rock bands. After Hoyser got her first guitar, Whitaker showed his young niece some chords and strumming patterns. But her hand couldn’t even wrap around the guitar neck so she got frustrated quickly. 

Eventually Hoyser taught herself to play by ear. In high school, she landed a few choir solos and even took voice lessons with jazz singer Nancy Kelly. Hoyser progressed to writing and recording original tunes using GarageBand software. Open mic nights followed, then solo gigs or performing with her uncle and fellow Fairport High School student Ryan Hurley (now the guitar player in her band). Yet a professional music career never crossed her mind.

Hoyser was studying communications at Kent State University in 2014 when she heard from former Fairport classmate Shawn Gates. Gates, pursuing a videography career, asked Hoyser if he could film a music video of her singing one of her original songs for his highlight reel.

She jumped at the opportunity and it changed everything.

During summer break, Gates booked a recording session for Hoyser at GFI Studios in Ontario, New York. 

GFI owner Tony Gross is a music industry veteran. In 1980, at 20, he joined Head East as their guitarist (a rock band signed to A&M Records). Since then, in addition to opening his recording studio, he’s produced and managed numerous artists and composes music for corporate clients such as Volvo and Xerox.

Gross recognized something special about Hoyser. 

“Claudia has a ‘fingerprint’ voice,” he said, meaning a distinctive vocal style. 

He invited her back to co-write some songs. Creative collaboration was new to Hoyser. They worked on three tunes. Gross explained that new writing partners don’t typically knock out multiple songs out of the gate. 

“It kind of surprised us both,” Hoyser said. 

Rising star 

Before Hoyser graduated from Kent State in 2016, she worked as a GFI Studios intern in summer of 2015. 

“I started to really hone in on my own sound and finding my own voice when I began working with Tony,” she said.  

Though she listened to all musical styles, she felt a special affinity with country music. Under Gross’s mentorship, it sparked a desire to move music from the hobby category to a career goal. 

In 2016, some notable indicators moved her in that direction. Rochester-based film director/producer Nicholas DiBella heard her song, “I Won’t Forget” online and used it in his movie Wildflower (she landed a small movie part, too). Millions heard Hoyser sing “You Are My Sunshine” in a touching Golisano Children’s Hospital commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. She also performed her first all-original show at the Tango Café in Rochester.

Gross switched from an advisor role to officially managing Hoyser’s career in 2017. Hoyser figured if nothing came of it she would just find a “regular” job. But she wanted to try. 

“I always had a little voice in my head saying ‘why not me?’” Hoyser said. 

The initial game plan was songwriting and overall artist development. But the plan expanded quickly with an unexpected opportunity. Big Dog Country Radio in Newark played a Hoyser demo of their song “No Matter What It Costs” on the air. The station added it to its playlist after enthusiastic listener response. Some callers thought it was a new Sheryl Crow single. 

After more radio traction and chart activity on the MusicRow Country Breakout Chart, Hoyser visited radio stations in New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee, performed shows in those markets and also conducted virtual international broadcast interviews. The radio tour was the catalyst for releasing Hoyser’s five song EP Steam. From there it was full steam ahead.


Hoyser has a strong social media presence across numerous platforms but she primarily credits Facebook for being widely recognized as a social media influencer. In January 2018, she launched Hoyser Country Monday (HCM) on Facebook: live weekly performances of Hoyser covering classic country songs. The series ended in May 2021 after 126 episodes with over 120 million aggregate views according to Hoyser. 

“There were a lot of eyeballs on those videos,” she said. 

That exposure resulted in several song placements in commercials and movies plus some unexpected business deals including launching her own coffee brand, coffee whiskey and becoming a product ambassador for FIREDISC, an outdoor cooker manufacturer. See sidebar. 

Hoyser added tasting events and hosting a monthly FIREDISC Fired Up Live! Facebook segment to her busy concert and studio schedule. In 2019, she headlined 168 shows or opened for other more established acts. After a 2020 pandemic pause, she progressed to opening for country music superstars such as Miranda Lambert (one of her major musical influences), Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley and Chris Young. 

Back II Back Entertainment concert promoter Ross Catalino booked Hoyser to open for multi-platinum artist Justin Moore at First Arena in Elmira in September 2022 after seeing her perform. “I was impressed by her stage presence and her band,” said Catalino.

Green light

Gross and Hoyser’s intent to release a CD took longer than expected because of concerts and travel. It wasn’t due to lack of material – she and Gross have co-written more than 200 songs to date. Red Light’s Turning Green was released in June 2021. One of the singles, “Duke Devlin,” was voted Number 1 on Country Music Television’s 12 Pack Countdown for three consecutive weeks and in the Top 12 for nine. 

These days, when Hoyser isn’t performing on stage or in her music videos, she’s in the studio with Gross writing and recording. The plan is to release another EP this summer. And she landed a big concert, opening for Little Big Town on July 14th in Salinas, California.

Yet when Hoyser is home, you can still find this hometown sensation in local bars or breweries singing her heart out for her Finger Lakes fans. Catch her while you can!

Hoyser Country Branding

Some business opportunities arose thanks to Hoyser Country Mondays on Facebook. When Bucky Montrois (in coffee sales and former co-owner of Titus Tavern in Rochester) noticed a vintage Moka coffee pot staged in HCM segments he asked Claudia Hoyser about it at one of her Titus Tavern shows. The pot was an inside joke – an homage to Hoyser and Tony Gross’s passion for coffee. 

“We never start a day in the studio without it,” said Hoyser. 

“I asked Tony if Claudia would like to have her own brand of coffee,” Montrois said. 

Yes, she did! Montrois brought beans from all over the world for them to taste and create their artisanal Hoyser Country Blend. The coffee is now sold online or at independent and regional retailers including 120 Tops Friendly Market locations. 

Another HCM viewer and fan was Justin Graves, co-owner of Centerfire Distillery in Nampa, Idaho. He reached out to Hoyser to use her song “Drinkin’ with the Boys” for a promotional video. After she launched the coffee brand, he suggested a partnership blending her coffee and his whiskey. 

“Hoyser Country Drunken Bean whiskey took off straight out of the gates,” said Graves. “With help from Claudia’s music and coffee business success, it quickly became our best-selling product and continues to grow in the New York, Idaho and soon-to-be Tennessee, Wyoming and Utah markets.”

FIREDISC Cookers, a portable outdoor propane cooker and accessories manufacturer contacted Gross with an interest in Hoyser being a brand ambassador. In 2020, Hoyser began hosting Fired Up Live!, a monthly Facebook show. Along with product giveaways, Hoyser interviews a special musical guest and they perform live. 

Visit hoysercountry.com for information about Hoyser Country Blend coffee and Hoyser Country Drunken Bean Whiskey. Watch Fired Up Live! every second Wednesday of the month at 9 p.m. EST on FIREDISC Cookers and Claudia Hoyser’s Facebook pages.

Visit claudiahoyser.com for more information. Follow Hoyser on Facebook or on Instagram.   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *