For an 11-year-old, Abby Stephens, has high ambitions.
“When I grow up I would like to be a country, gospel, pop singer,” Abby, a Benson native, said. “I would love to have a great thing going on, with some songs in the iTunes store.”
But those who have heard her sing wouldn’t be surprised if she achieved that goal one day. She’s on her way there now.
She has two original songs she co-wrote with her mother and her playing partner . Abby will sing those songs and others during a 45-minute stage performance at the Cleveland Strawberry Festival at 12:30 p.m.
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This will be her third year performing at the festival. However, this time she will be one of the main acts.
She’s performed at sporting events like the Carolina Mudcats baseball games, Charlotte Motor Speedway, churches, and other festivals and events.
Other than her mom co-writing some of her songs, neither of Abby’s parents – Brian nor April Stephens – has a musical background. April Stephens is in real estate and Brian is a landscaper. With a little help from singing lessons, it just came natural to the petite, pre-teen with long, blond hair.
“She teaches us, just about every day, something new,” April Stephens said. “We can’t sing it, read music, play music, nothing about it. I mean we sing in the car but that’s about it.”
April Stephens said she initially didn’t recognize her daughter’s unique talent.
Realizing her talents
“We always used to sing in the car. And we tried the normal sports growing up and she would just love to sing in the car. And I, like any mom, thought ‘Aww, she sounds so pretty.’ So one year for Christmas we got her piano and voice lessons, which was going to be her new extracurricular activity.”
Her music teacher encouraged the family to sign up her for Clayton Idol, which was the first competition Scotty McCreery won on his road to stardom. Abby entered the contest in the junior competition, where she competed against others older and with more experience.
“And she went out there and nailed it,” April Stephens said. “And that’s when I thought as a mom, ‘OK, I’m not crazy. She really does sound good.”
Brian Stephens, said he too knew then, that his daughter had talent.
“I’m very proud,” he said. “I get nervous for her when she is up on stage.”
Abby was 7-years-old at the time and she still remembers that day.
“It was amazing, and even though I didn’t win, the morning after that I woke and said this is what I want to do,” Abby said. “I’ve realized it now that I am now going to put my heart and soul into this and this is going to be one of my number one priorities.”
It was the first time she had sung on a stage in front of a big crowd. But there was something about being on stage that felt natural for her, she said. It felt like where she was meant to be.
“When that spotlight hit me, it was just everything. And that’s when I knew that it was kind of like ‘Bing!,’” she said, pointing to the top of her head as if a light bulb went off. “There’s your little money-maker right there.”
Ever since then, she’s been singing non-stop.
Their ritual, before Abby goes on stage, is to give her mother her butterflies to transfer the nervousness of her on stage to her mother and father.
She placed second that year, but she won the competition the next year. She’s also won a few other competitions and pageants including Garner’s Outstanding Junior Miss.
An ordinary kid
But, the bubbly McGee’s Crossroad Middle School sixth-grader, is just an ordinary 11-year-old. She misses elementary school, but loves her middle school Spanish class.
“Spanish is my fav!” she sings, with her hands in the air.
Aside from singing, Abby likes to cook, play the piano and hang out with friends. Her favorite food is spaghetti tacos, a dish she learned from TV show she watched. Her favorite singers are Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini.
She currently has two original songs anyone can purchase in the iTunes store, called “Daddy’s Girl” and “Carolina Girl.”
When she sings at the Strawberry Festival Saturday, she’ll take the stage where she feels most comfortable, hoping to put a smile on many faces.
Looking for a nomination
Abby Stephens is eligeable to be nominated for Country/Rock Youth Artist in the Carolina Music Awards. To nominate her, go to http://awardshownow.com/cmawards/ and follow the link.