For an 11-year-old, Abby Stephens, has high ambitions.
“When I grow up I would like to be a country, gospel, pop singer,” said Abby, a Benson native and McGee’s Crossroad Middle School sixth-grader. “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 sang those songs and others during a 45-minute stage performance at the Strawberry Festival Saturday in the Cleveland community.
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It was her third year performing at the festival. However, this time she was one of the main acts. She’s performed at places like the Carolina Mudcats baseball games, Charlotte Motor Speedway and churches.
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 a TV show. Her favorite singers are Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini.
She currently has two original songs that can purchased from the iTunes store, called “Daddy’s Girl” and “Carolina Girl.”
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 naturally 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.”
Realizing her talents
April Stephens said she initially didn’t recognize her daughter’s unique talent. They would always sing in the car together, and Stephens always thought her daughter sounded pretty, like most mothers do.
“So one year for Christmas, we got her piano and voice lessons, which was going to be her new extracurricular activity,” she said.
Her music teacher encouraged the family to register Abby for Clayton Idol, which was the first competition Scotty McCreery won on his road to stardom. Abby entered the junior competition and competed against others who were older and had 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.”
Abby was 7 at the time and still remembers her first competition.
Their ritual, before Abby goes on stage, is to give her mother her butterflies to transfer the nervousness to her mother and father.
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.”
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.
She’s been singing non-stop ever since then.
“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.
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Looking for a nomination
Abby Stephens is eligible 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.