May 01, 2014 02:39PM
● By 16560
By Linden Wilson
How one Southlake musician’s raw talent will make her a superstar
Abby Anderson’s fingers are dancing so fast across the piano keys that they create an energetic blur. Her long, wavy, chestnut brown hair is cascading over her shoulders, moving to the rhythm of the song as she sways to the beat. “I bet my heart, and the joker won,” she belts out, her soulful voice so powerful that it echoes throughout her living room. The sound is reminiscent of Trisha Yearwood or Lee Ann Womack, known for their ability to power through emotional ballads using their voice as the main instrument. As she finishes the song, Abby pauses, then raises her shoulders, smiles a big, ear-to-ear grin and lets out an animated laugh. Listening to her perform, it is easy to forget that this talented musician is still a 17-year-old girl who has only just begun to leave her mark on the world.
The second of seven children, of which the elder six are girls, Abby has had a passion for singing since she was a child growing up in Southlake. “Really, what I liked was the performing part — being in front of people,” she says. At 5, she started taking classical piano lessons, and at 8, she saw one of her favorite singers, Norah Jones, in concert while she was on tour promoting Feels Like Home. Abby also grew up listening to Ray Charles, Leann Rimes, Garth Brooks and Elvis (“I am the weirdest Elvis fanatic, but I just love him. I love jazzy blues”). At 15, she received the opportunity of a lifetime when she was asked to perform on stage at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium — where names like Elvis and Johnny Cash have played before her. Her performance was part of a benefit concert for the Smiles for Life Foundation, which her father, Steven, co-founded.
“It was my very first live performance ever,” recalls Abby, who played the piano and sang “He Stopped Loving Me” by George Jones. “I was put out there, but I was totally okay with it. It was so cool.”
While at the Ryman, Abby met Buddy Owens, an award-winning American country music singer based in Nashville. He immediately recognized Abby’s raw talent, humble attitude and passion for music. The two became fast friends and started writing a song that could serve as Abby’s debut to the public. This past January, “He Loves Me” was released on iTunes. The catchy, upbeat track describes a young girl picking daisy petals, wondering if the boy she likes loves her back. “Although the sun is shining/and the summer sky is blue/the pain of a crush I’m hiding/is finally coming through,” Abby croons in one of the song’s verses.
“I always joke with him that it took a 35-year-old man to bring out the girly side of me because my single is such a chick flick song,” she laughs, admitting a lot of her songwriting inspiration doesn’t come from her own love life but from her older sister, Ashlin’s. “She’s in college, and she calls me every now and then talking about boys.” Sometimes, Abby reads through past journal entries or reverts to events from her family’s history when searching for inspiration. Other times, it’s pure make believe.
When her career started to take off a little more than a year ago, Abby’s parents pulled her out of Southlake Carroll for homeschooling — but her schedule isn’t any less strict than it was before.
“My day starts at 5:30 a.m. with a scripture study class at my church in Colleyville,” she says. “I do that for an hour, then come home and get ready for the day. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., it’s straight schoolwork, but the beauty of it is that I don’t have any homework. From 2 to 4, it’s classical piano practice. Then I go to the gym, come back for dinner, and from 6 to 8, I do a lot of writing and composing.”
Abby’s piano teacher, Mike Springer, is a North Texas-based instructor with more than 25 years of experience who comes to her house to give her lessons. “He’s amazing,” she says. “Words can’t explain the knowledge he has.” She records her music at Denton’s The Panhandle House, a studio owned by producer Erik Herbst. “He’s a great guy who has helped me develop my sound. I couldn’t be luckier to have him.”
To date, Abby has recorded seven songs out of more than 25 she has written. “Never Again,” about a young girl abused by her father, is loosely based on someone Abby knows and conveys a poignant message similar to Garth Brooks’ 1990 hit, “The Thunder Rolls.” At the end of this month, “Daddy He Loves Me” will be released in honor of Father’s Day. The tune, which tells the story of a girl who knows she has found the right man for her because of her father’s example, is based on Abby’s own relationship with her dad.
When she’s not writing or recording, Abby loves strumming on her Taylor guitar — a recent Christmas present — and performing anywhere she can, whether it’s a gig at Spoons Café in McKinney, the Majestic Theatre or even a children’s hospital.
“At Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, they have a top-notch recording studio for the kids called the Child Life Zone,” Abby says. “They call it the happiest place in the hospital. No nurses and no needles are allowed inside — these kids can just go in there and be kids. I’ve put on little concerts for them. Volunteering is my favorite.”
Abby’s modest outlook and solid family values will certainly take her far (“I have a really great family life — we’re all really close and tell one another everything”), but it’s her voice that will make everyone take notice. Last month, Abby was asked to open for either Miranda Lambert or Blake Shelton at a large veterans benefit concert in Wichita Falls, and famed music label Capitol Records has already reached out to the talented teenager.“I’m really lucky that they would even notice me,” she says. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Right now, I’m 17, just playing all the gigs I can, writing as much as I can. I want to get a local following going, as big as I can. I just love sharing my music with everyone.”