The Season's Girl
May 01, 2014 02:53PM ● Published by 16560
By Christina Mlynski
A Quarter of a Century Later, Lani Stacy is Back and Bigger Than Ever
Dressed in a stark blue chiffon blouse, Lani Stacy strategically crafts her ideal fajita at Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano in Grapevine. The corn tortilla begins to stack high as the sizzle sound from the piping-hot pan begins to idle. As she builds her perfect taco, she jumps from one topic to the next, smiling with her eyes. The phrase “Grapevine Opry” surfaces as the topic of conversation, and her demeanor changes: This bubbly woman becomes confident, proud.
For most, the Grapevine Opry is seen as an iconic tourism staple for the city, but for this entertainer, the Opry far exceeds an entertainment spot — it’s a place she’s come to know as home.
Stacy began singing at the age of 5, taking vocal lessons to prepare her for singing at church and family events. In 1987 and at just 9 years old, she made her debut on stage at the Grapevine Opry during the inaugural show after the location underwent a major remodeling.
“There’s a lot of great singers out there, but for me, my biggest goal is that people feel what I’m singing,” Stacy says. “If it’s a sad song, they’re crying by the time I’m done. If it’s a fast song, they’re dancing in their seats. That’s what drives me. It’s not just singing songs to sing songs, but to try and make people feel the music.”
Over the years, Stacy started frequenting the Opry less and less, exploring other entertainment opportunities. When she was 13, she started a band that featured performers all under the age of 21. They performed at concert venues such as Cowboys Stadium, Billy Bob’s and Seaworld. She also opened up for many country icons, including Reba McEntire, Mark Chestnut, Bryan White, Joe Diffie and Shenandoah.
After gaining exposure by opening up for prestigious Nashville stars, she decided it was time to put her talents in the limelight. Stacy met with numerous record labels and was offered dozens of deals, but the right offer never came along. For this musical powerhouse, she wouldn’t sacrifice her true character to become a symbol for the music industry.
“Music is all about creating a name for yourself and creating your own position in the music world,” Stacy says. “It’s not waiting for someone to find you or waiting for your big moment. It’s about getting yourself out there and creating what you want to look like.”
When Stacy realized Nashville wasn’t worth sacrificing her true self, she came back to Texas and served as an associate worship pastor and eventually became the worship pastor at Metroplex Chapel in Euless.
Even though Stacy wasn’t pursuing entertainment as her main career, she never stopped performing. During her time as a worship pastor she still made time for her first love.
Over the past five years, this season’s girl started getting a stirring feeling that she wanted to be back on stage — that’s when she placed the phone call to Rocky.
“I just told him, ‘Hey, when you retire, I want to be the first one you tell,’” she explains. “I didn’t know if I’d be in a position where I could take it or if I even wanted it, or what was going to be going on in my life, but I at least wanted him to tell me.”
Last summer, she received a call from recently retired Opry owner Rocky Gribble who knew for nearly two years that when he finally decided to hang up his hat, she would take hold of the reigns.
When Gribble’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, an intimate conversation between Stacy’s mother and Rocky’s wife turned into a chance of a lifetime. Brena Gribble explained that they had plans to retire given the state of her health and knew that they wanted someone to carry on the tradition and name they made for the Opry.
“When I received the call from Rocky, it was perfect timing,” Stacy explains. “I left my full-time gig with the church, so I was sitting in a position to be able to do anything I wanted to do.”
She adds, “I’m a season’s girl. I think that when doors open up, that’s the path that I go down, but the performance side of things has always been my niche.”
On Jan. 1, 2014, Stacy become the new producer of the Grapevine Opry. While her company Dream Big Productions will continue to carry out a legacy at the Opry, she is redefining a show that is coming into a new age of entertainment. The productions are fresh, fast-paced and provide the most important quality: laughter.
The current shows include “Country Music in Texas,” which features songs from legends that were born and raised in Texas like George Strait, Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert and many more. Additionally, the show “1950’s Mix Up” will feature favorite songs from the ‘50s, along with iconic movie sets such as “Grease,” “Blue Hawaii” and “Teen Beach Movie.”
“Now, as Lani has taken over and created the all-new Grapevine Opry Show, the excitement and variety of these shows will reach a brand new audience and honor the Grapevine Opry’s devoted fan base,” says Leigh Lyons, communications manager for the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The show’s high-energy format features a variety of music genres performed by an amazing professional cast.”
The lineup of performers will vary throughout the season, but singer Casey Rivers — first runner-up in season four of “Nashville Star” — and emcee Clint White are a few of the mainstays.
As Stacy finally makes her way back to where her entertainment career began, the main priority is to pay the musical experiences forward. Consequently, she mentors aspiring musicians and also offers the Opry as a place for them to exercise their musical talents. For instance, 15-year-old Abby Cohen has been taken under this music veteran’s wing. Cohen performs at festivals and is paving a path on the country scene, which is proving to be a challenge.
television shows such as “The Voice” and “X Factor” are scooping up raw talent,
which provides an easy system for record labels to discover the next big thing.
Consequently, Stacy is on a quest to prove to aspiring musicians like Cohen
that heading to major cities and compromising your character isn’t the only way