Sometimes you hear the voice of fate when you least expect it. And sometimes that voice is so loud and clear that you can’t deny it.
For Adley Stump, that voice came—much to her own surprise—right out of her own mouth. So far her singing talent has already taken her from her native Oklahoma to nationwide exposure as a contestant on TV’s hit talent competition The Voice, where she’s been given the stamp of approval by no less than fellow Okie Blake Shelton and pop star Christina Aguilera.
For the young woman at the center of all the fuss, none of this was part of the plan. Stump was busy getting her degree in public relations at Oklahoma State University when friends dared her to try out for a singing part in a sorority production. She’d been honing her skills as a dancer and cheerleader since childhood, but had never considered the notion that she might have a knack for singing as well. “We all just laughed,” she recalls with a chuckle. “But I’ll take a dare from anybody. So I started singing, and I think people were shocked by what came out. I was shocked by what came out.” What came out was a voice as rich and sweetly melodious as it was pure and authentic. She got the part—but more importantly, she found a direction. “To feel that vulnerability and that fire for the first time … ” she says, “I thought, ‘Man, I like this!’”
By her senior year she was performing regularly at Willie’s Saloon in Stillwater, Okla. (Garth Brooks’ old stamping ground who hooked up with her in Stillwater on the day of her farewell show to give her some pointers), but still her path seemed set for a public-relations career working with nonprofit organizations. It’s only in retrospect that the road to country music seems clear. “It’s like I was watching God place the puzzle pieces of my life,” she says. Dance and cheerleading gave her a feel for music and a confidence for getting a crowd on its feet; writing poetry since age 10 gave her a knack for songwriting; extensive charity work had nurtured her empathy and desire to connect with others, as well as giving her experience as a public speaker; and her college degree had helped her to develop a canny business sense.
“I was praying one day,” she remembers. “I said, ‘God, why this? I thought I was supposed speak, encourage and inspire people?’ I felt like He just smacked me upside the head and said, ‘I gave you a stage and a microphone, what more do you want? You’re not just supposed to sing songs. I just had a much bigger stage for you than you planned for yourself.”
All those “puzzle pieces” came together when Stump auditioned in Nashville for The Voice. She quickly began climbing the ranks through the more than 100,000 hopefuls vying for a handful of finalist positions—and before she knew it, she was belting out the Carrie Underwood hit “Last Name” in front of celebrity judges Shelton, Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. “I was pinching myself that it was even a reality,” Stump says. “I thought, ‘I’m really doing this, this is my life now and I have a shot.’ I’ve always been a dreamer, but I didn’t think I could do something this big.”
A lucky break—but then, Stump has always made her own luck. Now that Adley Stump has the world’s attention, she aims to keep it. “There’s no rush in the world like being onstage performing,” she says. “It’s addicting. It’s like this little torch has been lit, and I just want to go and start a wildfire with it.” She also hopes to continue handling her swift rise to fame with responsibility and humility. “This was a gift to me,” she says. “I’ve just kept singing and tried to be the best version of myself every step of the way. I feel like God’s trusting me with something, and I’m so grateful for everything that comes.”
Adley and her team are preparing for some big announcements this year as her debut single “Like This” released in August 2013.