She loves her mama’s homemade biscuits and watching The Andy Griffith Show; insists on teaching her daughter how to sew and cook; enjoys working out in the flowerbeds; and has never even realized that she was pronouncing the word again as agin–with all its southern glory.
When tiny-town Texas native Lee Ann Womack isn’t being mommy, cooking, or listening to reporters trying to give her a voice and diction lesson, she’s carrying out a dream that started back when she was barely old enough to talk. She could, however, lay on the floor near her bed late at night; pull both stereo speakers up beside her ears and dream that it was herself on the stage singing at the Grand Ole Opry while she listened to WSM Radio all the way from Nashville.
Lee Ann is still listening to the Grand Ole Opry, but what was once only a dream, is now finally reality. She actually took that spot on the stage recently, as she made her Opry debut. Her first single, “Never Again, Again,” from her debut album on Decca Records, hit radio the first week in March. Like a sonic boom, the song spread like fire throughout country radio. It spread so much that Lee Ann’s initial album release date was moved up a month early. The self-titled disc entered the Billboard Country Album chart at No. 15–selling over 9,700 units the first week. The album also hit the Top New Artist Album chart at No. 2.
Media outlets, music critics, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and kids of all ages began either singing along to the radio or simply singing out loud in any given situation the opening chorus line to “Never Again, Again.” And the real fun factor of this particular sing-along is that everybody sings it just like Lee Ann–”Never Agin, Agin.”
“That’s just the way I say again,” admits Lee Ann. “I never really did feel like I ever had to overcome my accent–except when I would hear myself back on tape, like on an interview or when I’m singing or something. Sometimes though, when I would hear myself, I’d think ‘Oh my gosh! That must really turn some people off. But yeah, I do have a tendency to go, ‘Okay, I need to remember to not pronounce that word that way.”
Lee Ann’s deep southern drawl obviously hasn’t hurt her career in the least. In addition to sheer talent, it’s her hometown qualities, southern charm and welcoming smile that has helped skyrocket this newcomer with only her first single. The 30-year-old songstress is a genuine reflection of what home is all about, and is quick to admit that the package includes both the good times and the struggling ones. Following her arrival to Nashville to attend college at Belmont University, Lee Ann began searching for her slot in Nashville’s music scene. While attending school, she managed to juggle performing at Music Row showcases, taking on an internship at MCA Records, eventually getting married and soon becoming a mother. Ironically, Lee Ann’s ex-husband, Jason Sellers, is also a new name in the country scene as well. Sellers makes his artistry debut this summer on RCA Records.
Another star on Lee Ann’s hands right now is her six-year-old daughter, Aubrie. While becoming one of country’s fastest rising stars is definitely exciting for the singer, it’s being “Mom” that’s most important.
“It’s very, very hard,” explains Lee Ann, “and particularly hard right now just because I’m so busy and she’s used to me being at home. Right now, I feel like I really need to invest some time in my career for both our futures. At some point just about everybody’s mama has to go to work now. They just have to sacrifice a little bit of time like that. It’s not easy to do, but I feel like it needs to be done right now. Hopefully, in a couple of months when everything is in place, I’ll have even more time with Aubrie. But I home-school her, too, so she’s never gone to school or anything. She’s just used to having me to herself. My cousin has come to live with us and is working as a nanny. That’s just been wonderful. But Aubrie and I still sit down at night and read and play on the computer. We’re best friends. We’re buddies and we need each other. We also like to cook and she likes to help. She’s good at it, too. My mama taught me how to cook. There’s just not a lot of women today who teach their little girls how to cook and sew. So I intend to teach her all of those things. She may never have to use it, but there’s just something about getting your hands in that flour, ya know. It’s like therapy. There’s just something about really getting in there and doing it.”
Lee Ann clings to that same philosopy of “getting in there and doing it” in everything she does. In both her home life of ups and downs, as well as her career, one that certainly didn’t come overnight, she realizes that nothing really good in life comes easy.
There’s never a right or wrong way,” she states. “You just have to get in there and do it. People ask me all the time, ‘What do I need to do? I want to get a record deal.’ I’m talking about good, talented people who really deserve it. But there’s just no way to tell them, ‘Here’s A, B and C.’ You just have to do it. I know that sounds so ridiculous, but you do. You have to get in there, stir things up and make things happen.”
Lee Ann is doing just that with her rich traditional vocals–stirring up listeners. And it’s her own personal experience of life, marriage, divorce and being a single mother that’s also beaming through in her music.
“I would have to say that the album is totally me,” she says. ” I looked for songs that I knew I could really sing about–things that I had either been through or…well, just really been through,” she laughs. “I can relate to a lot of fun things, too, on the album like the song ‘Buckaroo.’ But the ballads and the songs with real meaningful lyrics, I just tried to find songs that I could really relate. There’s no point in cutting a song if it doesn’t have any meaning to you, or you can’t come across with it enough to make people think, ‘Ya know, she’s really been there in that situation.’”
Being one of country’s up-and-coming female stars wasn’t always the situation for Lee Ann either. Both a lot of hard work and a lot of time took their toll first. Lee Ann admits herself that the waiting part of the process was extremely difficult.
“A whirlwind would be a great way to describe everything that’s happened lately. We made the record and everything seemed to just be going so slow. We got the reord done and everybody kept saying ‘Just hold on, you’re alright.’ I thought I was going to lose my mind and they didn’t know what they were talking about. Then boom, once the single came out, it just hit.”
Lee Ann’s second single, “The Fool,” which has already made a powerful impact on countless radio program directors is scheduled to hit later this summer. “Things just come and go so fast,” explains Lee Ann. “So I’m just trying to enjoy what’s happening right now and trying to plan for the future. I hope I don’t let anybody down because I’m very much a people pleaser.
One person that Lee Ann is excited about pleasing is one of her all-time country heroines, Loretta Lynn, whom she recently had the opportunity to meet.
“Oh yeah! I remember seeing Coal Miner’s Daughter,” ponders the Lee Ann, who’s pure country voice many say resembles a young Loretta’s. “That movie just fired me up. I think I was in junior high when that movie came out and I remember thinking that I just wanted to do what Loretta had done so bad. She definitely was an influence on me. It’s just amazing that I remember sitting there in the theater watching Coal Miner’s Daughter and wanting to be like her and then stand right next to her and her to be so kind and say such kind things about me. It was just unbelievable.”
Right now, finally having her dreams of singing country music is quite unbelievable for Lee Ann. The shock kicked in when she first heard her song, “Never Again, Again,” on the radio.
“I was driving home from here and was on 65-North, coming around the corner from town. It came on, and they didn’t introduce it or anything,” she remembers. “It was amazing, but I didn’t sing along or anything. I just sat there silent the whole time and listened to it. I guess what I thought about the most was ‘I sure hope this isn’t the last time I hear this.’”