Danielle Bradbery has a hit country single and another song that’s featured in promotions for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Unlike most who try out for a singing competition, however, the 17-year-old never aspired to be a singer.
Although now selected as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, she didn’t participate in her high school choir, nor did she compete for any lead roles in school musicals. In fact, she had only performed publically a few times before taking her chances on the hit television show, The Voice, an opportunity that would land her not only in the winner’s circle — but also a record deal.
Signing with Big Machine Records, Bradbery released her self-titled debut album featuring the Top 20 single, “The Heart of Dixie,” a song co-written by Nashville writers Brett James, Caitlyn Smith and Troy Verges. Also securing a slot on Brad Paisley’s Beat This Winter tour, the young singer has spent the last several months opening shows for the country superstar and tourmate Chris Young.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and something to look forward to,” she said. “A lot of things are lining up, and it’s exciting.”
But the road to here was not a path the Cypress, Texas, native anticipated. In fact, only a few years prior, she was attending the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, sitting in the nose-bleed seats and watching Paisley perform.
“I was just a huge fan of his,” she said of her current touring partner. “And I wake up one day and I am opening for him! It’s crazy.”
But she has her mother to thank for setting her in the right direction.
“I never really had any intentions of trying out for anything,” the soft-spoken young woman recently told CMT.com, recounting her journey. “I always just came home from school and went straight up to my room and sang by myself — basically to my wall.”
Luckily, however, Bradbery’s mother was listening and signed up her unsuspecting daughter for the Dallas audition.
“It was kind of a big shock,” she said of learning what her mother had done. “I mean, I had to do it, and I was like, ’OK, well, I mean, this is great, but I’m terrified!’
“I knew I loved to sing. I never really thought to myself, ’I have this voice that needs to get out there. I love doing it for fun. I mean, I was entertaining myself I guess,” she laughed.
Eventually, though, she would go on to entertain America week after week as part of Blake Shelton’s Team Blake on the hit NBC show. After advancing through three blind auditions, Bradbery continued to charm viewers and judges with songs by Sara Evans and Pam Tillis as well as two of her own idols, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, before ultimately singing her way to the winning title.
“Looking in the mirror and seeing this whole new person and new artist kind of develop on The Voice stage and now doing it for a living — getting to do new things and having these opportunities handed over to me — it’s mind-blowing for me,” she said.
With her first single, “The Heart of Dixie,” Bradbery unravels the tale of a woman overcoming an abusive husband and relationship. Though she herself has never faced such turmoil, Shelton helped the young singer finesse the subject matter.
“I sang a lot of mature songs on The Voice,” she said, to which Shelton told her, “If they’re mature and you can’t really get into it because you can’t really relate, try to think of somebody else in that position or tell the story. Be the storyteller of it.”
“He’s given me a lot of little stage points about my singing and just singing onstage and really getting into them,” Bradbery said. “He knew I was very shy, and it was kind of his goal to break that, and he was a big part of me growing up. It was awesome.”
Her debut album exudes emotions of freedom (“Young in America,” “Endless Summer”), loss (“I Will Never Forget You”) and reassurance (“Daughter of a Workin’ Man”) while steadily maneuvering the highs and lows of the heart in love (“Yellin’ From the Rooftop,” “Never Like This,” “Talk About Love,” “Wild Boy” and “Dance Hall”).
What’s more, her song “My Day,” a motivating anthem encouraging self-confidence, can be heard throughout television campaigns promoting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It’s amazing how things fall out like that,” she said of the song. “I love inspirational stuff and inspirational quotes and, I mean, even better when they’re songs — and my song!” she smiled. “That’s great. It just all worked out perfectly.”
But besides music, Bradbery’s professional voyage has also been one of personal growth as well, as she’s become involved with the charitable aspects of children’s hospitals including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I feel like it’s digging a lot deeper,” she said. “I mean, being an artist now and being only 17, I just see all this stuff I get to do and all these organizations.”
Being a positive young role model is also important for Bradbery who wants to encourage others to follow their heart — even if they do need a little nudge from mom.
“Take chances,” she encouraged. “Even if you just need a little help for someone to push you — like I did — you never know how far you’ll get!”