Abby Anderson has wanted to be in Nashville forever. And now the exuberant Texas native is finally getting her shot, with fun introductory singles such as “Good Lord.” Just after coming off tour with Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, Anderson — who is one of CMT’s Next Women of Country — settled into a comfy couch for a cheerful chat.
CMT: I understand you moved here to Nashville as a teenager. What do you remember most about the conversations with your parents leading up to that decision to move?
Oh my gosh, I didn’t really ask. I more like told them what I was going to do. So they kind of had to agree. My whole family always knew that I wanted to move to Nashville, and I was going to be a country music star one day. They always knew that was my dream, and so they weren’t exactly surprised when I told them I was leaving.
So when you say “always,” how young is this?
I started piano lessons when I was 5.
What was it about country that spoke to you as a 5-year-old?
I was raised in Dallas, Texas, and so my mom always had country music playing, and she was always showing me Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire music videos and teaching me about the songwriting world in Nashville. So, country music was always the go-to genre.
What was it about the songwriting world that she was telling you about?
She would always tell me bedtime stories of this wonderful place called Nashville, Tennessee. And she would always say something like, “You know, in Nashville, you can either write your own songs and sing them, or you can just sing them.”
She knew a lot about Nashville because singing was what she wanted to do as well. So, I got a pretty good education from her and then started making trips to Nashville when I was about 15 and understanding the whole songwriting world.
How did you develop the connections in Nashville?
Knocking on doors and just smiling. (laughs) Just smiling, trying to get people to give me the time of day. That’s what’s amazing about Nashville. People are very giving with their time, and I’m very, very thankful for that because I never felt like I should have gotten to where I am that quickly. And that’s because of the good people on Music Row.
But I would imagine you were told “no” more than once, as well.
Well, you know what’s funny? I probably have, but I’m such an optimistic that I don’t even remember being told no. I’ve been told, “Hey, just keep writing.” And to me as a 17-year-old, it’s like, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance? I’ve got something here?”
Have you always been an optimist?
I think that’s a gift God gave me at a young age. Being able to probably believe in myself a little more than I should at times, maybe. Yeah, I think that’s always been a gift He’s given me.
You sang “Good Lord” on the Today Show. What goes through your mind as the seconds count down before you go live across the country?
I wasn’t even thinking about all the people who would be watching until one of the producers came up to me. He’s like, “Are you ready to sing in front of millions of people?” And initially that would make someone nervous, but my first reaction was like, “Heck yes! Let’s go!” I was so excited!
What is the satisfaction you get from being on stage?
That’s a great question. The satisfaction — you know, it’s more of a feeling of absolute joy and peace. Because for some reason on stage, that’s the one place I don’t think about myself. If you get too inside your head or think about, “How’s my hair look or my makeup?” — that’s not the purpose of performing. All I see are all those people who are giving me their time and their money, and it’s pretty hard not to just feel thankful.
For those who may not understand everything that goes into launching a career, can you tell me what your day-to-day thoughts are like?
There are waves. So, there’s waves of optimism, like I said. There’s also waves of discouragement. There’s days where I feel like I’m going to conquer the world, and then there’s days I feel like, “Is this ever going to happen?” And then, in the end, I know where I’m going to end up. It’s just when you have those hard days, it’s hard to see it sometimes.
But I think it’s important to start your day with gratitude, end it with gratitude, and when you look back on the hard days, it’s pretty easy to see why those were necessary a month later. And you don’t even remember the bad days most of the time. You’re like, “I was crying about what?” I’m like, “Why was I crying about that? That’s pretty dumb.”
I’ve read that K.T. Oslin was one of your influences. That struck me as pretty interesting.
Oh my gosh. Well, I grew up playing piano, and at first, I hated the lessons because my piano teacher was making me play classical Beethoven — a great guy, but I’m just not the biggest fan of classical music. My mom, one day, was just fed up with me being a brat, complaining to her, and she showed me a video of K.T. Oslin, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles playing piano, and I was sold. And so I listened to K.T. Oslin records my whole life. I used to tell myself, “This is why you’re taking piano lessons. This is why you’re playing Beethoven. Because you’re going to play like her one day.”
How much creative input do you have when you make your own music videos, or your image, or the visual side of your career?
I’m really lucky to work with people who ask me a lot of questions about what I want. And honestly, even if they didn’t ask me, I’m pretty loud, so it’s pretty hard not to know what I’m thinking because I tell you what I’m thinking all the time!
I don’t know how to direct videos, but I know what I want to see, and thank goodness for people who know the day-to-day in-and-outs of everything. I’m not a very good “make it happen” person. I’m a good dreamer.