Fast-rising country artist Julia Cole made a promise to her grandfather that one day she would step into the legendary circle at the Grand Ole Opry. Nearly six months after making the pact, the Texas native received an invitation to make her debut on Saturday, July 16.
Cole told CMT that her grandfather taught her everything she needed to know about the Grand Ole Opry. After learning about the rich history of the sacred venue, the wooden circle became a golden box on her bucket list.
"He was the first one to really talk to me about the Opry when I was growing up," the breakout star exclusively told CMT. "He always just faithfully watched and listened to me. He always was like, 'one day you're going to be on that stage,'" she recalled with a frog in her throat.
Over the holidays of this year, her biggest supporter fell ill. Cole shared a sweet moment with her "Poppy" just days before he passed away.
"I haven't gotten the invite yet, but I was hoping it might happen in the future. So, I asked him, 'If I get to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, would you mind if I wore something of yours? So you can still be there with me.' she explained. "He died a couple of days later, but he let me have his whole collection of old country western shirts. To honor and celebrate him, we are making a custom outfit with his fabrics that I can wear on the Opry stage," she added.
The "Wine Country" singer told CMT that she's keeping the style of the sentimental ensemble on the down low, but fans could expect a formal look to honor the prestigious opportunity.
"It is still in the works," she shared about the customized getup. "It will be a surprise, but it's definitely going to be more on the formal side of things. It's the Grand Ole Opry, we have to be fixed to be in the presence of the country music legends. I'm not exactly what it will be yet, but I know it's going to be everything that Poppy would've wanted."
Although her grandfather will be at the show in spirit, the vocalist revealed that her family and friends are flying out to Nashville to witness the career milestone.
"I'm so nervous … my entire family's coming out from Louisiana and Texas for the Opry debut," said Cole. "That makes me even more nervous because it means so much to everyone in my family. I feel like they're going to be like, 'she's really doing it.' Playing the Grand Ole Opry is a lifelong dream of mine, and it also feels like such an honor to be invited to step into the circle that every country music icon in history has stepped into. Just to feel their presence and the presence of country music as a whole in that room… it's going to be an epic night."
Cole turned to her good friend and collaborator, Charles Esten for guidance to calm her nerves. During Esten's historic 150th performance at the Opry, Cole joined him on stage to premiere their "Worst Day" duet. The singer-songwriter said that their friendship has blossomed since working together on the up-tempo track.
"Charles Esten has really been just the absolute best. We just released our duet together, and he's kind of taken me under his wing and invited me to some cool performances," Cole uttered. "He just said, 'go out there and engage with the audience and be authentically you.' I've watched him do it too. I'm learning from watching, but also from what he's telling me. It's been really amazing friendship."
Esten previously told CMT that he was "blown away" by Cole's powerful vocals and talent. The seasoned artist did not fail to mention that he felt like he was "hanging on for dear life, trying to sing along" while recording the love song.
The two will be making stops throughout CMA Fest to deliver the hit. Fans can catch Cole at BMI's Ryman Block Party on Friday, June 10, and the Hard Rock Stage on Saturday, June 11. However, the Nashville newcomer will be taking a break from performing to serve as a model in Jessie James Decker's Kittenish Fashion Show on Thursday, June 9. Cole is set to join other CMT Next Women of Country members and will help showcase Decker's clothing line. The event presented by CMT will feature female country duo Maddie & Tae, multi-platinum artist RaeLynn, Breakout stars Lindsay Ell, Callista Clark, Laci Kaye Booth, Sacha, and Alyssa Bonagura.
"We get to be kind of models for her new line that's coming out," Cole shared about the upcoming event. "She did it with all the CMT Next Women of Country members, which is really cool! I can only imagine how fun that backstage will be with all of us just hanging out and trying on clothes. I am very honored to be a part of that group of women, because it is the 'who of who' now in country music," she concluded.
The fashion show will take place at the CMA Close Up Stage in the Music City Center and will begin at 4 p.m. As fans wait for Cole to make her Opry debut on July 16, they can stream her empowering anthems or see her live at notable festivals nationwide. For upcoming appearances, visit juliacolemusic.com.