2021 CMT Artists Of The Year Honoree: Gabby Barrett

The 21-year old performer is humbled and heartened by her success, yet still hopeful for the future

You never get a second hit to make a first impression. But, of course, that's not how the old saying goes. However, in regards to 21-year-old country singer Gabby Barrett's single "I Hope," its 27-month run of success since its July 2019 debut proves the power of a hit -- and an artist -- to galvanize uplifting pandemic-saddened spirits and to achieve quintuple platinum-selling acclaim, spurring impressive breakout stardom.

Regarding Barrett's success and how it spurred both her, but in many ways country music and its community of fans during the pandemic, TIME offers the following:

"It looked like country music itself was facing hard times. The scaling back of the physical spaces where the genre thrives—concert halls and bars; radio and concert tours—emphasized its vulnerability in the virtual realm. Having long prided itself on resisting the technological changes that have transformed the music industry, country risked falling even further behind hip-hop and pop, which dominate the apps like TikTok and streaming services that now represent 80% of total music-industry revenue."

TIME's October 28, 2020 feature entitled "The Pandemic Could Have Hurt Country Music. Instead, the Genre Is Booming" then makes a statement about what keyed acclaim for Barrett and her single: "'I Hope' exploded in popularity, topping the three major Billboard country charts and becoming the first debut single by a woman to top Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart."

To CMT's Hit Story, Barrett herself offered, "while writing ["I Hope"], I knew that the song needed a twist to it that nobody saw coming. People would think that a song titled 'I Hope' would be hopeful, but then they hear the music at the start is a little eerie, so they're interested. [Also], as one of eight kids, I was around a lot of women growing up, so I saw a lot of relationships unwind in not the best way. Fans have responded well to [those twists] she adds. They tell me that my song's gotten [them] through a divorce or a really bad breakup."

Following Barrett's stratospheric rise from finishing third on the 16th season of American Idol to "I Hope" -- her debut single -- being the first top 10 Hot Country Songs debut by an unaccompanied woman since October 2017 is the type of story that keeps fans engaged. However, add that Barrett and her husband, fellow country artist Cade Foehner, also became the proud parents of their first child, a daughter, Baylah May, on January 18, 2021, and the story gets better.

“When I first got married, that changed me in a lot of different ways. It makes you grow up in a lot of different ways and then when you have a baby you grow up in even more ways,” she told ET Online. The birth of her child also continued her desire to be a beacon of hope to her growing fanbase. “My husband and I are very large Christians and we’re very firm in our beliefs. There is a term in the Christian faith called ’dying to yourself’ and definitely when you have a baby you learn to die to yourself and everything is just about them. And it’s actually really helpful because you definitely become more selfless and help other people in a lot of different ways.”

As far as the hits, they keep coming for Barrett. "The Good Ones" is the second single from her June 2020-released album Goldmine, and similar to "I Hope," it's a platinum-seller. As well, similar to "I Hope," it's a CMT Music Awards-winner too, garnering a fan-voted Country Music Television trophy for Female Video of the Year on June 9, 2021. This followed a 2020 CMT Music Award win for Breakthrough Video of the Year for the previously mentioned "I Hope."

As far as what's next in store for the extraordinarily fast-rising country star, her September 17-released third single, "Footprints On The Moon," made its broadcast premiere on CMT and CMT Music channels, plus ViacomCBS’ Times Square billboard. Barrett is humbled and heartened by her success, yet still hopeful for the future. "[I'm] crying happy tears about what's been happening because I've been working so hard," she explained to PEOPLE about her work in the past twelve months. "[It's] just an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness...I'm in the thick of finding...balance between being a mom and being an entertainer."

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