The Texas teen on collaborating with Ray Price, Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys and others on her upcoming album
Texas-based performer Mary Sarah grew up with the "Opry." She would listen to the WSM radio show from time to time, but also that's where she honed her skills on-stage – at many of the local "Oprys" that are all over the Lone Star state.
"I started singing when I was about nine or ten years old," she recalled to Billboard. "I went out on tour when I was twelve, and tried out the pop life. I went out to LA for about six months, but it wasn't for me. I came back to Texas, and the Opry shows are everywhere – the Rosenburg Opry, Pasadena, Alvin, they are all around. So, I sang there, and started to learn the old country. I learned so much for that that I just fell in love with it all."
Tomorrow night (April 17), Mary Sarah will make her debut at the Ryman Auditorium – with a performance on the "Opry Country Classics" show that will celebrate the career of Ray Price. She said she can't believe it.
"For me, it was so crazy that Pete Fisher offered this up so quickly was amazing. I've dreamed of this for a long time. I'm so excited that it's going to be in the Ryman. Artists like Dolly, Willie, and Merle have all played the stage. It's such an honor. I don't know if I will be able to contain my tears of happiness or what it will feel like. To be able to pay tribute to Ray is also going to be an honor."
Price is one of five members of the Country Music Hall of Fame that appears on her upcoming album, "Bridges." The set features the eighteen year old performing duets with many legends of the format, such as Parton, Nelson, Haggard, and Vince Gill. Price appears on a re-cut of his 1959 classic "Heartaches By The Number." She recorded the song alongside Price in the studio, which will be a moment she cherishes forever.
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"He came into the studio wearing a cardigan, and his big belt buckle that said 'Price' on it," she recalled. "He came in with such grace and elegance. Everyone in the room was so silent because you knew a star had walked into the studio. He came in, sat on the stool, and sang the song about three times. He looked at me and said 'Little girl, I think that's all you need.' He got up, and I got to talk to him a little, and he gave me some advice. It was truly an honor."
All of the artists recorded live with the singer in the studio – a rarity these days. She says she knows they get tons of such offers all the time, but thanks to Freddy Powers – a longtime songwriting collaborator of Nelson and Haggard, the artists all signed on for the project.
"The first one to record for the album was Dolly on "Jolene," and that was through her manager and Kent Wells, who is her producer. Then, Freddy brought that song to Willie and Merle. It just all went from there. People started hearing about it. We just started asking artists about being involved. All the artists were willing to do this for Freddy. I'd love to say for me, but not. I'm just the lucky person who got to sing on it."
How did she come to the attention of Powers? "I met Freddy through my manager Sharon, who played drums for him," she told The 615. "She introduced us about three and a half years ago, and we hit it off. He has been absolutely amazing because he took a chance on me. My life has changed so much because of him." Powers appears on the wistful "All I Want To Do Is Sing My Song."
One cut that is very special to her is "Dream On," which features the Oak Ridge Boys – who took the song to No. 7 in 1979. She has shared the stage with the group on several occasions – and they will be on the bill tomorrow night at the Ryman, cheering her on.
"It's going to be very cool to hang out with them beforehand, because they've done this before," she says with a smile. "They're uncles to me in the music business. It's a great feeling."
Mary Sarah will make her debut at the Bluebird Cafe on May 7, and six days later, Bridges will hit stores. She can't wait.
"It's been two years since we started it, so to have everyone be able to hear it, and to show the world what we've been working on is a huge accomplishment. I have it counting down on my phone right now."