Artist on the Verge: Mary Sarah

Country rookie Mary Sarah has a talent for linking with Nashville icons three to four times her age. The 18-year-old's debut album, "Bridges," due May 13 on indie 144 Entertainment, features duets with Country Music Hall of Famers including Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. On April 17, she performed at the iconic Ryman Auditorium with Lynn Anderson and The Oak Ridge Boys, who also appear on the album, as part of the Opry Country Classics series.

"As soon as I got there, they showed me my dressing room - which was Hank Williams'," says Sarah. "I immediately started to weep. Patsy Cline had sang there, and I was covering 'Crazy.' It was so overwhelming - who had been in that room, and on that stage." The Houston native started playing music in church and then toured with Kidz Bop when she was 12. "I tried out the pop life, but it wasn't for me," says Sarah.

Instead, Sarah hit the Texas Opry circuit, steeping herself in classic country along the way. At 15, she was invited by The Oak Ridge Boys - via Twitter, no less - to sing the 1961 Connie Francis hit "Where the Boys Are" at the Galveston Opry.

"She has all the star power of the young singers of today, yet at the same time she seems to have an older soul that appreciates those who came before her," says Oaks member Joe Bonsall. "She embraces the history."

"Bridges" was executive-produced by legendary singer-songwriter-producer Freddy Powers, who helped team Sarah with some of those veteran stars for duets of their own classics, including Parton's "Jolene" and Nelson's "Crazy." More big names may be coming Sarah's way from the business side as well: The singer has been taking meetings with multiple management and booking companies, as well as top programmers at SiriusXM. She recently inked a distribution deal with Cleopatra Records for "Bridges" and is working on a new album of original material for 2015.

"There's a lot of people calling now that they've heard what's going on," says Sarah. "There's so much to take in."


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