Emerging Country: Abby Anderson Credits Norah Jones For Keeping Her in Piano Lessons

John Shearer
Abby Anderson

Welcome to Emerging Country Artist Spotlight, a Billboard series where we highlight an up-and-coming act who is making a splash in the genre. This week’s pick is country singer-songwriter Abby Anderson, who wrote her first song at the age of eight and has been performing ever since.

Abby Anderson’s personality is as infectious as her music. Whether watching her in the live setting or scrolling through her socials, the Texas native’s star power is evident. Being an entertainer is innate for the Black River artist, who has been singing for as long as she can remember.

The singer-songwriter moved to Nashville four years ago and her second single, “Good Lord,” released earlier this year, is No. 55 on Billboard’s Indicator chart in its sixth week on the chart. The feel-good summer anthem, which she penned with Josh Kerr and Jordan Minton, follows 2018’s poignant debut “Make Him Wait.”

The solo artist, 22, is currently on the road with Rob Thomas where she serves as opener for his 2019 Chip Tooth Tour through August. She cut her teeth last year as part of Brett Eldredge’s The Long Way Tour and credits the trek for honing her live show. “I feel more confident in my stage presence and my capability to hold the crowd that isn't there to see you necessarily,” she tells Billboard. “I feel good about my craft. I feel a little more seasoned.”

Below, Anderson chats with Billboard about her evolution as a performer, and which acts helped her mom convince her to stay in piano lessons as a child.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to be an artist?

I don’t ever remember not thinking I was going to be an entertainer. I started piano lessons when I was five and I've always known that I was going to sing. I can't tell you why or how, but I just always loved it. The music came so easy and effortlessly and I loved putting on a good show for people. I'm a big old attention hog so it just made sense.

When was your first public appearance?

I believe I was 10 or 11. I'd always put on little shows from my family and made them watch me. I sang “Flies on the Butter” by the Judds for my fifth or sixth grade talent show. I blew everyone out of the water. I remember being on stage and never wanting to get off.

What was the first song you ever wrote? 

I think I was eight or nine, and I wrote a song called “Daydreaming.” It was this little ditty. I don't think I ever finished it, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Who’s career do you admire most and would like to pattern yours after?

Some women in country I really look up to, at least as far as the business goes, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. I listen to their music all the time. Listened to it a ton growing up. I respect their artistry.

Also, they’re businesswomen. I mean, they knew how to expand their brand beyond music and that's something I plan on doing, 100 percent. We’ve got a long ways to go before I get there. That takes a lot. I want to do it all: the acting, the clothing line, jewelry, perfume. We'll see.

What is the first album you remember buying? 

The first album I ever bought was Come Away with Me by Norah Jones. The fact that she was a piano player and a singer, and my mom was trying to keep me in piano lessons because I didn't like them at all. She was introducing me to every artist possible that could make me want to keep playing piano. When I saw videos of Norah Jones and people like Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles who played piano, and Ronnie Milsap, it made me want to stay in the lessons.

Who is your dream collaborator? 

Me and Jimmie Allen just did a collaboration. That was honestly a dream, being in the thick of it with him and doing a song. When I was little, I listened to Lee Ann Womack and Vince Gill like it was my job. Oh my gosh, doing a collab with either one of them would be dream.

What’s the story behind your latest single “Good Lord?”

I was playing a gig up in D.C. for the National Christmas Tree Lighting. We took the bus up there [with] my co-writers, and I told them, “Hey, let's write a song about my boyfriend because I just think he's the greatest thing God ever made, and he makes me so happy. It's very new, I'm in love and I want to write about love right now. That's the season of life I'm in.” We came up with the hook: “Good Lord/ I got a good man.”

I went out to soundcheck, I came back, and they had half the chorus written and I looked at them and I'm like, “Do y'all have a crush on him, too?” [Laughs.] We finished that song, all three of us, in under an hour. Those verses were the easiest thing for me to write. It's all true things that my man does for me to make me feel good.

What’s the most autobiographical song you’ve written?

I have this song called “Closet” that has not been released. I don't know if it will be. We'll see. That's kind of the story of my life. The whole idea is that I don't need to hide the hard stuff about myself. The stuff that's hard to face anyway. I'm cleaning out the closet, going to lay it all out there on the floor. Whether we release it or not, it was therapeutic for me to write.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about the music industry? 

Man, I feel like I can write down in a book everything I've learned, ‘cause there's a lot. One common thing I've learned is to ask questions. I found that I've gotten to where I am in the time that I have by asking questions and surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am. Being interested [and] getting the free education, essentially that's what it is. I didn't go to college, didn’t apply, so I gotta get it in somewhere.

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