This time last year, Danielle Bradbery was a 16-year-old student at Cy Ranch High School who loved dancing and riding horses and hadn't done much singing outside her own bedroom. Then her family entered her into the Dallas auditions for NBC's high-rated singing show The Voice -- without asking her first.
"They were like, 'Let's just see what happens' and I was like, 'Okay,' says Bradbery by phone, on a break from doing radio promos somewhere in Ohio. "I was really scared. I was like, 'Wait a second... I don't know if I can do this. Y'all are just throwing me out there like that.'"
This evening Bradbery will perform at City Hall -- part of Mayor Annise Parker's official Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting -- as the reigning Voice champion, the youngest in the show's history. She's still not old enough to vote, but soon will be confronted with options like which tour to join once she gets off the road with Brad Paisley.
Her self-titled debut album was recorded in short order following Bradbery's Voice victory, supervised by producer Dann Huff. To get an idea of what a hot property she is at the moment, look no further than his other recent production credits: Keith Urban's Fuse, The Band Perry's Pioneer, Kenny Rogers' You Can't Make Old Friends and Voice Season 3 winner Cassadee Pope's Frame By Frame. That's four of 2013's other top country albums in one fell swoop.
As for her own record, Danielle Bradbery came out last week and landed at No. 5 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, No. 8 on iTunes' Country Albums chart, and No. 19 on the Billboard 200. A bright and bubbly pop-Americana batch of wild boys, workin'-man daddys and Bradbery's boundless teenage spirit, it's got small-town sweetheart etched into every line. But it rings true, whether Bradbery is tackling the Faith Hill-ish vocal fireworks of power ballad "I Will Never Forget You" or shifting into a more carefree gear like the breezy "Dance Hall."
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Even if the album comes off as a little green in spots -- and hey, she is 17 -- Bradbery can hold her own alongside other Nashville ingenues like Pope, Lauren Alaina, Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves, all of whom were among the "Next Women of Country" recently anointed by CMT. Earlier this week she was named the new face of Skechers footwear, which will keep her face in magazines and commercials well into 2015.
Not surprisingly, Bradbery admits she hasn't had a whole lot of time to process everything that's happening to her. But she says her large, blended family has been nothing but supportive, as has her second family from The Voice. In her brief time as a celebrity, she's managed to meet a number of Nashville A-listers -- George Strait, Taylor Swift, of course her Voice coach Blake Shelton and wife Miranda Lambert -- except her hero Carrie Underwood.
"I always listened to her a long time ago, and I still do even though all of this is going on," says Bradbery.
The Texan's quick rise sounds like Underwood's own trajectory after winning her season of American Idol, but the music business is hardly a fairy tale. To hear her tell it, Bradbery sounds like she's also rapidly learning the value of keeping her own counsel.
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"I just try to have time by myself, as little time as I have, as much as I can, to be by myself instead of people talking in so many different directions -- telling me where to go, telling me what to do," she says. "I try to get time at home as much as I can when it's possible."
The singer says she's definitely looking forward to having a little down time in Houston the next few weeks after tonight's tree-lighting. (She reckon's she'll sing a couple of songs from her album, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You.") Soon enough she'll have to rush back out to all the privileges and obligations that come with being a budding country star, but Bradbery has also been singing since she was three -- she's already starting to sound like a pro.
"I love how I sing a song from The Voice and hearing the crowd know every word and sing along," she says. "I think that's awesome, how they react to songs like that. I think that's what gets anybody's adrenaline up when you're performing. Once I start singing, I'm having so much fun."
Danielle Bradbery performs at the Mayor's Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting, 6 p.m. tonight at Houston City Hall, 901 Bagby. See here for more details.
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