10 Best Country Kid Stars
A lot of kids dream of being stars when they grow up. Some, on the other hand, just can’t wait that long. When it comes to talent, age is just a number, and country has seen some big talent come in small packages over the last several decades.
When most kids their age were doing homework or trying to figure out who to sit with at the lunch table, Billy Gilman, LeAnn Rimes and Tanya Tucker were in a recording studio or on stage in front of hundreds of people. While some young country stars have seen a long, successful mainstream career, others have pursued other endeavors or gone the indie route. We’ve selected a list of the 10 country kids we think stand out the most and found out what they’ve been up to since their debut.
Blaine Larsen was a teenage crooner with a voice that sounded 20 years older. In 2004 he released his debut album, ‘In My High School,’ but his success came with the re-release in 2005. Renamed ‘Off to Join the World,’ the album featured Larsen’s most notable song, ‘How Do You Get That Lonely?’ The tearjerker ballad, written by Rory Lee Feek and Jamie Teachenor, speaks of the tragic nature of suicide and peaked at No. 18 on the country charts. Though the song was the biggest hit of his career thus far, Larsen has continued to make music, releasing his most recent album in 2009. He is now married and has two children. They live in Nashville, where he continues to write music. He also works full-time for Search Ministries, as well as attends Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s safe to say Larsen has been busy the last ten years!
Dolly Parton is a country music icon — songs like ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Jolene’ make up a legacy few can overshadow. But did you know she started performing as a pre-teen? Parton got her start performing on ‘The Cas Walker Show’ at age 10, and by 13 she had recorded her first single, ‘Puppy Love,’ with a label out of Louisiana. She gave her first performance on the Grand Ole Opry stage following the release of the single, and it was there she met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to pursue her dream.
Parton has since become the country queen we know today, boasting 25 No. 1 hits, 41 Top 10 country albums and eight Grammys. Her songs are part of the makeup of American pop culture, and she continues to delight audiences around the country. Parton has also established herself as a philanthropist, particularly in the promotion of literacy. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides one book per month, free of charge, to any child who enrolls to ensure that children have access to books regardless of income. It was clear that as a kid, Parton was destined for greatness, and she has surely achieved it.
A fresh-faced beauty from west Tennessee, Jessica Andrews recorded her first album at the age of 15. ‘Heart-Shaped World’ produced a few fairly successful tracks, including the lead-off single ‘I Will Be There for You,’ originally recorded for the Nashville ‘Prince of Egypt’ soundtrack. It reached No. 28 on the country charts in 1999. The album released two more Top 40 singles, but Andrews broke out with her sophomore album’s titular track, ‘Who I Am.’ It peaked at No. 1 on the country charts and even broke into the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, both at No. 28.
Unfortunately, Andrews has not seen the same amount of success since the release of ‘Who I Am.’ She released a third album in 2003 called ‘Now,’ which did feature a Top 20 hit, ‘There’s More to Me Than You.’ After that, her career faded along with her DreamWorks label’s recording division. Though she worked with a subsidiary of Rascal Flatts’ label Lyric Street Records to release a single from an album produced by Jay DeMarcus, the subsidiary closed in 2009 and this album was also never released. In 2011, Andrews married songwriter and music video producer Marcel. In July 2014, she released a new single on iTunes called ‘The Clown.’ She continues to perform around Nashville.
Though Marie Osmond has become a pop culture icon in many different capacities, she got her start as a 14-year-old country singer. Her older brothers may have caught the performance bug earlier on, but Osmond kept her twangy style to herself until the release of her first single, ‘Paper Roses,’ in 1973. The single, originally released in 1960 by Anita Bryant, went to No. 1 on the country charts and even crossed over to reach No. 5 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the easy listening charts. Osmond followed it up with a few lesser-known singles and two duets with her brother Donny, one of which — ‘I’m Leaving It All Up to You’ — was a Top 20 hit.
The starlet took a break from music to pursue acting in the early ’80s, but burst back onto the scene in 1985 after signing with Curb Records, releasing a No. 1 hit right of the gate — a duet with Dan Seals called ‘Meet Me in Montana.’ She released several other successful songs, but her singing career died down after the ’80s. Since then, Osmond has pursued a number of different avenues of entertainment and entrepreneurship, including Broadway, writing books, product endorsements and television. She even placed third in the third season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ has filled in several times on CBS’ daytime show ‘The Talk.’
Lennon and Maisy Stella
Sisters Lennon and Maisy are YouTube sensations-turned-TV-stars-turned-country-stars. Don’t let their charming demeanor fool you — the young ladies’ voices have the control and style of women twice their age, and they bring their own twist to any song they perform. The duo first made an impression on the internet in May 2012 when they posted a cover of pop star Robyn’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend,’ accompanied by their own percussion using cups. Lennon was just 12 at the time, and Maisy was only 8. The song went viral, and, after posting several more videos and making their debut on the show ‘Nashville’ as Maddie and Daphne Conrad, the young, but fierce starlets had staked their claim in the music industry.
The sisters have since performed not only on the show, but at the Grand Ole Opry, and are now country music sweethearts.
Take a moment to go back a few years. Before anyone knew what ‘twerking’ was. Before a wrecking ball conjured up very specific imagery. Go back to 2006, when Miley Cyrus was just a pint-sized pop star on a Disney Channel sitcom. During the show’s run, which lasted through 2011, Cyrus released a few pop singles, but also teamed up with her country legend dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, in 2007 for a duet titled ‘Ready, Set, Don’t Go.’ Though the song originally appeared on Billy Ray’s solo album without the younger Cyrus, it hit No. 4 on the country charts after it was re-released as a duet. Cyrus also took a dive into her Tennessee roots in 2009 for the ‘Hannah Montana’ feature film. The soundtrack featured a few country tunes, most notably ‘The Climb,’ which was a runaway hit for Cyrus. The passionate ballad gave her a platform to show off her pipes, which many were surprised to see she had. The song hit No. 25 on the country charts and No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts, solidifying Cyrus’ status as a real artist, not just a child star.
Since then, Cyrus has gone through an evolution musically and stylistically with her most recent album ‘Bangerz’ — a No. 1 album and the best-selling debut week for a female artist in 2013. Her career has propelled her to be an internationally-recognized pop icon, and it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon.
This blonde cutie started her career at the age of 14 with the mega success of her debut single ‘Blue.’ The classic country throwback tune and memorable hook propelled a young LeAnn Rimes to stardom and led to her becoming the youngest person to ever win a Grammy. Though she followed up with a catchy ‘One Way Ticket’ and saw some moderate success, her next major breakthrough came with a crossover into pop music in 2000 with the hit song ‘I Need You,’ and later with ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight.’
Since then, Rimes has continued to release albums, but has been plagued with tabloid headlines that often overshadow her career. Her controversial relationship with actor Eddie Cibrian — which began as an extramarital affair for both Rimes and the actor — resulted in her second marriage in 2011, two years after her divorce from backup dancer Dean Sheremet. Though her more recent endeavors have seen less commercial success, she stands out as one of the most successful and talented young country artists in recent history.
A notoriously young country star, Billy Gilman made a name for himself in 2000 with the release of ‘One Voice,’ an inspiring ballad about the hope that can be found even in a broken world. At only 11 years old, his angelic voice flooded the airwaves and earned him a Top 20 hit on the country Billboard charts, making him the youngest artist to snag a Top 40 hit on the country charts. He followed up the hit with ‘Oklahoma,’ which achieved moderate success, but his time in the spotlight soon faded.
Gilman has continued to release new music over the years, as recently as 2012, when he released ‘The Choice,’ a song and accompanying video in partnership with the nonprofit Soles4Souls, which provides shoes to those in need. The song also features artists like Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and Keith Urban. The grown-up Gilman might have a new haircut and a tattoo, but the performance proves his voice is as strong as ever.
Before Taylor Swift was a household name, she was a starry-eyed teenage singer0songwriter with a dream and a guitar. Swift grew up in Pennsylvania, but made the move to Nashville at 14 to pursue that dream. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for a label to recognize her raw talent, and at 15, she released her first single, ‘Tim McGraw.’ The song hit the Top 10 on the Billboard charts and launched Swift into stardom. Her first No. 1, ‘Our Song,’ was released from the same self-titled album, further solidifying her status as a budding country icon.
Now 24 and the proud owner of four highly successful full-length albums, the crossover hitmaker continues to hold her position as one of country’s reigning monarchs.
It’s rare that a pre-teen artist can manage to stretch early success into a lifelong career, but Tanya Tucker is a shining example. Tucker had her first hit at age 13 with ‘Delta Dawn,’ a song previously recorded by its writer, Alexander Harvey, and performed by Bette Midler on ‘The Tonight Show.’ When Tucker’s producer saw Midler’s performance and found out Midler was already signed to another label, the song was given to the up-and-comer to record — a decision that changed her life forever. ‘Delta Dawn,’ which featured Tucker’s uniquely mature voice and signature vibrato, reached No. 6 on the Billboard country charts in 1972 and put the artist on the fast track to stardom. The country sweetheart followed it up with another Top 10 hit, ‘Love’s the Answer,’ and achieved her first No. 1 with ‘What’s Your Mama’s Name’ in 1973. The No. 1s kept on coming, and Tucker became a bona fide star.
Over the last 40 years she has been nominated for nine Grammys and won several ACM and CMA awards — and, she was named No. 20 in CMT’s 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. She has released 23 studio albums in addition to several greatest hits and live albums. Tucker had a reality show on TLC called ‘TuckerVille’ from 2005-2009 which followed her family life, and she continues to perform occasionally.