Like many of our readers, I was first introduced to Mary Sarah via the Internet. Specifically, I stumbled across a YouTube video of Mary Sarah performing Connie Francis’ classic hit Where The Boys Are during an Oak Ridge Boys concert at the Opry in Galveston, TX. I was floored! I remember sitting in my office thinking to myself, “Wow! This girl has an incredible voice! And, she’s only 15 years old.” Just in case you haven’t seen the performance I’m referring to, you can check it out here.
I reached out to Mary on Twitter last summer, and I have been following her career ever since. Recently, she was thrust into the national spotlight after comments were made by Carolina Panthers’ tight-end Jeremy Shockey about how some Houston Texans’ players didn’t have their hands over their hearts during the National Anthem, which was performed beautifully by Mary Sarah.
We caught up with Mary during the Christmas holidays and asked her about that experience during the Texans game as well as other questions about this talented young singer-songwriters life.
We want to thank Mary and her entire family for taking time during the holidays to tell our readers more about who Mary Sarah is and what she has in store for us this year. Enjoy the interview!
Mary Sarah Interview With Jason Pelham Exclusively For TheCountrySite.com:
If someone said, “Who’s Mary Sarah?,” what would your answer be?
I am a fun-loving 16 year old that is passionate about singing and entertaining. I love my family, my dog and Texas!
In doing our research, we read that you started singing in church around the age of 10. Were you more nervous at 10 singing in front of your church members or now when you sing in front of thousands of strangers? Why?
I was nervous at 10 but having my dad there and people I knew made it easier! Then, I landed the Kidz Bop World Tour at 12 years old and everything changed. It was a full rock concert with 6 kids and we had a blast. We traveled by bus to 40 cities in 6 months! It was my first experience in front of large crowds (3000-5000) and I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
There is something about being on a stage in a large crowd that I just feel very “at home.” I have learned to bring that to a small group setting but I still get nervous when showcasing for a few.
We were first introduced to you when we saw you on YouTube performing Connie Francis’ ‘Where the Boys Are’ during the Oak Ridge Boys concert at the Opry in Galveston, TX. We’ve heard that Joe Bonsall saw your videos on YouTube and invited you to come see them play via Twitter. Is this correct? How did you know it really was Joe Bonsall inviting you?
I told my dad about the tweets so he did some checking to make sure it was really Joe. Crazy right? When I got the tweet my first response was “No way, really?” But then when we confirmed it I was so excited just to meet the Oak Ridge Boys.
We’ve also heard that before their concert, you and your family had lunch with the Oak Ridge Boys at a restaurant and Joe said he wanted to hear you sing. Can you tell us more about that lunch and that night?
They sent additional tweets asking for us to come and see them practice and eat with them before the show (OMG). Inside, I was totally nervous and excited. My dad is always telling me the power of social media so he and my mom immediately broke out in to their version of Elvira!
When we got there I was taken back by how amazing they were. It was like we had known each other for a long time. As we were eating he asked if I could sing something acapella so I stood up at the table to sing and Mr. Joe said “No, not right here. I am going to ask you up on the show.”
I think my parents almost fell out of their chairs. I jumped up and hugged Joe and said “Seriously?” To have someone like Joe Bonsall believe in you was a little hard to take in, but I was soooooo excited that all I could think about was however this happened I was the luckiest girl in the world and I am going to make them proud. Sorry this is so long, but it definitely was a “Crazy Good” moment that changed me forever. I think of both Duane Allen and Joe Bonsall as my “Uncles in the biz!”
The song you sang, Connie Francis’ ‘Where The Boys Are,’ is a traditional country song. Are you more of a fan of traditional country music or today’s more progressive country music?
I love both. How can you not! I see and hear that it has changed a lot but there are just times that all I want is the story and a clear vocal with lots of emotion. I am pretty sure that I learned to love the traditional country because I grew up performing it in local and regional opry’s around Texas. The audience loved Dolly, Tammy, Loretta and Connie and Patsy. I also love what my voice can do when I sing the classics.
I do love all the new stuff tooo! I think Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift , The Band Perry, as well as Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and the Zac Brown Band have all had an influence on me. By the way, “Where The Boys Are” is one of my favorites and I am going to have another opportunity to sing it with the Oaks in Galveston at the end of January. This time its planned!
Speaking of progressive, social media has been a huge outlet for you to share your music with the world. Which outlet has been the most successful at helping you spread the word about Mary Sarah? Twitter? Facebook? YouTube? Other?
If it was up to my dad he would definitely say Twitter. I think it is a combination of them all but I do love being able to connect with soooo many people! I get lots of encouragement from people I have never met and that means the world to me.
You attended the 2011 CMA Music Fest this summer. Which artists most impressed you? Who did you most enjoy seeing live?
I really attended for an interview with Young Country TV and was in the studio the week of CMA Music Fest. I did see the Marty Stuart Late Night Jam at the Ryman one night. It started at 10 and finished at 2 am. Dolly Parton, Doug Kershaw, Connie Smith, Mel Tillis, Duane Eddy, Ricky Skaggs and of course The Fabulous Superlatives! The whole night was filled with such awesome artists that have been around for a long time! I learned a lot!
Which singer and/or celebrity have you met whose personality was completely different from your perception of them?
None yet. Everyone so far has been exactly how I thought they would be. That is why I think country music is so real…the people are real.
You recently sang the National Anthem at the Houston Texans/Carolina Panthers football game. How did this come about? Were you shocked at all of the controversy stirred up by Jeremy Shockey’s comments after the game about some Texan’s players not putting their hands over their hearts during the Anthem?
I won the on-line contest for the most votes. There were 10 in the finals and a week to vote. That’s where I want to thank all my AWESOME friends, family and fans on social media because they are the ones that put me through!
Yes, I was shocked by the controversy. Let’s just say the last thing I was thinking about was what everyone else was doing on the field…I was so caught up in such a great moment that everyone could have been standing on their head and I wouldn’t have known.
I will tell you because I couldn’t hear well on the field I actually started the Anthem a step-up from where I usually sing it. When I realized it I knew I had to pull off those notes. I never want to disappoint the people who give me the opportunities! I also prayed before I went out there so I know I had help!
I am happy that Jeremy Shockey is so passionate about patriotism and honoring this country, its the reason I love singing the National Anthem. For 2 minutes you have people singing with you to honor America. But if Jeremy would have paid attention the rest of the game he would have seen that the Texans gave away a new home to soldier’s family, gifted over 700,000 to United Way and honored many other Veteran’s with gifts given away during the TV time-outs.
We’ve read that you like to play tennis. In a perfect world, would you rather win the singles title at Wimbledon or be named CMA Entertainer of the Year?
In a perfect world, I would be named CMA Entertainer of the Year and Rafa Nadal would ask me to marry him! LOL Seriously, I love to play tennis and it has been great playing varsity for our school but entertainment is just my thing. I could live and be happy without playing tennis but not entertaining…I would be very unhappy!
Speaking of tennis, who is your favorite tennis player?
I think I just answered that! LOL John Isner is one of my favorites too, he is up and coming and it will be great to follow his career.
Being from Texas, who is your favorite Texas country singer/band?
If you mean the Texas Music Scene I would say The Cody Johnson Band and Corey Morrow and my dear friend Moses Rangel! If you mean superstars from Texas I would have to say Miranda Lambert and George Strait.
In addition to country music, what other types of music do you listen to? Who is your favorite singer/band of any genre from any era?
Everything except opera, classical…certain rap songs work for me but I love rock and pop! Journey, Maroon 5, Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber (yes…i was in love with him a few years ago!), Alicia Keys, Drake, Kelly Clarkson, Jason Miraz and so many others…my iPod is full.
We’ve heard you’re working on a new project in Nashville? Can you share any details about it and whom it is with?
It’s a little early for me to share too much. I can tell you that this is a dream of a lifetime to be doing what I am doing now. I am humbled by some of the people I have been able to record with and I greatly appreciate their advice about my future.
They have been there, done it and lived it for a lifetime. Most still are touring and I just hope that is where I will be someday. I promise I will keep in touch and give you the scoop as soon as I can. Hopefully this Spring/Summer.
What would you most like to accomplish in 2012?
My family has dinner every New Year’s Eve and we talk about the past year, our goals for the new year and one word to describe our year. My word for 2012 is diligent/diligence. I hope to keep working hard on this project, write and find new songs for the future and we are looking to relocate to Nashville this summer.
A lot has to fall in place for my entire family but I think that would be a lot to accomplish this year. I also would like to become much better at guitar by the end of 2012.
Finally, we’ve read that the fight against Juvenile Diabetes is close to your heart. How and why did you get involved with this cause?
Big question! My brother, Chris developed Juvenile Diabetes when he was 13. He is now 23 so we have been living with this for 10 years. I think I can honestly say it is not a disease that you fight on your own, it takes your whole family. I hated to see my brother suffer with shots and poking himself so many times a day.
Thanks to research through JDRF, he has a pump which helps but it is still not a cure. I believe in my lifetime there will be a cure. Our family team is “TEAM 144…there is a CURE and we will FUND it!”
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about Mary Sarah?
Just that I am very thankful to be doing what I am doing. I have an incredible family that is with me on this journey, and I am shooting for the moon! My life is Crazy Good! And THANK YOU for taking the time to get to know me
For more information, connect with Mary Sarah here:
Also, if you’re on Twitter, please join us for Jessica Northey’s Country Music Chat, aka #CMchat at CMChat.net every Monday night at 6pm PST/9pm EST. Thanks!