The 15-year-old vocal sensation dishes on her first job (this one) and shares what it means to be performing on the same stage as her idols.
Q&A with Opry NextStage Artist Tegan Marie
Opry: You’ve said before that your family loves music but no one — except for you — plays or sings. How did you discover your talent?
Tegan: My family grew up around music just like I did. They always played Johnny Cash and all those old-school artists who would tell stories in their songs. I feel like, for me, it just kind of happened one day. I woke up, started singing. I think I was probably singing a Taylor Swift song. I just wouldn’t quit singing. You know, just growing up around that kind of music and wanting to write stories and transform it into music. That’s pretty much where I got it. For me, I feel like it kind of has to start somewhere, so maybe I’m the start of the Thomas family music family.
When did you start playing guitar and what song was the first song that you learned?
I got my first little Baby Taylor guitar when I was 6 years old. The first song I learned was “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash.
You were discovered shortly after at the age of 7. Could you tell us about that?
When I was 7 years old, I got into this really cool website called Sweety High. It’s an all-girls media company … My dad helped me get on there, and I was posting videos of me singing on there, like “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and just so many other covers that I was doing. That’s where I gained some of my first fans … [Sweety High is] very supportive of young girls and they do really cool videos and stuff that you can watch. They actually brought me out to L.A. when I was 12. Frank and Veronica, they’re the founders of Sweety High, now they’re managers … It was my first time meeting them, and I think we all knew from the start that something was going to happen because they’re amazing. Literally without Sweety High, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. I probably wouldn’t have made my Opry debut. I probably wouldn’t have signed, so big props to them.
You became the youngest female artist in 45 years to sign a record deal with a major country music label at 13. You’re 15 now. How do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist since you first started out?
There are a lot of ways I’ve grown, vocally. I’m probably a little more mature now, but I feel like I have grown in many ways like songwriting, and I’ve learned how to perform. And just meeting all the Teganites and all the fans, I’ve really learned how to talk to them and listen to them and what they want. I feel like I’m still growing. I’m getting up there, but I’m not there yet. I still am growing, and I’m excited to see what else I can learn.
You’re one of the country artists out there right now, and your fans are very loyal. Many of them look up to you, what does that mean to you as you write the next chapter of your career with all these people watching and admiring you?
I grew up in a household where thinking of others before yourself was the core of our beliefs. That was the main thing for our family, just caring and being of loving service to other people. So now that I have these fans and people just coming up to me and saying they look up to me, I am the same way that I am with my family. I listen to them and I talk to them, and I’m always thinking about what they want and what they like and just what they’re going to think. Even all the way to an Instagram post, I’m like, “Ooh, are my fans going to like this? Is it going to do good?” That’s what I hope to do in the next chapter as I’m writing that. Just seeing how I can listen to them and seeing what I can do for them.
You just finished playing tonight, and Kelsea Ballerini is also on the show. You met her a few years back, and you’ve always said that she is your idol. Now being in this place where you’re on the same lineup as one of your idols, how does that hit you, especially as an Opry NextStage artist?
I actually just ran into her backstage, and she goes, “Hey baby.” [Laughing] No, she’s like my big sister. I met her actually the first time I flew out to L.A. to meet the Sweety High crew. She had just shared one of my videos that I did of hers, “Love Me Like You Mean It.” I went to one of her concerts there, and I got to meet her before the show. She’s just the sweetest person ever. Seeing her tonight and at the award shows, getting to do these things with her is very special. I’d like to think that I have a big sister who’s with me through all this. It definitely is very crazy to think about though.
Now it's time for some rapid-fire questions. What’s your favorite song lyric of all time?
Oh my gosh, don’t do this to me. There are too many. I feel like a classic is, “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”
What was the first job you ever had?
I guess this is my first job. [Laughing] I’m not really old enough to get a job yet, so I mean, this is my first job: singing. I don’t really think of it as a job because it’s fun for me. Maybe [my first job was] working my family’s garage sale. That’s kind of like a job, right? Taking responsibility.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
There’s a lot that really touched me. Seeing all the fans and even the artists, they come up to me and they’re just like, “You touch so many people, and that’s really incredible.” Especially after shows, when you hear that, you’re just so happy and in such a good mood, so I feel like anything that’s along those lines, that’s probably one of the best things to hear.