Interview: Country-Pop Newbie Abi Ann Looking Forward to Summer Vacation on the Road With Kelly Clarkson
Most young adults spend the summer between high school and college working a minimum-wage job, savoring their waning time with hometown friends and making the most of good weather and freedom. Singer-songwriter Abi Ann is going to be spending hers on the road with Kelly Clarkson.
Beginning on July 11, the 18-year-old Midland, Texas, native will be an opening act on Clarkson's Piece By Piece Tour.
"We are really finding our groove ..." Ann (full name: Abigail Dawn Ann Hoffman) told The Boot when she spoke with us by phone from tour rehearsals. "I'm really just excited for the crowds to hear what we have to offer, very proud of it."
Ann landed her slot on Clarkson's tour through "pure luck," she says -- a contact from a past tour with Jesse McCartney helped get her the spot -- and is "so incredibly honored and excited" to be headed out on the road with the country-pop star. Not only will the trek be a great learning experience, but Clarkson is someone that Ann looked up to as a child.
"She has such a wonderful gracefulness about her, and just the way she portrays music and sings -- it's just so incredible, and that's something I've always admired about her, even before this opportunity," Ann explains. "I've always very much looked up to her, so honestly, learning anything, from her own singing techniques [to] how she interacts with the audience, all those things are going to be really, really great for me to learn, and I'm definitely going to be watching, because she's such an incredible performer and an artist herself."
Ann released an EP, 17, in January, featuring five songs, two of which she wrote: "Truck Candy" is "messing with the bro-country [trend]," Ann explains, while "Cage Without a Key" is "one of my favorite songs lyrically that I've ever written."
"It's hard to relate to someone else's words unless you truly, truly feel like you've gone through the same thing," Ann says of selecting other writers' material, "so whenever I'm choosing songs, it's really important for me to know that I'm going to deliver that song the best."
With that in mind, Ann picked three additional tunes for her EP: "Your Side of Town" ("It's a very universal heartbreak song," she explains, but it's also "unconventional for country"); "It's the Bones," which Ann says she "immediately fell in love with because it has this really, really bizarre format" and is very open to interpretation; and the project's lead single, "Future Ex Boyfriend."
"Future Ex Boyfriend" was the first song Ann chose for her EP -- "the song [that] sort of set the bar," she says. She was sold on the tune immediately after hearing its title.
"I was praying that it was a good song," Ann reveals. "It's such a memorable song."
The singer says the she is already thinking about her next project -- "new music is always on my mind," she says -- although she probably won't try any of her potential new songs out during her summer shows. She is, however, looking forward to using her stage time to win over some new fans.
"[When you're the opening act], you're going to have people who dislike your music, but a lot of them like it," Ann says, "and so you make some wonderful new supporters and friends."
Ann sees music as "[the] way I want to impact society," partially because she enjoys creating it and performing so much, and partially because she knows the way a song can really make a difference.
"Whenever I hear a song and I really connect to it, that's my rehab; that's what I'm listening to if I'm going through a hard time," she explains. "It's all I'm doing, and it's my little escape, so providing that escape for people is really a huge goal of mine."
But Ann also knows the importance of getting an education -- "I've always loved to learn," she says, "and education has always been a huge priority for me" -- so, in the fall, she'll do what many other recent high school graduates will do: start college. She'll be studying entrepreneurship at Nashville's Belmont University, taking online classes and compacted on-campus courses so that she can balance learning with her music career.
"A lot of music is business, and I believe in self-sufficiency, so I wanted to be able to support myself, and it kind of just went hand in hand," Ann explains of her choice of major.
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