At only sixteen years old, Texan Abbey Cone is preparing to release her debut album, simply titled, Abbey, on July 10th. Her all acoustic project is a collection of sixteen songs, fifteen of which Abbey had a hand in writing, that showcase her songwriting and vocals, both having a maturity beyond her years. Ahead of the release, Abbey graciously took the time to speak about her roots, the album and more.
You grew up in a rodeo family, so what drew you to music as opposed to rodeo?
I have three siblings, two sisters and a brother. They’ve all done rodeo since they were little, so being the youngest, I was taken around to rodeos all the time. When I realized I was covered in dirt and at a rodeo I didn’t want any part of it. Plus, I’m deathly afraid of horses. It’s weird. I mean, I’m fine until they start moving, then I freak out and am like “oh take it back.” I’m scared and they sense that I’m scared, so they’re going to freak out. It’s like a lose-lose situation.
What contributed to that fear? Did you experience a traumatic incident or are you just aware of what could happen?
Both. I have seen a lot of stuff happen, but when I was seven my brother was babysitting me--and I use that term loosely--and he thought it would be funny to put me on a horse on our land and slap its back. The horse took off with me on it, running in the wide open and I was hanging on for dear life. When I finally got off I was traumatized. I respect the sport, but it is not my thing. My thing was singing the National Anthem at all of the rodeos. I was about six or seven when I sang it for the first time. My mom took hold of my hand and we walked out into the arena and sang it.
Six or seven years old is so incredibly young! Were you nervous?
My mom says I was nervous and I think that’s why I made her come with me and hold my hand. I was singing in the living room for family and I kind of jumped to singing for 1200 people really fast.
Is that when you began singing, when you were six?
When I was little, I sang to Barney and all of the cartoons. I loved the Cheetah Girls too, but it wasn’t a conscious thing. My mom noticed I was on pitch and that maybe I could sing. I wanted to take piano so we went to a lady who taught voice and piano. She didn’t start giving vocal lessons until age ten, so we were like okay we will just continue with piano, but my mom asked her to listen to me sing--she did and said “ok, we’ll get you in sooner.” So I started voice lessons to learn to sing properly at age six.
You must have made an impression on her!
In addition to singing the National Anthem at events, you also spent a lot of time singing at the Grapevine Opry, correct?
I started there when I was nine. Curtis [Jones], my guitar player, was the bass player there and Janice, who is now my back up singer, sang there as well. Rocky Gribble, who produced my album, was the owner, operator and lead guitar player there. They are like family to me.
Are they people that you would consider your mentors and influences?
Curtis and Rocky are my mentors for sure. They took me under their wing, both musically and personally, since I was nine. My co-writer Steve Leslie, who I write with every time I am in Nashville, is a mentor and a wonderful teacher who has taught me a lot about the craft of songwriting.
Speaking of teachers, how do you balance music and schooling?
I went to high school until freshman year and now I am doing online home school with one more year left. It’s a struggle at times. For example, Math was a tough subject with a teacher and it is even tougher without. Sometimes getting motivated is hard, like if I am on the road and want to sleep in the car I can’t, I have to do work. I want to pursue music badly though, so it is a balance. It's all worth it.
Many teenagers, adults too, do not have that drive. For you, where does that come from?
My parents taught me a lot about working hard. Also, the music itself inspires me. I just love music--I love to listen to it, to write it, to sing—all of it. The drive comes from the combination of people instilling this work ethic in me and my passion for music.
That passion is evident on your record, Abbey, which releases July 10th. The record is an acoustic one, what inspired that?
I wanted the record to be more of a broken down, singer songwriter type of record. I wasn’t worried about it being radio ready or sounding like something on the radio. I wanted it to represent my songwriting and me as an artist. I wanted the record to showcase the songwriting and vocals and not have the lyrics get lost in the music. The record is very autobiographical, I can look at any song and talk about why and when I wrote it and what it is about. It’s the story of my life for the past year or so and I really am proud of it.
As you should be!
There are sixteen songs on the record and you co-wrote fifteen of them. There is such a maturity in your songwriting that the listener does not have to be a teenager to relate to.
I have always been mature for my age and have been called an “old soul.” I relate to things ahead of my years, which has been both a blessing and a curse. In high school, I didn’t relate to my age group as much, I always felt a little different. I’ve always been a person who thought more in depth and I think that shows through in my songwriting. I love to write songs with meaning that I know can connect with people on a universal level.
The only song that I did not co-write is “Concrete Rose,” which is a Mallary Hope and Ross Copperman song. I volunteer at Cook Children’s Hospital in the [music] studio where kids can bang drums or learn chords on the guitar, but I also sing to them. I would sing that song, which they always loved and that is why I ended up putting it on the record. I love the feel of it, but it’s also very special to me.
Did you record the album in Nashville or Texas?
We recorded it in Texas at our house. We have a barn with an apartment in front of it so we turned one of the rooms into a full studio with two isolation rooms and a full engineer room. It’s really awesome. Curtis and Rocky produced the album and Curtis did all of the engineering on it. Milo Deering played all of the string instruments-dobro, mandolin, viola and fiddle-on there.
The first single from the album, “Love Like Him Again,” was released to Texas radio in March and the video for the song recently premiered. What is the story behind the song?
I wrote that song probably a year ago with Steve Leslie and Gary Reamey. Steve had the hook for long time and asked if I wanted to write for it. It’s a cool song because it is lyrically simple, but has more meaning than just what it says. Production wise we kind of went on a limb because we didn’t use any drums. We recorded it in Nashville and Paul Franklin played on it, which was really cool.
I felt that the song, being a simple one, didn’t need a storyline for the video. The video was shot in a hundred year old dance hall in Texas on a day when it was really hot, so that glow that I had was sweat (laughing). Really, it was great, especially because it was my first video. Natalie Rhea did the production on it, which I think represents the song really well.
It really does.
In a short time you have been able to have many wonderful experiences. Do you have a highlight so far?
The entire weekend of Larry Joe Taylor Fest was really cool. It was great to be among all of the people there backstage and see what goes into putting on a big show on like that. My show was cool because even though it was acoustic, there were a bunch of people there in lawn chairs who really were there to listen to the music. I also got to sing with Josh Abbott which was so great. It was so nice of him to take the time out of his show to pull someone on stage to sing that many people haven’t heard of and to take the time to talk with me. I think the Texas scene is really genuine and even if someone else’s sound isn’t your type of sound, everyone supports everyone else.
That sounds like an incredible weekend. Will you be playing many live shows during the summer?
I have had a bunch of cool gigs including one at The Rustic in Dallas, which I was honored to play. I have a bunch of fairs and festivals and I will be opening for Tyler and the Tribe as well. I am going to be focusing on playing as well as continuing to write in Nashville once a month.
As you travel to your shows, what music have you been listening to lately?
I listen to all kinds from traditional country to old R&B like Al Green to recent music like Tori Kelley. I’m obsessed with her music, which is like R&B, but put over beats. I love all different kinds.
Lastly, is there anything that you might want to add?
I just want to say thank you to anyone who is going to read this article. Even though I’ve not been doing this for the longest time, I have received a lot of love and support and I would like to thank everyone for that.
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