published Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Singing helps starlet overcome shyness

  • photo
    Abigail Blake, 16, is focusing on recording her own music and dreams of one day becoming a Broadway actress.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ABIGAIL BLAKE

School: 10th-grader at East Hamilton High School.

Siblings: Two sisters, Jessica,18, and Rebekah, 20; half-sister, Mandy, 28.

Favorite song to sing: "Run" by Leona Lewis.

Singing idols: Patsy Cline and Lady Gaga.


CLAIM TO FAME

Abigail Blake, 16, made it into a field of 40 finalists for the Fox reality TV show "The X Factor." This year, she was named the North American Country Music Associations International's Entertainer and Vocalist of the Year for Traditional Country in the 13-16 age category.

Long before she felt at ease with a microphone in her hand crooning to an audience in a gentle, sonorous twang, Abigail Blake was a brutally shy child.

Like most 5-year-olds are cautioned, Abigail's mother, Jennifer Frazier, told her not to talk to strangers. She took that admonishment to an almost painful extreme, however, and refused to speak to anyone, including her teachers.

"They gave me a speech test because they thought something was wrong," the now 16-year-old singer said, laughing.

When Abigail was 8, however, she found her singing voice. It was a discovery that turned her life around.

Abigail had been singing since she could talk -- and was humming to music before she could manage that much -- but when it came to speaking, she was an extreme introvert. As a result, Frazier said she doubted her daughter's decision to audition for a role in a school musical, "Going Buggy."

Once Abigail took the stage to perform a solo as a singing ladybug, though, Frazier was given a glimpse of a talent she never suspected her daughter possessed.

"She was still a little shy doing it, but her voice didn't sound like someone in second grade," she said. "She sounded like someone way older."

Seeing an opportunity to bring Abigail out of her shell, Frazier and her husband, Brent Frazier, began encouraging Abigail to enter productions at the Catoosa County Colonnade. She eventually performed in "Cinderella," "Oliver" and in the leading role in her school's production of "Annie."

Abigail said she discovered that, by taking on a different persona, she could shrug off her innate shyness.

"When I went onstage, everything went away," she said. "It was like a double personality."

She later began singing in public, including making regular appearances at Magoo's Restaurant, an East Ridge venue that is a staple of the karaoke circuit and a former haunt of "American Idol" finalist Lauren Alaina.

In 2009, she landed the role of Kelsey in the Colonnade's production of "Disney's High School Musical." At 12, she was the youngest in a cast otherwise exclusively made up of actors 15 and older. The performance proved so popular that it later continued its run with a series of sellout shows at the Tivoli Theatre.

The same year, Abigail began singing in a Chattanooga Choo Choo stage show, "Choo Choo Cha Boogie," and began making bimonthly trips to Nashville to sing at venues such as the Hard Rock Cafe and Wild Horse Saloon.

There, she started forging professional relationships with the help of John Watson, a Cleveland, Tenn.-based entertainment promoter and president of artistic consulting firm NuCountry. Watson also connected her with Brien Fisher, a Grammy Award-winning producer and former vice president of Ovation Records. Fisher is working with Abigail on an upcoming studio album due out later this year.

Earlier this year, Abigail was named Entertainer of the Year and Vocalist of the Year in the 13-16 (age group) Traditional Country category of the North American Country Music Associations International annual awards in Gatlinburg, Tenn

In addition to sharing time behind the mike at Magoo's, Abigail followed Lauren Alaina onto reality TV. In May 2011, she was one of 40 finalists selected from a pool of 10,000 to audition for Fox's "The X Factor." That group progressed to the boot-camp round, where they were further weaned to the final 16 contestants for the televised episodes.

Abigail was in the first group to be cut, but she said the experience taught her she wasn't ready for the limelight. She now is focusing on recording her own music with Fisher and dreams of one day becoming an actress on Broadway.

In the meantime, she is content with continuing to try to find her own voice.

"I haven't quite found my comfort place in my music," she said. "I'm still trying to find out my persona, but I'm not there yet."

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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