Mindy McCready

MINDY McCREADY moved to Nashville when she was 18 and gave herself one year to make it or break it as a country singer. Armed only with a karaoke demo, she hit the streets of Music Row. She didn't know much about the music business but she did know that there were basically three ways to get a record deal – play live until someone important notices, write great songs and sell them to other singers, or get a gig singing demos of songs for publishers to play for artists seeking new material. Since McCready didn't write songs and was far too young to hang out in the honky tonk bar scene, she decided to go the demo route.

About 51 weeks later – just under her self imposed time limit – McCready landed a deal with BNA Records. To get that deal, she had to do an acoustic audition in the office of RCA Records Nashville chief Joe Galante. Despite her overwhelming nerves, she succeeded. McCready told POLLSTAR she was scared to death. "I thought I was going to be sick. I was so scared [that] I was ready to die. I came in and he said, 'OK, what are you going to sing?' And I told him what I was going to sing and he goes, 'OK, go ahead.' So I just started singing. I was like dying. So, I get through the song and I thought, 'Oh gosh. I did so horrible.' But then it turns out, I got a record deal four days later."

McCready was extremely shocked when BNA offered her a deal. "I thought that I had done OK, but I didn't think it was good enough that I was going to get a record deal. But it turns out, I was wrong again," McCready said.

One year after that nerve-racking audition, McCready's debut was released. When the album, Ten Thousand Angels, landed at No. 1 on SoundScan's new artist chart and at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseeker chart, McCready was ecstatic. "I'm trying to keep from crying every time somebody says congratulations. It's really wonderful and it's such an honor. I can not even believe it's happening." McCready said she feels like a true overnight success. "The way it looks right now, I think I've progressed faster than actually anything in the history of this town."

The rapid move from unknown teen to recording artist quickly put McCready into the spotlight. But despite her new high profile and a hot first single (the title track "Ten Thousand Angles"), McCready wasn't ready to tour. "I think that establishing myself at radio and letting them know that I really am going to be a serious artist and that I really do want to be a serious artist is the most important thing to do at this point. I think that radio is the biggest part of the people hearing me and if you don't have radio, you don't have anything."

Making an impact at radio was a key in deciding to stay off the road when the record was first released. But McCready had another reason to put off touring. She felt that it wasn't fair to the fans if she only had one hit single out. "I'm new at this business so I'm still able to look at things as a consumer and as a 20-year-old," McCready said at that time. She questioned why someone would want to see an artist with just one hit if the other choices were stars like George Strait or new artists with three or four hits under their belts like Bryan White. She said, "I think it is worth my money more to go see somebody that's had a couple of things that are worth hearing. I just don't want the fans to come out and hear me sing one song and an hour's worth of songs they never heard before. I think it's kind of a rip-off." So, McCready spent much of the first year of her career visiting radio stations around the country, getting to know the people behind the scenes.

Now, with a few hits under her belt, the time is right for McCready to take the stage. Her virgin outing,opening for George Strait, just ended. On the eve of that stage debut, McCready said, "I think that the time is right to be an opening act. We've worked reallyreally hard this past week-and-a-half on developing a stage show and I'm so excited for everyone to see it…. The fourth single has just been released and it's doing excellent. People are loving it and they're buying it like crazy. So I feel like this is the perfect time [because] they'll know more than half the show…. And I think that that's what people really adore about opening acts, hearing the new songs that they've just heard on the radio."

McCready said she prepared a show that is different than most country audiences have experienced. "There's a lot of dancing in the show…. In my 35 minutes, I'll move 75 times on the stage," McCready said. "It's such an exciting show. It's all over the place. Just having a good time is what it is. We're playing in the round so I'll just be everywhere."

To prepare for the Strait dates, McCready enlisted the help of famous choreographer Kenny Ortega, whose credits include Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bette Midler. "He's only worked a couple of times in country music. He's done a couple of videos, I think…. I was only fortunate enough to get Kenny to work with me because Stan Moress, my manager, is one of Kenny's closest friends. So, Kenny agreed to meet with me, about ten times, and then he decided he would work with me," McCready said. "It was a hard thing. It was like courting someone. It really took a lot of begging and pleading and he finally agreed."

McCready told her manager and the agency booking her gigs, CAA, that she will accept more offers to tour if the opportunities appear to be beneficial. "We're just going to look at every date that comes in and that's going to be my goal for next year. I hope I get some more touring but I'm not going to go out and exhaust myself yet doing the touring thing. I think that it's a real benefit to the career that I've waited to go out until people actually hear some songs that they know and they can sign along with. I think that's important."

McCready says she is having a blast with her career. "I mean, it's hard and there's a lot of pressure and I have to say, honestly, that the career is the funest thing in the world to be able to do. Just singing for a living is such an honor. To get out there and have all those people screaming for you, it's a rush like no other."