And more than two years removed from the show, RaeLynn proved her special blend of country charm and distinct vocals are as appealing as ever.
She took the stage in a homemade Christmas sweater, the product of a stop at Michaels, some superglue and two hours to kill.
Then she treated fans at the WGTY Great Country Radio Jingle Bell Jam to a mix of songs they’d heard before and originals they hadn’t.
One of the highlights followed a story about a songwriting session with a “pop girl” and a subsequent trip to a Mexican restaurant.
“She played me a song,” RaeLynn recalled. “I told her, ‘You know that’s going to be a massive hit.'”
Then RaeLynn launched into a country-fide version of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” that had most of the under-20 crowd in the audience flocking to the front of the stage to dance along.
RaeLynn was just 17 when she auditioned for The Voice, landed a spot on Team Blake and advanced to the Top 16.
She’s 20 now, and Friday night’s opening gig for Dan & Shay marked the final concert of what has proven to be her biggest year yet.
She made her Grand Ole’ Opry debut. She toured with Miranda Lambert. She’s featured on Blake Shelton’s song “Buzzin’.”
Oh, and she released a little song of her own called “God Made Girls.” It cracked the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. This week, it was still number 14.
“I didn’t expect there to be so many different stories (about how people relate to the song),” she admitted during a pre-show chat.
“I just wrote it about being a girl in this world and all the things that boys couldn’t do without girls, and the cool things a girl can make a boy feel like. The fact that a girl can dress up and make a boy want to wash his truck. Those little feelings are so cool.
“But this lady — there’s a lyric in my song that says ‘hold him when he hurts’ — and she said, ‘Your song has touched my family so much because I lost my daughter a year ago and when I heard that line, I just cried because I had to be there for my husband.’ What a different take on the song.”
And there’s more RaeLynn music on the way. She plans to release an EP next month. A new single will follow, perhaps in February or March; the timing depends on the staying power of “God Made Girls.”She performed two of her favorite new songs — “Love Triangle” and “Your Heart” — for the crowd Friday night.
She wrote the former about what it was like to be caught in the middle of parents who were splitting up when she was young. Along with “Young,” it was one of two excellent ballads included in her Jingle Bell Jam set. “Your Heart” is more upbeat, and has all the earmarks of a hit.
“That talks about how you don’t know who you are until somebody breaks your heart,” she said. “And there are so many quirky things us girls do when we get our hearts broken.”
Like cutting her hair shorter and going a couple shades lighter after one breakup, RaeLynn related to the crowd once the music began.
“I don’t know what that did to him,” she admitted to the audience. “But it sure made me feel a heck of a lot better.”
Success hasn’t come overnight. The same year she appeared on The Voice, RaeLynn released a song called “Boyfriend” that didn’t become a country smash.
In the year and a half between singles, she says she wrote, wrote, wrote — five days a week, to the tune of some 150 songs.
She’s had two strong supporters in Blake and Miranda. In fact, she’ll be back on the road with Miranda for 16 dates on the “Certified Platinum” tour in early 2015.
The biggest lesson she’s learned from her relationship with those country superstars?
“Definitely, to be myself and to take my time,” RaeLynn says. “Miranda took two years on her first record. That’s what she told me. She’s like: ‘You can only jump out of the plane once. Don’t stress it. Don’t make something happen that’s not supposed to happen.’ Timing is everything. You need to figure out who you are because once your CD is out there, it’s out there for life.”
1. Care Less
2. Kissing Frogs
4. Hell on Heels
6. For a Boy (at right)
7. Love Triangle
8. Your Heart
9. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
10. God Made Girls
11. All About That Bass
12. If you Say It, You Better Do It