She’s13 and headed to Nashville |

She’s13 and headed to Nashville

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Utahn Katelyn Jolley is doing what many American singer-songwriters would love to do: she’s headed to Nashville to pursue her dream.

But at 13, Jolley is getting an unexpected head start. When she arrives in Tennesee in a few months, she will meet with Sony/BMG executives, and debut on Country Music Televison’s "Unplugged at Studio 330."

On Dec. 12, Jolley, from Clinton, Utah, won’s Music City Madness 2 competition, claiming the largest share of more than 4 million online votes over seven weeks for her home video performance and the title of "Country’s Next Big Star." In her winning clip, filmed by her father, David, Jolley sings "The Game," using her guitar as both a stringed instrument and percussion instrument, periodically letting loose an edgy wail, much like Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, whom she cites as one of her inspirations.

"I was out in my yard on a bench I like and my Dad suggested I hit the guitar I was pretty much just messing around with the techniques," she says.

Jolley entered on a whim, one day before submissions were due in mid-October, her song unfinished.

"I only figured out the bridge when my dad was shooting the video," she says. "I sang, ‘I’ll take it slow, I’m tired of listening. I know that you know I don’t know everything.’"

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Katelyn credits her success to home schooling, which she says allows her the time to practice sometimes three hours a day.

"I totally don’t think I’d be here right now if I wasn’t home schooled," she says. "My mother’s an excellent teacher."

David says his daughter comes from a long line of musicians — he’s a drummer, his wife, Jennifer, is a flautist and singer, and his wife’s father, Paul Wainwright traveled Utah in the dance band called The Vibratones. He remembers his daughter always having a talent for music, picking up instruments that were around the house, so it wasn’t a surprise that singing and songwriting came easy to Katelyn, or that she had picked up the guitar in January 2007 and only months later she was composing on its strings.

But David admits to having a few doubts when he sized up the competition on

"There were videos ready to air I mean, well-produced videos that bands had spent money on," he told the Park Record. "It was always surprising week after week when she beat them."

David calls his daughter "an old soul" because she seems to write lyrics about issues typical 13-year-old girls wouldn’t. As an example, he quotes her song, "Day Dream," in which Katelyn sings, "Deadlines missed and letters never sent means nothing now." Often he and his wife find themselves explaining the meaning to her after she’s written something, he says.

"It’s weird. I really think she comes up with a song that sounds good, but she really doesn’t know what it means," David says. "The stuff she writes, it’s about experiences she’s never had. She’s never been in love, or had her heart broken, but she writes like an angry Alanis Morrissette and she writes with substance and with a story to tell."

Katelyn shrugs. "I read a lot," she says.

Look for Katelyn Jolley’s music online at and next year on CMT’s Unplugged At Studio 330.