When Brooke McMahan won Female Vocalist of the Year at the recent Tennessee/Georgia Country Music Association, it came as no surprise to her parents, Tommy and Melissa, who recalls their 14-year-old daughter humming and singing before she could even speak.
Now Brooke is one step closer to the promise she made to country music superstar Carrie Underwood, that one day it would be her on the stage of the Country Music Awards in Nashville.
Brooke, who is home schooled, has already performed at the Riverbend music festival in Chattanooga, a Loretta Lynn talent search in Hurricane Mills, several weddings, youth rallies, youth choir fundraisers and numerous fairs in the Tennessee and Georgia region. The Bradley County teen recently auditioned for NBC’s hit show, “America’s Got Talent.”
But Brooke had shown her talent to some in America when she sang in a talent search competition at the tender age of 6. According to her mother, she placed sixth out of 60 entries — against singers who were twice her age, the majority being 12-17. Her latest win as Female Vocalist of the Year has her imagining what greater success would feel like.
“I haven’t gotten an award like that before,” Brooke admits. “I guess it’s kind of like getting an award at the CMAs.”
As a member of the TN/GA Country Music Association, Brooke has made it her goal to become a country music artist with the possibility of writing some of her own music like Taylor Swift.
Melissa said her daughter’s goal is to audition for NBC’s “The Voice” after she turns 15, which is the qualifying age. “We have a pass for her to go to Nashville to audition on Feb. 1-2. So we’re planning to go there. What she’s interested in is a recording contract.”
Soft-spoken and somewhat timid, Brooke, is described as just the opposite on stage, demonstrating a confidence and commanding presence that is reminiscent of Underwood when she was discovered on “American Idol.” Like Underwood, Brooke lives on a farm, loves to sing, enjoys the company of animals and is not afraid of success.
In fact, when asked about her favorite singers she was quick to say, “Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and Whitney Houston.” According to Melissa, she and her daughter met Underwood at a sound check party in the UTC Arena in Chattanooga.
“Brooke took her flowers and a card,” Melissa recalled. “Carrie was so nice, so not-in-a-hurry and so ‘about Brooke.’ I was like — ‘Brooke sings and she really looks up to you.’ And Carrie was like — ‘Oh, my gosh!’ and Brooke said, ‘One day I’m going to be on that stage and I’m going to be on the CMAs.’ Carrie said, ‘Can I take a picture with you?’”
Underwood took a photo with the then 7-year-old and gave her an autograph, something Brooke has not forgotten. The talented teen has a clear vision of the musical genre of her choice — country. She also has a solid support system to help her achieve her goal, which includes Brooke’s grandparents, Jody and Denise Pendergrass, according to her mother.
“There’s also Jeff Chavrera who has worked with Brooke since she was 5 years old,” Melissa said. “He’s been an inspiration and her mentor. He’s been amazing with Brooke. If she needs a track made or to be recorded, he is there at the drop of a hat. He plays music for her and has played music for several churches all over the area. He’s played the piano for over 50 years. He doesn’t teach, but he helps a lot of people like Brooke. He’s always been there for her.”
Brooke also has a vocal coach who trains her once a week — Lindsey Miller, who is a local music director and schoolteacher. One of the most touching things about the precocious teen is her love of animals and the way she cares for them on their small farm.
“We have a lot of animals,” Brooke said. “We have horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats and pigs. I like to ride horses.”
“We work with several animal rescue groups,” Melissa interjected. “We also rescue and foster dogs and cats.”
Slightly shy with people, but very comfortable with animals, Brooke makes an amazing transformation on stage. She suddenly loses all reservations in front of her audience. There, she does what she does best — she lets her voice do the talking.
“It’s different than standing in a room full of people,” she explained. “I feel better when I’m up on a stage and there’s a spotlight shining on me and everything else is dark. I can’t see anyone. It’s like I just come alive, so I sing.”
Brooke is working on her first CD, which will be available by the end of February or early March. She and her parents said Brooke is available for performances at special events and faith-based events by calling in advance, 423-593-3455.