McKayla Reece to honor vets in songSinger to perform with other Carolina Nights performers Saturday
When McKayla Reece sings one of her favorite country or gospel tunes, she sounds every bit like an adult, an adult with an incredible voice. When she talks, however, she sounds just like who she is: a 12-year-old girl who’s having a lot of fun.
“Ever since I can remember I’ve been singing, since I was 2,” she said, smiling and giggling as she spoke.
Sitting with her mother (and manger) Tracy on a recent afternoon, she talked about her up-and-coming career, from her beginning years as a precocious grade schooler looking to sing anywhere to her experiences now as a trained performer, who’s perhaps on the brink of stardom.
She has even been introduced to Justin Bieber, after all.
She insists, however, that fame is not really her goal. Over and over, she stressed that more than anything, she wants her music to do good in the world.
“The reason I do want to sing is help people,” she said, “hopefully lead them to God with things that I say.”
That’s a tall order, but McKayla’s going after it with gusto. In June of this year, she was named Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Ambassador for Central Georgia (Chapter 33) and South Carolina (Chapter 40). This means that in addition to her frequent trips to Nashville and her weekend shows across the Southeast, she’s always making time for DAV events, such as the recent convention in New Orleans, where she sang the National Anthem.
All these projects and shows might sound like a lot for a youngster, but Tracy stressed that McKayla can handle it — and that her family backs her 100 percent. Tracy added that these shows for vets make her especially proud of her daughter.
In her words, “McKayla’s big thing is giving back.”
That’s why this weekend she and some old friends from the former Carolina Nights Dinner Theater will present “A Family Christmas Show (Honoring Our Military) and Food Drive.” The veteran-themed holiday concert will be one part musical review, one part food drive for the needy and one part fundraiser for the DAV. Everyone who comes to the revue, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at Pisgah High School’s gym, is encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to the Baptist Relief Center. Collection starts at 5 p.m. in the lobby. In addition, proceeds from the show will be donated to the DAV.
“There will be a lot of talented performers from across Haywood County,” McKayla said, noting every one of them was once in Carolina Nights.
Even she is an alum of the long-running Maggie Valley dinner theater. She began there, where she would perform three nights a week for most of the year, when she was just 8. Being the only one in her grade school with a real job was “the neatest part,” she said, grinning.
She was tapped for the gig years ago, a few days after begging her mom to let her try out to be a singer at Ghost Town. Even though the now-closed amusement park had an age limit of 16, Tracy knew she couldn’t deny her head-strong daughter. So, they went and she sang, to a great response. Though Ghost Town couldn’t hire her, they were so enthusiastic about her performance that they recommended her to Carolina Nights. She found out she got the job the day she turned 8, and she has been singing for crowds ever since.
“There’s so much that I’ve been privileged to see and blessed to see and there has just been so much that I’ve got to do because of this gift God has given me,” she said.
At the age of 10, she appeared with Mike Snider at “Grand Ole Opry Studio A,” and in the years since she has appeared with the Carter Family, the Blackwood Brothers, The Inspirations, Lulu Roman, Brett James, Alan Jackson and Josh Turner, among others. She has been on Country Music Television and other stations and performed at fairs and festivals, big and small. This past summer, she was booked for events nearly every weekend. As winter settles in, she is still constantly busy and is often visiting Nashville, where she and her producer meet with record labels and record songs as they work to get her signed. She still hardly has a weekend free, and that’s exactly how she wants it to be.
“I love it,” she said.
While McKayla is not yet represented by a label, Tracy talks about that as if it’s an inevitability. They’ve met people in the music business who discuss McKayla in the same breath as Patsy Cline, and more than once Tracy has been told that McKayla will be nothing short of a legend someday.
And while that must be unbelievably exciting to hear, neither mother nor daughter seems hung up it. McKayla explained that she’ll be singing — and helping people — forever, regardless of whether she’s ever big a star or not. Her mother agrees completely. When asked about stardom, Tracy was adamant.
“I don’t think we think about it. We just think she’s having a good time,” she said, before her ever-enthusiastic daughter cut in.
“A really good time,” McKayla added, excitedly.
For more information about McKayla or “A Family Christmas Show (Honoring Our Military) and Food Drive,” visit www.mckaylareece.com. There, also find links to more upcoming shows, photos, an online store and more.