The 23-year-old singer-songwriter has nearly 3,000 subscribers to her approximately 40-video channel, not to mention some 32,000 Twitter followers and 12,000 Facebook friends—a good portion from Brazil, where, she says, “The Glee Project blew up.”
The Glee Project, of course, was the two-season reality series shown on the Oxygen network that served as an audition/competition vehicle for the hit Fox series Glee. Henderson was featured in its second season.
“I was a senior at Auburn majoring in musical theater, with a minor in religious studies,” said just-turned-23 Henderson. “My teacher gave me advice I’ll always remember: Take 500 ‘no’s before you get one ‘maybe.’ So I said to myself, ‘I might as well start getting those no’s out of the way!’”
A friend had auditioned online for The Glee Project, and Henderson, who hails from tiny Reeltown, Alabama, saw they were doing auditions in Nashville the next day.
“I did an online video audition and then went to Nashville and got moved forward and forward, and then flew to L.A. for the final round of auditions and then found out via Skype that I made the TV show! So it was back to L.A., and I made it to the top six before I was eliminated.”
“But that was really the best situation, because I realized at that point that it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Henderson continued. “Even though I have a competitive spirit and I was upset, the show helped me realize I didn’t want to do musical theater or film or TV now, and proved to me that my passion was country music, and I needed to hightail it up to Nashville to make it happen.”
Henderson did indeed move to Nashville a year ago. The Twitter-profiled “American. Rebel. Country, belt-my-face-off singer” and “former gleek on The Gleek Project 2” then hooked up with veteran manager/publicist Jennifer Bohler, who was working the Cash Fest and brought Henderson along as an assistant.
“I love shadowing people I work with to learn what they do and see what’s behind the scenes,” said Henderson, adding, “I want to know what everyone does so my team can be like a family.”
Henderson put out a debut EP last November, which she made herself prior to the Nashville move. She’s currently preparing her first single, “A Well,” for Sept. 3 release. The original song is “truly progressive country,” she said, and about “falling so in love you almost lose your sense of reality.”
She explained: “You know there’s a bottom to the well, where the water resides. But you don’t know how deep it is, or how long the rope tied to the bucket is until it hits bottom. But there’s that rush you have while it’s falling.”
Henderson is a huge fan of the Civil Wars, who performed so memorably at last year’s Cash Fest. She plans on covering their song “"Devil's Backbone” from the duo’s new chart-topping self-titled album, as it’s her favorite song on it—and she also understands the historic significance of the geographical title.
“I have a cool interpretation of it because I come form Alabama,” she said. “Devil’s Backbone is an old goldmining district in Tallapoosa County, where Reeltown is. They call it the Devil’s Backbone because back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they knew that if they went in as an African-American worker, they wouldn’t come out. They knew it was no good to go there.”
The district is now “half-covered by man-made Lake Martin,” Henderson noted. “The story around town is that it’s to cover up for the sins that went on there. It’s the widely known claim-to-fame of Reeltown and Tallapoosa County, and one of my favorite stories in Fourth Grade learning Alabama history.”
The story “always stuck in my head as a kid,” Henderson added, “and when the Civil Wars had the song on their album, I was immediately drawn to it.”
The Civil Wars track, she said, “talks about the sins of a woman and man, so it had that interpretation to me of bringing me back to my roots in Alabama and knowing that [the Civil Wars’] John Paul White’s from there. I wonder if he knew that story. He’s from North Alabama; Reeltown’s in Lower East Alabama, 45 miles from Georgia.”
Henderson’s interpretation of the song also arises from her awareness that the duo has performed many times in Wadleigh, which is close to Devil’s Backbone.
“Joy [Williams] has talked about how their songs are inspired by their traveling and different places,” she said. “She also said if you want to know why they broke up, to listen to the album.”
Williams has spoken of “considerable tension” during the album’s production, and despite its No. 1 ranking, she and White have actually been on "hiatus" since last November due to “internal discord.”
In the lyrics to “Devil’s Backbone,” the singer confesses to having “fallen in love with a man on the run” and begs the Lord, “don’t take that sinner from me.”
Henderson notes that the song “starts out in a religious tone, crying out to God. So I think there’s a sin that occurred.”
She surmises that the song relates to the Civil Wars' internal discord, but looks forward to giving it her own respectful spin as she readies her debut album.
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