Teen vocalist Maci McDuffie, an 8th grader at Baker County Middle School, performed at the Suwannee River Jam on May 4-5 in Live Oak along side guitarist Matt Carter, formerly of the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
She also performed on the same stage as country music legends like Trace Adkins and Randy Travis.
Ms. McDuffie, 14, secured a spot in the event’s line-up by winning the Bradford County Talent Festival on February 24 and auditioning at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, also in Live Oak.
The Glen St. Mary resident will perform on May 18 and 19 at the 4th annual Boots-n-BBQ event at the Bradford County Fairgrounds to benefit Santé Fe Community College scholarships.
She also won Female Vocalist of the year at the 2012 North American Country Music Association Awards in Tennessee on March 15.
Below is The Press’ interview with Ms. McDuffie via e-mail about her show in Live Oak last weekend and her fledging singing career.
The Press: How would you describe your performance at the Suwannee River Jam?
Maci McDuffie: I feel good about my performance, the crowd was awesome and really into the music. After the performance several people asked for my autograph, which was really cool.
Press: What songs did you sing, what are they about and why did you select them?
MM: I did a 20-minute set with Matt accompanying me on guitar only. The songs were in the country genre, of course, because of the venue. "Keep Me in Mind" by The Zac Brown band is one of the songs I did. It’s just a fun song with the acoustic guitar and it was neat making it my own.
And of course I did a Dolly Parton song. She is my favorite female artist. "I Will Always Love You" is my favorite Dolly song.
Press: What was it like to perform with Matt Carter and be on the same stage as Trace Adkins and Randy Travis?
MM: Nerve racking to start, but once I was on stage it was liberating. I feel like I belong on stage and it’s almost comforting when I’m up there.
Matt is one of the best guitarists in the country and when you have someone like that playing for you, it really makes you look good. Matt is just a cool person to be around. I have really learned a lot from him, like when you’re prepared, there is nothing to be nervous about. He is always Mr. Cool.
Press: Did you get to meet any of the country music stars on the bill?
MM: Most of the big stars come in about 1-2 hours before they are scheduled to go on so I didn’t get to meet Josh Turner or Trace Adkins. That was the only let down for me. But just playing the same venue was an honor.
Press: I’m guessing this was the biggest venue you’ve ever performed at. Were you nervous before hand? And if so, how did you cope with it?
MM: I was nervous, but no more than any other venue I have performed at. I really want the audience to enjoy the music and I work hard to make that happen. I always take a deep breath, and I keep telling myself I am as prepared as I can be and I’ve worked hard to be here.
Press: How did you prepare for the event?
MM: Matt and I began practicing together about two months before the Jam, getting our set list down, and I worked on my vocals every day up until the night before the show. We spent about three hours a night in the studio. The studio time is what pays off and I love that part of the process almost as much as the show.
I also owe massive thanks to my vocal coach Sarah Beth Gerard, she’s the best. Sarah Beth worked with me weekly to get me ready for the show.
Press: What will you remember most about your experience at the Suwannee River Jam?
MM: Meeting all of the fans of country music, the production staff, security people and all of the people who work behind the scenes to make sure everyone has a good time. Oh, and the catering people were awesome.
Press: How did you start singing and what has been your biggest challenge in developing as a performer and singer?
MM: I started singing when I was about 4 years old and soon after that I began working with a vocal coach and doing live shows.
Learning how to interact with the crowd to make everyone feel like they are part of the performance and to make people feel like they know you is always my personal challenge. I like to see everyone singing along and having a good time.
Press: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not doing music?
MM: I have started getting into theater lately. I look forward to being in drama next year with Mrs. Kelly Norman and Mr. Bob Gerard. I was very fortunate to be in a couple of their productions this past year and it was amazing.
I also enjoy cheering as a middle school cheerleader and look forward being a JV cheerleader next year at BCHS.
Press: What do you hope your life will be like in five years?
MM: Hopefully with a record deal from a major label. I’m working really hard in that direction. But if not, I’ll be in college working toward medical school.
Ms. McDuffie is the daughter of Becky and Bryan McDuffie. To hear her sing, visit www.reverbnation.com/macirebeccamcduffie.