The Next Country Star

The next country superstar? 19-year-old hits high notes with Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Texans

Next country superstar? 19-year-old hits high notes with Dolly Parton

Mary Sarah country music on bicycle
Mary Sarah. Photo by © Russ Harrington
Dolly Parton, left, and Mary Sarah country music
Dolly Parton, left, and Mary Sarah. Courtesy photo
Mary Sarah and Ray Price country music
Mary Sarah and Ray Price. Courtesy photo
Mary Sarah and Joe Bonsall country music
Mary Sarah and Joe Bonsall. Courtesy photo
Mary Sarah country music guitar
Mary Sarah. Photo by © Russ Harrington
Mary Sarah country music on bicycle
Dolly Parton, left, and Mary Sarah country music
Mary Sarah and Ray Price country music
Mary Sarah and Joe Bonsall country music
Mary Sarah country music guitar

You may have noticed that NRG Park has been filled to the ten-gallon hat brim with RodeoHouston everything. From star-studded concerts by firecrackers like Miranda Lambert, John Legend and Tim McGraw to late nights at The Hideout to drink tickets and thousands of calories dedicated to fried Oreos. And more.

It's been a busy month.

 But it has led me to meet and interview Mary Sarah. Though she hasn’t quite made the big rotating stage inside NRG Stadium, she is a musical force straight out of Texas to be reckoned with. At the age of 19, she has the soul, maturity and debut album even the most talented and well-known musicians dream of. 

 If you could handpick a jukebox with some of the best names in country music, odds are, Mary Sarah's already sung with each of them.  

The singer-songwriter who grew up in Richmond, Texas, has already sung a lifetime of music. Her debut album Bridges, which was released one day after her 19th birthday in July and has been selling like crazy on iTunes, Amazon (they sold out) and in stores like Boot Barn, has her singing alongside some of the biggest and most traditional names in all of country music.

If you could handpick a jukebox with some of the best names in country music, odds are, Mary Sarah's already sung with each of them. 

Rolling Stone magazine called her a teen prodigy and it stands to reason that when artists like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Vince Gill jump at the chance to sing a duet with her, she's got their backing and seal of approval. On the album, she sings Parton's classic "Jolene" with the country superstar, "Where the Boys Are" with Neil Sedaka and "Heartaches By the Number" with Ray Price.

The talented teenager promises not to let it go to her head and not to forget her Texas roots. Though she’s in Nashville now taking the country scene by storm, she says “when all is said and done, I’ll be in Texas when I retire.”

National anthem

Singing is definitely her passion, something she’s done since she was a really little girl. And the national anthem is at the top of the list. "I love to pay respect to my country and those that fight for our freedom. I’ve met so many wounded warriors and soldiers and it’s just been such a blessing — we wouldn’t be sitting here today doing this interview if it wasn’t for them,” she says once again sounding wiser than her years.

Among her most treasured memories happened right here in Houston at a Texans game in front of 80,000 cheering fans. “I was sitting there and J.J. Watt was on the field and it’s like OMG — it’s J.J. Watt! I have a video of it on YouTube and it went great, except nobody knows that when I went out there I didn’t have a pitch pipe — I usually know it. We start walking to the 50-yard line and the big speaker that was down there for everybody in the stadium to hear, for some reason we walked right in front of it and it blew my ears out.

"It was so loud and then the lady asks ‘are you ready?’ and I’m like I guess. I started a whole key higher than I usually do and literally in my head I’m like just go for it, if you mess up it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t even nervous as far as forgetting the words, it was more like if I can hit these notes.

"In the video you can hear my dad on the 'rockets' red glare' —  the highest part of the song — and he knew it too. He was holding his breath the whole video and finally when I hit it he was like YEAH! It’s funny, but not a lot of people know that it was pretty crazy. I would say it was probably the best national anthem I’ve done but I would never do it again at that high key — it was so nerve racking and I didn’t know if I could hit those notes."

Mary Sarah, who performed for Boot Barn at the Arena Hall during the rodeo, is excited to start singing some of her own songs to show fans she has the songwriting skills to go along with her pitch. But for now, she's beyond ecstatic with all the tracks and experience her debut album has gotten her. 

Bridges Track List:

1. "Jolene" (featuring Dolly Parton)


2. "Crazy" (featuring Willie Nelson)


3. "Fightin’ Side of Me" (featuring Merle Haggard)


4. "Heartaches By the Number" (featuring Ray Price)


5. "Go Rest High on That Mountain" (featuring Vince Gill)


6. "Dream On" (featuring the Oak Ridge Boys)


7. "Texas, When I Die" (featuring Tanya Tucker)


8. "Rose Garden" (featuring Lynn Anderson)


9. "What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life" (featuring Ronnie Milsap)


10. "Where the Boys Are" (featuring Neil Sedaka)

11. "My Great Escape" (featuring John Rich and Big Kenny)


12. "All I Wanna Do Is Sing My Song" (featuring Freddy Powers)


13. "I’m Sorry"