Up and coming teen country singer Laurel Wright of Blount County dropped by Maryville Intermediate School to deliver a singing Valentine and ended up giving an impromptu mini-concert for students during lunchtime.
Wright, a 15-year-old singer and songwriter, went to MIS to deliver a singing Valentine to fifth grade Social Studies teacher Tony Mills on behalf of his wife, Jackie Mills.
“I sang a song called ‘Everything,’ and then they wanted me to do a full concert for the kids at lunch. It was a great experience with all the kids. I just related to them. I knew that was the age group I wanted to sing to, and they sang along,” she said. “Then afterward, we went to the playground, and I signed over 300 autographs and came back on Wednesday and signed 300 more. It was pretty amazing.”
Tony Mills was impressed with the young singer’s abilities and her way with the students.
“She came into teachers’ workroom and sang my Valentine’s song,” said Tony Mills. “Then she sang for the fifth-grade students as they ate lunch. When the sixth-grade students came in, she played and sang for them, too,” Mill said. “It was cool.”
Jackie Mills said Laurel’s mother, Lori, is a friend of hers from high school. Jackie found out about Laurel’s singing Valentines from her Facebook page.
“I thought, ‘That girl can sing.’ Then she posted that she was going to do singing Valentines. I thought, ‘I’ll get a singing Valentine for Tony,’ and then it turned into a bigger thing, which is great.
Maryville Intermediate School principal Kevin Myers said after he and Jackie Mills worked out the details on her husband’s Valentine’s Day surprise, she mentioned that Laurel would like to sing for students, if Myers wanted to let her perform.
“It was one of those things that you don’t know how it will go over, but it went over really well,” said Myers.
“It was a pleasant surprise. The kids had no idea something like that was going to happen, and the music was good. It went down on a day when you have kids hyped up on sugar and Valentines candy, and it was actually a calming effect. Most just wanted to listen,” Myers said. “She’s a very talented musician.”
Jackie Mills said she was impressed with how Laurel interacted with the students. “When the kids at the school took to her so well, I could see that could be something she could do to get a good message across to the kids,” Jackie said. “They really connected with her and didn’t want her to stop. She was amazing.”
Jackie Mills said Laurel is trying to get her feet off the ground in her music career. “If I can help, I will and I’m going to,” Jackie Mills said. “You hope one day she’s the next big thing.”
Laurel Wright said she was 4 when she started singing in churches around Blount County. “When I was 10 years old, I picked up a guitar for the first time. The first song I wrote was about my great-grandfather Beecher Gourley when he died,” she said. “Then I just started writing. My second song was ‘Have You Ever?’ and it was about a boy.”
Laurel said that she has never had any sort of singing or writing lessons. “I guess the more I write and the more I practice, the better I get,” she said.
She attended William Blount High School in ninth grade and part of 10th grade but is now home-schooled.
“It’s just easier. I have more time for my music,” said Laurel. “If I have to go to Nashville on the spur of the moment, I can go. I go about once a month. I usually sing at Tootsie’s, Blue Bird Café or the Nashville Palace,” she said.
Laurel said she feels comfortable in Nashville. “Everything there is about music,” she said. “I feel I fit in because that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do was sing.”