These talented artists made their impacts on the country music scene at an incredibly young age.
Since the early days of country music, young voices have always been incredibly influential to the genre. These artists’ fresh faces and musical maturity catapulted them to the top of the charts. It’s been years since these class acts first made their impact on the scene, so where are they now? Read on to find out what happened to some of country music’s youngest stars.
Then: Lila McCann made her presence known on the country music scene in 1997, around the same time as fellow teenage starlet LeAnn Rimes. Her first album, Lila, produced four charted singles, was certified platinum and became the highest-selling debut album by a country artist that year.
Now: After her debut, McCann released her well-received second album, entitled Something In The Air, in 1999. She continued to release music until 2008 when she announced her decision to leave her record label. McCann now lives in Nashville with her husband and two children, and works as a professional photographer.
Then: Billy Gilman was only 11 years old when his debut single, “One Voice,” was released to radio in 2000. The song was a heartfelt hit and helped him to become the youngest singer ever to have a Top 40 hit on the country music Billboard charts. “One Voice” also earned him a nomination for the Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award.
Now: His second album, Dare to Dream, was released in 2001 and was certified gold. Throughout the 2000’s, Gilman worked on various music projects for charities and released two more solo albums. Gilman is still working in the industry and released his most recent single, “Say You Will,” in 2004. He also recently made headlines when he publicly came out as a gay man in a video posted on YouTube.
Then: Blaine Larsen‘s big break came when he released the haunting “How Do You Get That Lonely,” which was written as a tribute to a teenage boy who committed suicide. The song charted in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in 2004 when Larsen was just 19.
Now: In 2006, Larsen released his follow-up album, Rockin’ You Tonight, which was also critically well-received. He finished another full album in 2009 that was never released due to an internal reorganization of his record label. Larsen hasn’t released any music since 2010 and now works for a ministry in Nashville, TN.
Then: The Wilkinsons were a trio comprised of a father, daughter and son who broke onto the country music scene in 1998. Their debut single and biggest hit, “26 Cents,” was released when Amanda Wilkinson was sixteen and her brother Tyler was only fourteen. Their second single, “Fly (The Angel Song),” was also critically acclaimed and reached number one on the Canadian country singles charts.
Now: Amanda Wilkinson found solo success in 2005 with her self-titled album which was well received in their home country of Canada. Amanda and Tyler later went on to form their own duo called Small Town Pistols in 2012. They released their first album in 2013 and are still actively making music together.
Then: At the age of 15, Jessica Andrews released her debut album, Heart Shaped World. The album produced three charted singles, landed her an opening act spot on Trisha Yearwood’s tour and a debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry stage. She quickly released a second album in 2001 that provided her with her first number one song. “Who I Am” was a crossover hit that appealed to both pop and country fans thanks to its sweet and relatable lyrics.
Now: Andrews went on to release a third album in 2003 that was moderately successful, and recorded duets with former Poison rocker Bret Michaels and Richard Marx. A fourth album, Ain’t That Life, was recorded in 2005 and credited with two singles but was never formally released.
In 2012, Andrews married singer-songwriter Marcel. The two still sporadically play shows together in the Nashville area.
Then: At age four, Hunter Hayes began making national television appearances to showcase his impressive singing and accordion playing talents. His skill caught the eye of Hank Williams Jr., who invited to play with him at his shows, and earned him an invite to play in front of the current president Bill Clinton.
Now: Hayes made the move to Nashville from Louisiana at the age of 15 and soon after signed a publishing deal with Universal. Two years later, he signed his own record deal and landed a highly sought after spot opening for Taylor Swift on her “Speak Now” world tour. His debut album in 2011 went platinum and has produced his first number one single, “Wanted.” He’s still a very active and influential figure in the industry and is currently on tour as the opening act for Lady Antebellum.
Then: In 1996, LeAnn Rimes’ rendition of “Blue” gained her high critical acclaim and comparisons to the late Patsy Cline. Her debut album jumped to No. 1 on the Billboard country album chart and produced four more well-received singles. At the age of 14 Rimes became the youngest person to win both a Grammy and Country Music Association award.
Now: In the years following her debut, Rimes’ releases flipped back and forth between the country and pop genres. She finally returned to her country roots with the release of 2005’s This Woman, which produced three top ten singles. She most recently released a Christmas-themed EP, One Christmas, in October 2014.
Then: After being signed by Columbia Records at the age of 13, Tanya Tucker released her version of “Delta Dawn.” The single was a hit and earned even more buzz after her young age became public knowledge. Throughout her teen years, Tucker released hit after hit. Her sexy image and rough-and-tumble attitude made her one of the few female artists at the time to be categorized in the 1970’s classic “outlaw country” genre, along with artists like Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr.
Now: With a career that spans over 40 years, 24 studio albums and 66 singles, Tucker has made an incredible impact on country music that has influenced countless artists. After a decline in her career due to personal struggles, another steady stream of hits were released from the mid-1980’s through the 1990’s. Tucker currently resides in Nashville and hasn’t released any music since she released an album of cover songs in 2009.