Exclusive Interview: Mandy Barnett

Mandy Barnett is a Tennessee born and raised country singer who got her start at the ripe old age of five years old. Mandy knew music was her calling because “it was just natural. It was something that just flowed from me early on.” Mandy began by singing at church and soon progressed to performing at Dollywood for a couple of summers. In fact, Mandy was involved with Dollywood during its inaugural year and was fortunate enough to even perform with the legendary Dolly Parton. Because of her involvement with Dollywood at that time, Mandy had the unique honor of singing Happy Birthday to Dolly as Dolly was lifted out of a cake. When asked about her experience with Dolly, as an aspiring singer at such a young age, Mandy explained that it was “really exciting.” Mandy continued to tell us about how Dolly is “such a sweet person, and when you meet Dolly, you are meeting a real star. She’s very humble and very sweet, and there’s just an aura about her that is something else. She is iconic, as you like to describe her.”

Soon thereafter, Mandy went to Nashville where she was ultimately “discovered.” She was offered a record deal, despite the fact that at that time it was not the norm to sign children. Due to the infrequency of young artists being signed to labels in the 1980’s (when Mandy was signed), she described the situation as “poor timing.” Mandy explained that she believes the industry was unsure how to market someone at such a young age, so she was essentially “cocooned,” as she lived at home and attended school, while traveling to Nashville to record on weekends. During these weekend trips to Nashville, Mandy was spending a lot of time in the studio with “stellar musicians” and doing a lot of recordings, but she was not touring or experiencing “nightlife shows at that time.”

Even though Mandy’s touring was minimal as she was getting her recording career underway, she was lucky enough to play the infamous Grand Ole Opry. She described her first time on the Opry stage a “thrilling experience.” Since her first time, Mandy has performed at the Opry on several other occasions, explaining that each time is “magical.” Mandy has not only been a performer at the Opry, but she has frequented the venue as a member of the audience as well. Mandy specifically remembers one “very cool” occasion during which she sat in the crowd and saw Patty Loveless perform for the very first time on that stage.

Mandy remained with her label throughout her teenage years and then decided to audition for a role with the show Always Patsy Cline. Mandy was offered the role of Patsy herself, and she went on to portray the late, great country icon for several years at the Ryman. Mandy jumped into the role of Patsy head first, explaining that she was more excited than scared to have the experience. During her time as Patsy, Mandy continued making records, singing on movie soundtracks, and touring.

Perhaps Mandy’s most well-known project, her sophomore album, I’ve Got a Right to Cry, was highly acclaimed and received positive reviews from some of entertainment’s most coveted publications. In creating this album, Mandy was able to work with Owen Bradley, which indicated to her that the experience would be “one of a kind and that something really incredible was going to come from that. … Unfortunately, Owen passed away in the middle of the project, but he set the tone for the album. You know, I had no idea how it was going to play out, and it was very scary when he passed away, but it was his last project, so there’s a lot of sentimental value there for me, and it was just a really special album to make because it had that signature Nashville sound.”

Mandy’s current album, I Can’t Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson, available exclusively at Cracker Barrel, came about due to Mandy’s close friendship with country music hall-of-famer, Don Gibson. Prior to Don’s passing ten years ago, he asked Mandy if she would ever consider recording some of his songs. When the opportunity arose, Mandy decided to fulfill her promise to Don and record a compilation of some of his greatest work. In promoting this project that is near and dear to Mandy’s heart, she has done performances at certain Cracker Barrels, as well as appearances at other locations, including the Country Music Hall of Fame. Mandy also anticipates continuing to tour this album in 2014, as well as play the Opry again.

It was amazing to speak with Mandy, a country singer with incredibly unique experiences that we have not had the opportunity to hear about from any other artist to date. We encourage you to check out Mandy’s latest album, exclusively only at Cracker Barrel, as well as the rest of Mandy’s impressive catalog.

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