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    Springfield’s Ashley Gearing, the youngest female artist to hit the country charts

    Matt Albiani

    Age: 24

    Hometown: Springfield

    Think of: The all-American warmth of Carrie Underwood, with the edgy but playful soulfulness of Sheryl Crow. With a mother from Georgia and years of singing for her church, Gearing naturally settled into country music’s familiar story-telling and tight-knit community.

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    What caught our eye: Gearing entered the spotlight at age 12, when she became the youngest female artist ever to hit the Billboard country charts, breaking a record held by Brenda Lee since 1957. The singer-songwriter is back now with a recently released self-titled EP, and is ready to climb the charts again now that she’s graduated from Belmont University.

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    Light bulb moment: “I was in Nashville, shooting a music video for “Can You Hear Me When I Talk to You.” I was 12 years old. . . . It was glamorous, and then all of the sudden it started pouring down rain. I had to be at a show in Chicago the next day. I’m soaking wet, I’m tired, but I remember my dad saying, ‘Do you want to do this? If you’re too tired we don’t have to go.’ But I remember saying, ‘No, I want to go! I want to do this!’ I didn’t mind bouncing around from one thing to the next. I’m just the kind of person who loves to work hard.”

    Biggest thrill: “Coming home and doing a hometown show. To see people come out and just genuinely want to see you succeed, and happy to see you doing what you love — it’s so nice to come home and see that love. It’s so reassuring to me.”

    Biggest surprise: “One of the biggest surprises is just waking up and realizing, this is my job.”

    Inspired by: “I’m super-inspired by my mother. She’s gone through an amazing amount of hardship in her life. She lost her husband of seven years just nine months after they had their first baby [me]. . . . She was a single mom, and she handled it with such grace. In business I look up to her, but also as a human — her heart, it’s just the biggest.”

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    Aspires to: “A long time ago, I joked around with my parents that I’d love to sell out Madison Square Garden one day. You can never dream too big; that’s what I always tell my sister. I just want people to be inspired by me. I want people to turn to my music to feel something, or to just feel good.”

    For good luck: “I have a necklace [and ring] that I wear — I always wear [them]. The necklace has a cross that my mom and stepdad gave me. The ring is the promise ring that my [birth] dad gave my mom when they first started dating. . . . I wear them to remind myself of who’s looking out for me. I truly believe that my dad in heaven is looking out for me — especially because my first single was about him.”

    What people should know: “I’m just a normal girl. I’m 24, I love exploration, I love my friends, and just going out and finding out about new things, and just being around loved ones and having fun.”

    Coming soon: A show on Nov. 6 at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall. Gearing also just embarked on a radio tour that kicks off with grassroot stations in the Midwest.

    Links: www.ashleygearing.com, www.iheg.com

    Mallory Abreu

    Mallory Abreu can be reached at mallory.abreu@aol.com.