Meet the up-and-coming country singer who once worked as a grocery store cashier

Written by Håkon Pålason for CNN

Katie Pruitt is one of the best-known performers in Nashville, a Cinderella-like young woman who has made it all the way to the music industry’s biggest stage, the Grand Ole Opry.

But for the singer, who grew up in Georgia before moving to Canada to pursue her career, it was a struggle to even break into the industry. She landed her first gig in Canada as a songwriter to other Canadian country music artists, a move which helped her earn a spot at the country music industry’s biggest event, the Grand Ole Opry, aged just 19.

(Although this isn’t necessarily her preferred career path, Pruitt says she’s happy to continue writing songs for other artists.)

Katie Pruitt plays to a sold-out audience at the Cabaret Antilles in Halifax on May 18, 2016. Credit: Christopher Thomond/CNN

Katie Pruitt performing at the Camel Pub in Toronto on November 12, 2017. Credit: Christopher Thomond/CNN

Starting with four numbers on the night, her debut at the annual Opry performance in 2016 was like “the craziest surprise party” she’d ever been invited to, the singer-songwriter told CNN.

“I remember I was in the dressing room, I was watching the broadcast and I went on stage in my Opry attire and everybody was staring at me and I just was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m the biggest star that’s ever been, ever, ever.’ I had no idea that I was the biggest star!”

This, however, was by no means the first time a superstar had spotted the young performer. The singer was working a party in Toronto shortly after her debut performance at the Opry, and was approached by Wayne Coyne, better known as the frontman of The Flaming Lips.

She was signed to a publishing deal in Canada within two weeks of securing the publishing deal, thanks to the star’s influence.

The Kennesaw, Georgia-born artist counts Michael Franti as one of her favorite artists and describes Franti as “the first guy I really wrote a song with.” The singer has also collaborated with Los Angeles-based producer Gabby Rae, who has worked with artists including Wynonna Judd, Kenny Chesney and Justin Bieber, as well as being a member of the Grammy-winning band No Doubt.

Mississauga, Canada-born artist Katie Pruitt performing at the Tribute to Icons on May 10, 2018 in Toronto. Credit: Christopher Thomond/CNN

A look at Pruitt’s home is filled with trophies and instruments. Credit: Christopher Thomond/CNN

Katie Pruitt at the Cabaret Antilles in Halifax on April 20, 2015. Credit: Christopher Thomond/CNN

More than a decade since she moved to Canada, Pruitt has forged her own path in a field filled with artists who grew up in the same region.

Growth of the Canadian country music scene has been phenomenal, the singer said.

“I think what’s happened in Canada for the last decade with the country music scene is that, yes, there’s still some legacy artists and there’s still the traditional artists, but there’s also tons of amazing, younger artists that were kind of put on the map. And now it’s really blossomed.”

“You have to be really confident and know that you are at home in Canada. I just think there’s just so much talent.”

Canada has supplied some of the biggest names in the world of country music, including Garth Brooks, The CMT Artists of the Year, The Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Jason Aldean, Sam Hunt, Tanya Tucker, Jennifer Nettles, Jamey Johnson, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, Keith Urban, Waylon Jennings, Vince Gill, Kris Kristofferson, Red Foley, Shania Twain, Roger Miller, Darrell Scott, Nick Tosches, Johnny Cash, John Rich, and Marty Stuart.

Next year, Pruitt will bring her new album, “Storms,” to Canada. And to celebrate, she’s set to perform three Canadian shows at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, the Metro Theatre in Buffalo, New York, and the Grand Prairie Dinner Theatre in Rockford, Illinois, beginning May 24.

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