Strumming to Success

‘American Idol’ alum performs in Kansas City


“American Idol” season 20 runner-up HunterGirl sings to the crowd of fans in Uptown Theatre. |Photo Courtesy of Industrial Media

Claire Powell and Ellen Beshuk

  Sitting in her band’s practice session at 14 years old, she never dreamed of appearing on television. At the beginning of 2022, 5.6 million people watched as HunterGirl sang her original song on “American Idol’”s season finale.

  The 20th season runner-up began her musical journey as a three-year-old singing in her grandfather’s church. At the beginning of the country star’s teen years, she traveled with a band until turning 18 and moving to the music city of the world — Nashville.

  While many know “American Idol” for fresh faces of the music industry nervously singing feet away from legendary talents like judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, the show’s 20th season contestants faced new audition challenges.

  Because of COVID-19, the former music therapist performed in front of producers on Zoom before her on-air audition.

  “It’s nerve-racking to be on camera and trying to adjust to that,” she said. “I’m trying to tell people who I am through a camera lens. When I was on TV, [I] tried to connect with people and share my music along the way.”

  From playing in the town square to “American Idol” watch-parties, HunterGirl always felt the support of her hometown Winchester, Tennessee. She dedicated her song “Hometown Out Of Me” to her geographical roots.

  “I wanted my first single after the show to definitely be a big ‘thank you’ card to my hometown,” HunterGirl said. “My experience and my family and everything there has made me who I am today. I just wanted to tell them that I’ve never changed, and everything that I am today is because of them.”

  After five months since her season’s finale, HunterGirl joins 2022 “American Idol” winner Noah Thompson and 18th season alum Grace Leer on the road for their country music tour.

  They performed this past Saturday night at Kansas City’s premier entertainment spot Uptown Theater, a less than 10-minute drive from UMKC’s Volker Campus.

  “I couldn’t pick two better people to be able to share the stage with on this tour,” HunterGirl said. “I [had] never been to Kansas City before, and I  [was] really excited to meet everybody.”

  When not singing country melodies, HunterGirl said she enjoys the great outdoors and writing songs with veterans. She appeared on stage in Denver this past week in honor of Leading Edge Award recipient Bonnie Tiburzi — an Air Force vet and first female pilot for a major American commercial airplane.

  “[Leading Edge] flew her out there, so I could sing her song that I wrote with her,” HunterGirl said. “I have a big military family. It’s always been a passion of mine… and working with veterans is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”

  HunterGirl plans to continue her writing country songs and bonding with others through the strums of her guitar.

  “I’m living the dream right now, honestly,” HunterGirl said. “Thinking about this time last year, and how much has changed in just a year, shows me anything can happen. I’m just excited to see where this journey takes me going forward.”


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