Small Town Girl, Huge ‘Voice’

Did you hear this? You gotta hear this.

Krista Hughes had a modest goal for her blind audition round on NBC’s “The Voice.”

If just one of the four judges’ chairs would turn when she sang John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” “it would change my life completely,” Hughes said.

That didn’t happen. Instead, all four chairs swiveled her way as the 22-year-old belted out the Prine classic, while her teary-eyed grandparents beamed from off stage. Not bad for a singer whose hometown is so small, it has about two stop signs, she says.


“I was a little nervous when I first walked out. I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “As soon as the band started playing and I sang that first note, I was in my own zone.”

Hughes’s voice, a lush instrument that makes her a contender for the reality series’ crown this season, came of age in Coal City, W. Va. Her grandfather bought her a guitar when she was 4, and she started performing in local talent shows at 6.

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One could cynically think a small town girl might be dazed by appearing on one of the country’s biggest TV shows. Instead, she credits her humble roots for helping her along the way.

“I think it was an advantage, all the local support and that safety net. No matter what happens they’re still gonna love you. In some ways it gave me a little more confidence … it helped me become more positive on stage,” she said.

“No matter what happens they’re still gonna love you,” she says.

Hughes was raised by her grandparents, a loving couple who nurtured her raw talent. They weren’t her only creative support system. She’d play music every Friday at her great grandfather’s house, a side of the family that wholly embraced performing.

“It was awesome growing up like that,” she said. As a teen, she started playing in local clubs and taverns, but her age made just getting in a bit difficult.

“I would play anywhere they’d let me. It was kind hard to get into them. So I’d sneak in, do my show and run right back out,” she confessed.

The budding star could have chosen any number of modern country hits for her blind audition. Instead, she took the traditional route, a style that speaks to her musical soul. And she said she’s not alone.

“If you ask the majority of people in my hometown and in my state what kind of country they listen to, they’d say, ‘older country,’” she said. “You wouldn’t expect a bunch of 22-year-old kids to have George Jones or Merle Haggard on their iPod, but they do and they love it. They go crazy for it.”

No matter how far she progresses on “The Voice,” which airs Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC, Hughes said she wants to secure a solid education. She’s studying biology but is having second thoughts.

“I may change my major,” she said, mulling something that will give her some business chops. “I like biology, but music is my true passion. I don’t think I’ll be happy doing anything but music.”

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