She is and will be the next big teen sensation to sweep the nation.
Remember you read it here first. Katelyn Tarver’s debut CD Wonderful Crazy was released in early November and the title track finds its way to radio in January. Like everything else this sweet sixteen year old (she turned sixteen on November 21st) from Georgia has touched in her young life it will turn gold.
She was at age thirteen a finalist in the American Idol Juniors performing for a live a combined live and television audience in excess of thirty-five million people. She drew rave reviews from judges Deborah Gibson (remember when she was the same age and we all called her Debbie?), Gladys Knight, Brian McKnight and Ryan Seacrest. An appearance of this magnitude combined with an album would surely be a substantial resume for any girl in her mid-teens but wait there’s more! Tarver has appeared as a model and acted in commercials for VH1, MTV, Cosmo Girl and Teen People. She was also featured in the spring 2005 issue of Super Model Unlimited.
Even more impressive is the fact that the producers for The Barbie Diaries (the doll formerly known as Ken’s pal) invited her to be the body double for the animated character. How is that you say? Let Katelyn explain, “It’s an animated movie from Mattel and I am Barbie. They did motion captures. I didn’t do her voice or anything like that. I’m her motions. Have you ever heard of motion capture? They used it in Polar Express with Tom Hanks. You get in this spandex suit with sensors. These cameras pick up the sensors and they pick up the motion from your moves. It was pretty interesting. We did it at a place called Curious Pictures in New York. We go in and I put on these spandex pants and this spandex shirt thing. You put on sensors that are hooked to your elbows and knees and places where your joints bend. They use these little cameras to pick up the sensors. Somehow they make animation out of that. I have seen a rough version of (Barbie) It’s cool. I was like, wow that’s me. There is a scene in which she rocks out playing a guitar and that was a lot of fun to do. It was cool to watch. It was really neat.” Somebody else’s voice is being used for Barbie. Katelyn says, “I had to lip sync to the audio. I am not sure who they used (for the voice of Barbie). ”
It is refreshing to talk to this sixteen year old who is comfortable being a teenage girl and enjoying the ride without becoming jaded or stuck on her. Katelyn presents a fresh face with a bouncy attitude. When pondering a question posed to her she starts off with a lazy Georgia drawl and then at breakneck speed dives into the conversation before switching gears and heading off in another direction. Such was the case as she discussed her ill fated sweet sixteen birthday party being waylaid by her busy schedule. “Ya’ I guess you could say that (about having a busy schedule). I was going to have a sweet sixteen party on November 21st and I kind of like had to cancel it. I had to reschedule it so many times because my friends have stuff to do or I have stuff to do. We will have it eventually. Early in the morning my parents and sisters and brother came up. They woke me up with air horns and streamers and all that. I got a digital camera. It was a good birthday (she doesn’t want anyone to forget) but we are still working on having that sweet sixteen party.”
Although the songs on her album were authored by several quality songwriters the selection of tunes really portray that girl next door, let’s have fun attitude. Songs that should in time be included in high rotation among mainstream radio stations include; “Wonderful Crazy”, “Undeniable”, “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize” and “Something In Me”. The songs all speak to the dual themes of love, first crushes and making dreams come true.
About the songs on her album she says, “I pretty well like all of them (the songs on the album) but I really like “Wonderful Crazy” because that’s a song I can relate to. I’ve lived a really great life so far but it’s also crazy. Something In Me is a really cool song. It talks about going after your dreams and making them come true. “When asked what it is like to be a teenager singing love songs she responds, “I don’t think a lot of my songs are love songs. Some of them are about your first crush or stuff like that. There aren’t any deep love songs on the record so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. I just sang it and felt good.”
The CD bears the fingerprints of producers Mattias Gustafsson (Backstreet Boys) and Kevin Savigar (Rod Stewart). The ten track disc appears on the T C Music label. In some ways it all seems so long ago when in 2003 she hopped in the car with her family to make the six hour trek to an American Idol Juniors’ audition in Chattanooga Tennessee. Did she even imagine that she had a thought at doing so well in that competition? “Yes, the first audition (at first) I thought there was no way I was going to make it past this (initial audition). There were all these amazing young talented singers and I had never auditioned for anything. I never thought that I would make it and I got there and I thought maybe I am just as good as all these other singers.” She says next thing she knew, “I am in LA, you know for the summer. It was pretty crazy but so much fun and an awesome experience. ”
In speaking about the other contestants she says, “It might sound a little cheesy but we all got along so well. Yes it was a competition but we were all rooting for each other. Everyone was really nice. It was a really great experience.”
Katelyn says the thing she found most surprising about the American Idol Juniors experience was when, “We would go outside and people would recognize us. When you are thirteen years old and you are out in LA with people recognizing you it is just really really cool.” Take for instance the first time someone asked her for an autograph. “It happened when we were eating dinner in LA. Somebody came up and asked me for my autograph I said oh sure. It was so cool. It was really exciting,” she says.
The American Idol Juniors’ experience served her well during the summer of 2005 as she share the stage on the Camplified tour with Kimberly Locke and Jeff Foxworthy. The Camplified tour in its third year has proved to be a launching pad for the careers of many young artists including Fefe Dobson (Island / IDJMG), Skye Sweetnam (Capitol), Rose Falcon (Columbia) and Nikki Flores (Epic). The artists perform before between 500 ? 2,000 teenage campers at each event. Our conversation drifts back to more typical teenage things like her friends and how she likes to spend her leisure time. “I come from a small school in a small town and everyone knows everybody else. We have known each other for so long that when I go home they treat me like they always have. It is no different. I am not a star so that is good. It keeps me grounded. It keeps everything in perspective. We always have fun together. I will always have them. We always hang out a lot when I am home. We live in a small town and the nearest movie theatre is 45 minutes away. Some nights we will drive to see a movie or some nights we will just hang out at someone’s house. We also have a house on the river and we like to go down there a lot. We go swimming and tubing.”
The way she passes her time hanging out with friends provides the answers to a lot of the questions her fans ask her such as; “They want to know what I do in my spare time, not so much about my singing. What do you do with your friends? What did you do today? What are you wearing?”
Katelyn says that since she is two years removed from the American Idols Junior program people do not typically recognize her anymore — although that will soon change.
This talented young lady says the most difficult decision she has yet made in her young career came this year when she had to choose between continuing to study at her regular school in Glennville Georgia or being educated through home schooling. I’ve always gone to a regular school and it just got where I missed so much school last year because of my schedule and everything that was going on. I like hanging out with my friends and going places with my friends, so it has been kind of hard for me this year. It (home school) is convenient and I can go whenever I need to but I don’t get to see my friends a lot. That was a pretty big decision for me.” It is difficult to believe that for an artist who has yet to release her first single she has already come under the intense and often critical eye of the more conservative Christian population. Despite the fact she is not shy about her beliefs she says, “A lot of people say to me why I am not a Christian singer (as in singing songs with specific Christian themes or lyrics)? A lot of people think I am wrong for not going to the Christian market but I believe that God has called me to this and He has opened a lot of doors.” She says she believes she can be a positive influence within the mainstream market.
At the end of the day Katelyn Tarver is just a teenage girl who is enjoying life. She laments over the disappearance of one of her dog Gracy who belonged to her late grandmother. She lusts after chocolate ice cream. She is one of four children with older brother Drew (19), a younger sister Amanda (12) and her youngest brother Jake (7).
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Katelyn Tarver’s CD Wonderful Crazy, you may want to soon because it is bound to be a collector’s item someday.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from
Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.