Fifteen-year-old Nicole Johnson is determined to be a country music star. "I live my life with no plan B," the tenacious teen says.
"When I have my mind set to something, I go for it," she adds. "I was an athlete and I was the same way with my sports as I am with music. If I wanted to start in the next game, I worked really hard in practice."
Born in Winter Park, Fla., Johnson’s family later moved to Denham Springs, La., just outside of Baton Rouge. She got her first guitar and wrote her first song, the title of which she misspelled as "Miracl," at the age of seven.
"I’ve always loved music," she says. "Since I was little, I’ve been running around the house and singing songs. I’ve wanted to be a singer my whole life."
Of course, wanting and achieving are two different things. Thankfully, Nicole’s talent and determination came together.
In October 2008, Nicole got a call from Baton Rouge disc jockey Scott Innes, who had heard her singing at a local studio. He asked if she was interested in recording a Christmas song that he had written with local songwriters Scott and Lisa Feske.
"If Jesus Came Back," became a regional radio hit and provided the impetus for Nicole to make her next move. She "just went for it" and set Nashville in her sights. In January 2009, she made the first of more than two dozen trips to Music City that she would make in a year’s time.
That first trip, which she describes as "so much fun" and "crazy" included a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and meetings with music industry executives, including producers. A month later she came back and started recording.
By May of 2009, she was co-writing with some of Nashville’s top songwriters including Keith Follese (who has also produced sides on her), Richard Fagan, Stephanie Bentley, Victoria Shaw, Adrienne Follese and Danny Myrick, among others. She’s co-written 150+ songs and counting.
While she had some hesitation going into her first co-writing session, "it went really well," she says. "My co-writers made me comfortable and the song turned out great."
She was hooked. "After that, I just wanted to keep writing," she says. "I thought it would be fun and glamorous, but I found out it’s a bunch of work, but I love it."
Nicole counts Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride and Mariah Carey among her influences. "I’ve always admired vocalists who can do many things with their voice," she says.
Her dream duet partner is Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. "He’s so cute and he’s got a really good voice," she says with a laugh.
Despite her growing talent, Nicole is not satisfied. "I’ll get better," she says. "I always want to improve, I never want to say, ‘that’s good enough.’ I want to keep raising the bar higher and get better at everything I do."
If she sounds like an old soul, it’s because she is. "I’ve always been mature for my age," she says.
Her decision to be home schooled so that she could travel back and forth to Nashville to follow her dream is a perfect example. "I miss my friends, but you have to do what you have to do," she says. "It’s not a decision that I regret. I picked this because I knew this is what I needed to do to further my career."
Young? Yes. Talented? No doubt. Determined? Absolutely.
Like her beloved New Orleans Saints, don’t bet against Nicole Johnson.