December 20, 2018

Almost home: ‘American Idol’ runner-up Kree Harrison joins ‘Home for the Holidays’

Every year, they move to Nashville from all over the country — aspiring singers and songwriters bringing their dreams to Music City.

That’s what the annual “Home for the Holidays” showcase, now in its ninth year, at the Manship Theatre is all about. This year’s lineup features Louisiana-in-Nashville talent CJ Solar, Jason Martin, Kylie Frey and David Borné; Prairieville’s Rhett Anthony; and Kree Harrison, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter from east Texas who was runner-up in season 12 of “American Idol."

Martin, from Plaquemine, is a rock artist who’s been releasing original songs since 2010. He recently issued his album debut, “Alcatraz.” Frey, a singer from Opelousas who has lived in Nashville for two years, reached the finals in USA Network’s “Real Country” competition earlier this month.

From Baton Rouge, Solar co-wrote “Up Down,” a No. 1 hit performed by Morgan Wallen and Florida Georgia Line. A longtime Nashville resident, Anthony is now back in Louisiana, performing with his band Sugar Shaker.

Borné, the son of Tiger Stadium announcer Dan Borné, released an EP, “Break My Heart,” that debuted in the Top 10 of the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart and the Billboard Heatseekers South Central chart.

Harrison has multiple ties to Louisiana, including her boyfriend and fellow “Home for the Holidays” performer, Martin. Half Cajun, Harrison grew up with zydeco, Cajun and swamp-pop music. Between the ages of 8 and 10, the already professional Harrison opened shows in Texas for zydeco-Cajun musician Wayne Toups and the late soul star Percy Sledge, a longtime Baton Rouge resident.

Harrison’s mother loved soul music. The impact Sledge, Otis Redding and other classic soul singers made on Harrison is obvious. In her original country-soul songs, steel guitar and rhythm-and-blues horns make good company.

From the tiny town of Dam B in Tyler County, Harrison has been performing since she was 3 and moved to Nashville at 10. Her parents, little brother and big sister moved with her.

“It was a crazy shock, being from a small town where there was only one gas station, to living in a big city with a skyline, movie theaters and pizza delivery,” Harrison, now 28, said last week from Nashville.

She quickly signed a development deal with Lyric Street Records, home of SHeDAISY and Rascal Flatts.

“I learned a lot,” Harrison said. “We had such an awesome label and a community that I felt part of immediately. The president of my label wrote excuse notes so I could leave school and go in the studio.”

But personal tragedy and professional disappointment soon struck the Harrison family. In quick succession, her father died in a plane crash and Lyric Street dropped her — a lot for a 12-year-old to process. Meanwhile, the Harrison family moved back to Texas.

“I spent a year trying to get back at it and figure out who I was as an artist,” Harrison said. “There was a lot of pressure there, especially from the pop-country community, because that was really becoming a big thing commercially. But I was not about it. I didn’t want to be pop-country.”

Living in Bridge City and attending ninth grade, Harrison tried to be normal.

“It was not for me,” she said. “I told my mom, ‘I can’t breathe without music.’ I thought coming home would heal me, but it turned out that I needed to be creating.”

Harrison moved to Nashville again and set up house with her older sister, Laci, who’d stayed in Tennessee rather than return to Texas. At 15, Harrison was signed to a music publishing deal and writing songs with professional Nashville tunesmiths. But that opportunity ended, too, when the company closed its Nashville office. In 2009, Harrison experienced another tragedy: A car crash killed her mother.

Harrison went home again to seek healing, but soon returned to Nashville and struck out on her own, working odds jobs while she still continued pursuing music. Then, in 2012, Harrison’s sister suggested she audition for “American Idol.”

“I was like, ‘I’m not doing a talent show! Are you kidding me?’ ” Harrison recalled. But after her initial rejection of the idea, she talked to singers who’d participated in “American Idol.” It was more than a talent show, she concluded.

“It was about creating a following and having a platform,” she said. “It’s a different route for being discovered, apart from the music industry route.”

“American Idol” turned out to be a great experience.

“I didn’t think in a million years that I’d get as far as I did,” Harrison said. “And this is not a PR answer: We weren’t in it for the title — we all felt like we had won. We wanted the opportunity to let people discover us and our music.”

Harrison’s post-“American Idol” career includes the release of her album debut, 2016’s “This Old Thing.” Harrison is currently signed to the Nashville- and New York-based Visionary Records.

In January, she will release her debut single from the label, “I Love the Lie,” a song written by country star Chris Stapleton, his wife Morgane, and Liz Rose. An album is scheduled for release in late spring. And a team to promote the project is in place.

“I’m so excited,” Harrison said.

‘Home for the Holidays’

With Kree Harrison, Jason Martin, Kylie Frey, CJ Solar, Rhett Anthony and David Borne

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27

Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.


(225) 344-0334;;

This article was originally published on The Advocate