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Singing phenom, 11, releases inaugural CD

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Bluegrass bigwigs take notice of budding star

By John Herndon

When she starts singing it’s sometimes hard to remember Mikaya Taylor is just completing fifth grade at Robert B. Turner Elementary School.

But the local girl, who has been performing the country and bluegrass music for about a year, might be the perfect mix of youthful exuberance and a maturing voice that is turning heads.

“Was your day good today?” Taylor asks with a huge smile.

As she did in November for an interview about her new-found success, Mikaya gives the impression she’s a typical, talkative 11-year-old girl.

Until, that is, you push in her new CD.

“Gentle river take me away

to the time of happier days

All I need is love and company

Gentle river bring him back to me.”

The Allison Krauss song is the first of 10 on Mikaya’a just-released project. The CD, “Mikaya Taylor: Small Town, Big Heart,” is a collaboration between Mikaya, her mother, Traci Taylor, Old Town Recording Studios of Berea and Blind Dog Studios of Crestwood.

Local musician Kevin Chilton plays banjo on the CD.

The album is a collection of classics including covers of songs by Krauss, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley, among others.

Among her favorites is a cover of the Osborne Brothers’ bluegrass hit, “Listening to the Rain.”

Mikaya says she has been singing that one just over a month, or just in time to put it on the CD.

“It seemed like everyone kept asking when she would have one. Even the festivals were asking. We decided we had better get one,” Traci Taylor says.

Mikaya is scheduled to sing at the Bardstown Bluegrass Festival and the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park in June. She also has several other dates scheduled.

Since her story first appeared in “The Anderson News” in December, Mikaya has been an invited guest for a gathering of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars in Nashville.

“That was so much fun! I met Nathan Stanley,” she says of the grandson of the bluegrass music legend.

Traci says the trip, which covered four nights, was paid for by some local sponsors.

In the last few months, Mikaya has also gotten a new guitar for Christmas and received a new mandolin as a gift from some members of a Georgia-based group, Recycled Grass.

All the while, Mikaya was working toward her new CD, which was recorded over 17 hours in three sessions from April 10-30.

“It was fun!” Mikaya says with a giggle. “I only messed up once. It was hard to do because the band had never played together.”

In addition to Chilton, band members on the CD include musicians who have worked with bluegrass legends like Bobby Osborne and J.D. Crowe.

And listening to the CD, one can understand why Mikaya’s mom says, “Her voice has changed. It has gotten so much more mature.”

Mikaya’s calendar has begun to be a bit busier with bookings, many being around Lawrenceburg, but she has also been contacted about appearing at many area venues, including the Capital City Opry in Frankfort.

Mikaya’s success also led to a bit of celebrity status at Turner Elementary. “(Principal Wayne) Reese started telling some of the teachers, they told some other teachers and they told some of the kids,” Mikaya laughs.

“Now some of the kids want her CD,” Traci smiles. “Her schoolwork comes first. That is why I don’t book her too much.”

Currently, Mikaya doesn’t have her own band, something her mother is pursuing.

But even with her maturing voice, Mikaya is still an 11-year-old.

“I want a hoverboard,” she giggles.

It’s something not every kid has.

Even fewer have their own CD.