If the life story of young country singer-songwriter Chancie Neal was told in a book; it would read like a modern day fairy-tale. It would be the story of a girl born to loving parents. It would tell of a family that lives life with a "you can be anything you want to be" philosophy and a "no goals are unattainable" attitude. It would tell the surreal story of a young girl from "small-town" Louisiana being accepted into the inner-circle of Nashville's finest only two years after picking up her first guitar. It would be a story that might read something like this.
Chancie Neal was born in 1994 to parents, Kim and Tony Neal. One thing that always stands out is the unwavering support Chancie's parents give her and her older sister, Jossie and younger sister Chesnie. Tony being a former bull-rider and horse trainer, and Kim a barrel racer; Chancie and her sisters spent most of their time on the back of a horse learning to be competative barrel racers. Weekends were spent traveling around the country to rodeos, where Chancie was becoming known as "the competition". At the age of nine, Chancie set a goal for herself: to win the "world championship" in her division. That same year she achieved that goal. Chancie always felt being a professional barrel racer was in her future. Then one day, something happened that would taker her life in a totally different direction.
In 2007, while on vacation, Chancie’s family stopped in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was there that she saw two young girls singing and playing guitar. Loving what she heard, Chancie said, “I can do that”. Kim and Tony bought Chancie an inexpensive guitar with the promise of buying her a better one when she learned to play eight songs. Little did they know, they would be buying another guitar within two months. In no-time, Chancie was not only playing guitar and singing, but also writing her own songs. Her first penned song, “You Drive Me Crazy” would later help her win the “Dixie Horizon Entertainer of the Year” award. It was at this time, Chancie realized music wasn't just a hobby, it was what she wanted to do the rest of her life.
In 2008, Chancie got the opportunity to meet and hang-out with ZZ Top front-man, Billy Gibbons. Meeting Billy would prove to be a pivotal point in Chancie’s music career. Billy asked her for her business card….which she did not have. He told her to always be prepared and to treat her music career like a business. The next week Chancie ordered her first business cards and soon the gigs followed. She began to play rodeos, festivals, private parties, and at church. She continued to write and recorded a demo of eight original songs. Later that year, Chancie was asked by legendary duck hunter, Phil Robertson, to write a song for the reality show “Benelli Presents The Duck Commander”. This resulted in the song “Walking Tall”, which was featured in episode eight of the reality show. Chancie set a new goal for 2009. She wanted to write with other writers. Little did she know....she would get her wish and in a big way.
In January 2009, Chancie got to meet country music entertainer Luke Bryan and songwriter Dallas Davidson; while they were on a tour stop in Jackson, Mississippi. Upon meeting the now fourteen year old Chancie, Luke advised her to keep playing, but plan on going to college. Chancie got the opportunity to play some of her origianl music for the guys and it wasn't long before Luke and Dallas broke out their guitars. After a three hour jam session, Luke told Chancie, “You need to go to Nashville”. Little did they know, within seven months Dallas and Chancie would be writing together in Nashville.
Nashville seemed to welcome Chancie with open arms. Only a few hours after she and her family arrived, Chancie was playing on the main stage of the world famous club, "Tootsies”. On this trip, Chancie met with BMI executive Perry Howard and writer-producer Phil O’Donnell (Craig Morgan, Montgomery Gentry). They both gave her encouragement and information that would later prove to be valuable. However, the highlight of this trip was getting to meet songwriter Shaye Smith (Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Martina McBride). When Shaye learned that Chancie's goal was to write with other writers, she agreed to a writing session. In two and a half hours, they wrote a song called“Grow Down”. On her first trip to Nashville, Chancie fell in love with city and it’s people. She said, “This feels like home. There are people here like me”.
Chancie visited Nashville as much as possible. She joined NSAI (Nashville Songwriter's Association International) and while at their office she got to play for Executive Director, Bart Herbison. Believing in what he was hearing, Bart sponsered Chancie at a songwriter's camp later that summer. It was at this camp, she met sixteen year old Rikki Jo Randall. The two girls became instant friends and immediately started writing together. Chancie was glad to finally have someone close to her own age that shared the same dream.
In July, Chancie and her family attend the CMA Music Festival. For Chancie, this was like heaven. The days and nights were filled attending concerts by some of her favorite performers. While walking down the sidewalk one day, Chancie was approached by an ABC network representative; who asked if she would like to ask Taylor Swift a question. This resulted in Chancie not only meeting Taylor Swift, but also getting a cameo appearance on the ABC special, "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night To Rock".
August proved to be an incredible month for Chancie. She went back to Nashville to write with Dallas Davidson ("Start A Band", "Barefoot And Crazy", "Honky-Tonk-Badonkadonk")and Ben Hayslip ("Put A Girl In It", "Long Slow Kisses", "Barefoot And Crazy") In this session the three writers wrote a song called "Girl With A Guitar". What was suppose to be a four day trip, turned into a two week stay in Nashville. A buzz started around Nashville about a young girl from Louisiana and before she knew it, Chancie was meeting with executives from Warner-Chappell, Sony, and EMI Publishing. All three companies agreed to let Chancie write with their staff writers. Before leaving Nashville, Chancie went in the studio with Shaye Smith and recorded the vocals for the demo of " Grow Down".
As if 2009, wasn't going good enough, a music industry friend gave Chancie and her parents tickets to attend their first "CMA Awards". Not only did they attend the awards ceremony, they also got to rub elbows with the stars at an after-party. With this experience, Chancie set a new goal: to one day attend the "CMA Awards" as a nominee.
Since their first meeting, Chancie and her family stayed in touch with Phil O"Donnell. Phil found some time in his busy schedule and agreed to write with Chancie. They wrote the fun up-tempo song called, "A Boy Like That's Hat". While still in Nashville, Chancie was introduced to Jennifer Kennard ("Virginia Blue Bell", "Should Be Me", "Angeline"). The two wrote a slow ballad called "Let Falling Things Fall".
After Christmas, Chancie went in the studio to record a new album; with Phil O'Donnell as her producer. Phil picked some of Nashville's finest musicians to play on the session. Although it was hard work, Chancie enjoyed the recording process and loved hearing her music take on new life. With minor details left to the recording, her new album should be out in early spring 2010.
2010, is already looking like another exciting year. There are shows booked, a new album coming out, and trips to Nashville planned. With Chancie, everyday is a new adventure.
That Nashville Sound- What brought you to music in the first place?
Chancie Neal- I had always loved music, but what really got me going was when my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN about 2 years ago. On the way home, we stopped in Chattanooga to See "Rock City". When we got to the top of Lookout Mountain, there were two girls singing and playing guitar. I was so impressed and told my parents that I wanted to start playing guitar. At the time, I had no intentions of wanting to be a singer or writing songs. I just thought it would be cool to play guitar. I didn't think I could sing, actually! But here I am! My dad almost didn't stop that day in Chattanooga.. glad he did!
TNS- Describe your music- what's the mission behind the music?
CN- One reason is because I love it. Everything about it. I can't see my self doing anything else, and I don't even try to. I like country music because it's the most straight forward and clean type of music out there. The journey has been amazing! I also want to make a positive influence on younger people and help them stay out of trouble.. and even adults, too! The main reason, though is I want to be able to tell people about God! After all, he got me where I am in the first place!
TNS- What might people be surprised to find out about you?
CN- When I was 9 I won the World Championships in Barrel Racing. When I first started playing guitar, I was still set that I wanted to be a professional Barrel Racer. I'm glad I changed my mind.
TNS- What kind of music are you listening to? What's in your iPod?
CN- A lot of Luke Bryan and almost as much Miranda Lambert. It's got a little bit of everything, though! Those are my two favorite artists.
TNS- If you had a crystal ball and looked forward five years, what do you see for yourself?
CN- Probably a lot busier, on the road, hopefully opening for someone big. Guess I'll let you know if that happens in 5 years! (Laughing)
TNS- Nickname for your guitar or other instruments?
CN- Cleatis-- because I used to want to name a horse that, but when I got my guitar I just started calling it Cleatis! (Laughing)