Anyone who heard singer-songwriter Ava Paige perform the National Anthem at last Saturday’s Nashville Predators game at Bridgestone Arena may have been impressed, even moved. They also may not have known much about the inspirational story behind the 17-year-old who was doing the singing, especially those people who were in Nashville from out of town.
Coming from a musical family, Paige was already playing guitar and singing when she and her family happened to be at a restaurant on Old Hickory Lake where radio station Lightning 100 was sponsoring a karaoke night. Everyone was surprised when pop icon Kelly Clarkson not only came in for dinner, but got up to sing. Not shy, the then-10-year-old Paige talked Clarkson into duetting with her on the B-52’s “Love Shack,” and there wasn’t much doubt afterwards about what this girl would be doing with her life.
“Kelly did a song and I went up to her after and said, ‘Do you wanna do karaoke with me?’” Paige recalled by phone from her Wilson County home. “And she said, ‘Sure!’ Sure enough, me and her did ‘Love Shack,’ and it got into social media and the news came out and interviewed me, and through that I got invited to my first writer’s round. I had to perform a cover at a writer’s round, which is kind of funny. But I came back two weeks later with my own music and that’s how it all started.”
At 13, Paige was accepted for a residency at the now-defunct George Jones Museum, where she performed for two years, sometimes four sets a night, gaining many fans and making music industry connections. But things changed in July of 2019 when, just shy of her 15th birthday, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She spent over a month at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt after her startling diagnosis undergoing chemo and surgeries, and the chemo continued after she left the hospital. But today, after two-and-a-half years of treatment, she was declared cancer-free just before Christmas of last year.
Paige’s latest single release is a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and her latest original release, “House on the Hillside,” came out in February, with Blake Shelton band member Jenee Fleenor on fiddle. She’s considered way ahead of her time as both a writer and an artist, collaborating with such writers as Sandy Ramos (Faith Hill, the Chicks), Terri Jo Box (Miranda Lambert, Eric Church), Steve Dean (George Strait, Dierks Bentley) and others, and with artists like Drake White and Charles Esten.
She also recorded a duet with singer Craig Campbell (“Family Man,” “Keep Them Kisses Comin’”) the day they met called “Stronger Than That,” and later performed it at a charity event, something that’s not unusual for her, who has started her own charity called Pick’n and Kick’n Cancer With Ava Paige, focused on helping children with cancer. She performed a few days ago at the Tybee Island Songwriters Festival, just one more stop on a journey that has seen her singing everywhere from Las Vegas to Denmark.
Unlike, say, Taylor Swift or LeAnn Rimes, who were signed to record deals in their teens, that hasn’t happened yet for Paige, who did, after all, just spend over two years fighting cancer. And she’s just fine with that at the moment. “I’m in a position right now where I don’t really have to rush things, so if the right deal comes my way I definitely wouldn’t turn it down. But I’m waiting for that right deal.”
You can follow Paige at avapaigemusic.com, and view her YouTube channel, which has hundreds of videos of her performing both original and cover tunes, at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb6iDF6Y3GkiLY6v7AlKCyw/videos.