Gabby Barrett on Finding Success After 'American Idol' & Advice for Contestants

Scott Fishman
Gabby Barrett
Q&A Robby Klein

Gabby Barrett has made the most of her opportunity on American Idol by taking the country music world by storm. Now the 20-year-old finds herself sharing the charts with many of the artists she would cover on the singing competition. Songs like I Hope, The Good Ones and Hall of Fame are getting healthy airplay with a tour alongside Brad Paisley on the horizon.

Yet no matter how successful the Warner Music Nashville star becomes, Barrett will always remember her time on the show, especially since it’s where she met future husband Cade Foehner. With the new season of Idol in full swing, we sat down with the emerging talent to reflect on all she has accomplished and lend some advice for the current contestants.

You recently performed an acoustic performance on Instagram and Facebook. What does it mean to you to join other artists in providing some much needed distraction during this difficult time?

Gabby Barrett: It was super exciting because I used to do Facebook Live posts with my sister all the time. Literally, for like a year we would do it every Sunday. I hadn’t done it in a while, so I felt during this time of quietness for everybody I’d come on and bring some joy to those watching. It is great to partner with MusiCares and help those who might be struggling financially right now within the music industry. It’s just a big wonderful thing I’m proud to be a part of and bring joy to people. You never know when we’re going to pop again and say hi.

American Idol Gabby Barrett

Image Group LA/Radio Disney

What are you and Cade doing to pass the time these days? What has been getting you through? 

Honestly, we haven’t been doing too much. Just been reading a lot. I’ve been baking and cooking and trying to go through some recipes and see what I could do because I was terrible at cooking when we first got married. I would just burn everything. So, I’m figuring out how to get that down. I’m just like everyone else wiping everything down in the house and waiting for this to pass. Nothing too crazy.

A great escape for a lot of folks has been American Idol — a show that helped launch your career. You have been a shining example that one doesn’t have to win the competition in order to be successful within the business. For this new crop of talent, what tips would you give them in keeping their dreams alive even if they don’t make it to the end? 

I’ve been singing six or seven years before I did American Idol. There was so much trial and error in those years that I’d been used to hearing no and being eliminated from things. So American Idol was another no for me. My family kept me very motivated as well as I’d been a very dedicated person. I’ve always liked to be challenged from a very young age. It just fuels me to keep going when you hear no. Being on Idol, there are valuable lessons that I learned. Getting eliminated wasn’t something I’d get mad about.

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I was more sad because you’re investing in this challenge and journey and making relationships with people. By the time you were in the last three, we were all close and happy to see anybody win. It was more about this Idol journey that you’ve been on for five months was coming to an end. I was excited and kept on going, thinking it didn’t stop there. I've worked now for nine years and things are just starting to pick up now. If I could give advice to anyone going on the show, it’s that song choice is very important. Don’t play all your cards right away. You should have some kind of strategy going in and never give up on what you feel the Lord has given you as a gift.

Your single I Hope started catching some really good traction not long after Idol. Do you remember where you were when you first heard it on the radio? 

I originally released it independently myself in January 2019. In 24 hours, it shot to 14 on iTunes. I thought, “Oh my gosh, there is something special about this song.” 2019, it completely blew off the rails. I was incredibly grateful and blessed to see that happen. The first time I heard it on the radio I was in a Lyft headed to a writing session in Nashville. I remember the Lyft person didn’t know it was me, but I was secretly freaking out in the back seat. I didn’t say anything, but I had a quiet freak out moment to myself. It was really cool because when you pour yourself into songs and not know how they're going to go or how people are going to react to them, it has been nice and warming to see country radio and the country community so accepting with open arms.

ABC/Image Group LA

You had that full circle moment being able to perform that song on American Idol. What was that experience like for you? 

That was awesome. When we pulled up it had been about a year since I had been on Idol. It had brought back emotions instantly. The show was a wonderful rollercoaster of emotions. It was cool going down the same hallway where all the contestants were and I had my own dressing room with my name on the wall. It was so special and something I’ll always remember. That was the television debut of the song. I’m grateful for how American Idol has always been to me.

The country music community has embraced you, and you've got to work with some pretty big names. What would you say you’ve learned from say Brad Paisley, who you’ll be going on tour with in the coming months, or even Carrie Underwood, who had a similar path to stardom? 

I’m excited to hit the road with Brad Paisley. He has always been somebody who I’d hear on the radio and see on television and on the award shows growing up. You don’t even see them as human beings until you actually see them in person. I nearly fell over with Carrie Underwood because she is just somebody that I’ve looked up to. You can’t like country music and not like Carrie Underwood. She’s the best.

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She gave me advice on Idol when I met her. She gave me nice advice after the show. She said I was going to be fine. She really liked my voice and the grittiness of it. A lot of people had made the comparison of me and her together. She talked about how there was also some not-similarities too. She was very nice to me. I can actually call her friend now. With Brad, I’m just excited to go out on the road for this tour dream come true. I went on tour with Chris Lane two times and did a bunch of summer dates opening for people. Being on this legit tour with Brad is just amazing.

Your other two follow-up singles, Good Ones and Hall of Fame, are also doing well on the charts. I read that these songs were both inspired by Cade. Does it mean more to you to have that success knowing what you put into it was personal? 

When you pour your heart and soul into any song you make, I think it makes it very special. He is someone who is very special to me. I think when you’re married and fall in love, it changes everything. To how you write music, how you act, go about things, how you live your life. He did that to me in the best way. So seeing everybody also like these songs, it’s very special and makes me feel special too.

What can you tell us about new music and the timeline of a potential album? There are a lot of things to look forward to in 2020 for you. 

We have some amazing stuff lined up this year. I’ll be at Tortuga, Stage Coach, and I know those dates are being moved around, but I will still be there. We do have an album coming sometime this year. I won’t give away the time yet. You can expect it though. I can’t wait until it comes out. We have Brad Paisley, the ACM Awards where hopefully I’ll get a nomination and win. Fingers crossed. A lot of exciting things to come.

American Idol, Sundays, 8/7c, ABC

Stay up-to-date on Gabby Barrett through her website.