The Time I Cried At An Alison Krauss Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab

This story starts when I was 12 years old…

I was sitting on the piano bench at my music teacher’s house, figuring out the song that I wanted to learn to play and sing at our annual recital. The song that stuck out to me was “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss. As she placed the sheet music in front of me, I noticed “Written by Paul Overstreet” and that was the first time I ever learned what it meant to be a songwriter. I also learned that Alison Krauss had done her own rendition after it was originally sung by Keith Whitley. In that moment, I became fascinated by this beautiful song and little did I know that it would change my life forever!

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old…

I had just stumbled upon a singing competition in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I had no idea exactly what I was about to get myself into but as I walked up to the venue, I could see camera crews and busy bodies with clipboards running all over the place. Turned out the competition was for CMT Canada’s Karaoke Star. As we were about to enter the venue, they made an announcement that they had to take a song off of the song list - which is the one I had chosen out of the three they suggested earlier - and it would be replaced with Alison Krauss version of “When You Say Nothing at All”. I almost cried right then and there, being that it was one of my favorites and the first song I had learned and studied in voice lessons all those years before.

To make a long story short, I went in, sung my heart out and got a call back that I had made it to the top 10. Shocked and beyond excited, I returned to the venue for the top 10 and before I got up to sing “When You Say Nothing at All” for the second time that day, I prayed that even if I didn’t win I just wanted to give the judges goosebumps. Much to my surprise and amazement, I ended up winning the competition and would be off to Toronto in a few months to tape the finale. When the show premiered on TV, I was able to see the behind-the-scenes comments, and in the green room while the judges were deciding the winner, the radio host said that the second I started singing he got goosebumps. Overwhelmed with emotion - I almost cried.

The whole experience of being on CMT Canada and heading to Toronto opened my eyes so much to the music industry and the possibilities that lay ahead for my love of performing. I got to meet some of Canada’s top artists and some great people in the industry – all because of Alison Krauss and her version of this song. From my experience on the show, I was inspired to take the steps to pursue music in Nashville, Tennessee, and a few years later, I obtained my work visa and was able to live out my dream in Music City.

Fast forward to three years ago….

Carrie – one of my best friends in Nashville – landed her dream job of tour assistant for Alison Krauss. She knew all about my story and how her song had such an impact on my life and music career. Carrie loves to make dreams come true and without me even asking, she offered me a pass to a show on Alison’s tour. The only date that worked for me just happened to be in Cincinnati, Ohio but I was determined to not miss this opportunity, so I hopped in the car and drove 4 ½ hours one way to make it.

The show was absolutely phenomenal and it almost brought me to tears listening to Alison’s beautiful voice captivate the entire theatre. You could feel the energy raise over the audience when she started “It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart….” And again – I was overcome by emotion.

After the show – as I was about to leave – Carrie messaged me and asked if I would like a tour backstage. With zero hesitation, I said, “Yes!”

Mandy (left) and Carrie
While getting the grand tour of the theatre, we got to the green room where Alison was relaxing and getting ready to head to the tour bus. Carrie went in, came back out and said that she would love to introduce me to Miss Alison. She was beautiful and the definition of an Earth Angel. In that moment, I was able to tell her the story of how I sang “When You Say Nothing At All” all those years before that had now led me to this moment. Before I left, I said, “Thank you so much for recording your version of such a beautiful song and because of that, my life was forever changed.”

I felt my eyes well up and as I walked out of the room, I could feel the tears of happiness trickle down my cheeks… that time I cried at an Alison Krauss show.

-Mandy McMillan, singer/songwriter