The next day, they'd do it again, as often as five times each week.
With each month Katrina and her parents widened their territory. Honors rolled in: The Oklahoma Country Music Association and the Oklahoma Opry both named the fifteen-year-old Female Vocalist of the Year in 1998. Later she became the youngest artist ever and the first female in 21 years to win the Oklahoma Opry's Entertainer of the Year award. Superstars caught the buzz: Reba McEntire invited her to join her during a concert with the Tulsa Philharmonic and Vince Gill jumped onstage and played along during her appearance at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Her name traveled back with them to Nashville. Incredibly, when Katrina wrote her first song, the demo made its way through the labyrinth onto the desk of Cris Lacy, A&R director at Warner-Chappell Music. That song alone clinched a publishing contract for Katrina when she was just sixteen years old.
It also began the process of drawing her away to Music City. Katrina started coming to town for writing sessions so often that her mother took over her schooling her senior year, at home and on the road. Just a year after that, her education completed, Katrina watched from her new apartment in Nashville as her parents said goodbye and drove back to Bray.
She was seventeen scared and exhilarated.
"I knew what I wanted to do," Katrina remembers. "I didn't do showcases. I tried not to do demos because I didn't want industry people to make judgments yet. I didn't pitch my songs to other singers; I just kept my head down. I stayed at home or went to Warner-Chappell and wrote. I wanted to stay under the radar screen until I knew I was ready."
And when she was she called Cris Lacy, who began shopping her music around town. Suddenly Katrina was performing for executives all over Music Row. Within the space of one month she had sifted through a pile of contracts and signed the one offered by Tony Brown and Tim DuBois at Universal South. Typically, she had gotten what she wanted all along.
"When I was nine I read the credits on all of Reba's records. I remember saying to my parents, 'I don't know who this Tony Brown guy is, but I'm going to work with him someday.' So when they offered me a deal it would have been silly to pass it up, because that's what I had been bound and determined all those years to achieve."
She knew exactly who she wanted in the studio for her debut album too: Brown, of course, and as co-producer Jimmie Lee Sloas, best known for his work with Switchfoot, PFR and other Christian music headliners. "I had written some of my favorite songs with Jimmie Lee," she explains. "He and I have the same musical vision. So even though this was his first country project, Tony agreed to have him come in. I don't know if any other label would have let me do that."
On the other hand, not many could resist this determined young charmer. Since that talent show long ago, she's wanted to sing like the best in the business, write songs that weave her story into melodies that thread through infectious hooks, work with a legendary producer and be in control of her fate before she was even old enough to vote.
She's accomplished all that already. But there's more to come. With Katrina Elam, it's all just underway.