Christie Templeton is a Dixie diva on-stage at The Carolina Opry. Off-stage, she's just a down-home country girl on her farm in Conway (in the company of her four dogs, pigs and chickens).
The native of Lake Wylie knew the second she wanted to perform professionally was at age 9, when she saw "A Chorus Line" on Broadway. And she has ever since, from playing the lead in "Annie," to touring with Lee Greenwood to sharing the stage with Billy Ray Cyrus, John Michael Montgomery, The Oak Ridge Boys and Lorrie Morgan.
Templeton tells us more about the road to her lively life under the lights at The Carolina Opry in this exclusive MyrlteBeachOnline interview.
Q: So how did your talent in singing come about and what was it that made you fall in love with the stage when you saw "A Chorus Line"?
A: When I was little, I used to do a lot of beauty pageants, so my mom was trying to find a talent for me. I was always in dance class and a clogger for 10 years - and I'd do singing at the same time. Then my mom really started to notice that I could sing. No one was really musically inclined in my family, so Mom called her friends to ask them to listen to me and tell her if I was good and they said, "Let her sing."
I'd sing in church and just always loved singing. When I auditioned for "Star Search" in New York and saw "A Chorus Line," seeing those people up there amazed me: The theater, the lights. I got braces later, so there were no more beauty pageants, but I did more talent shows, vocalist competitions and state fairs, which made more money anyway and it was good exposure. The emphasis for my parents was on me getting an education, so I majored in voice at Columbia College. Before that, I sang at some theme parks, like Carowinds, when I was 16, and after college, performed on cruise ships, which was a wonderful way to see the world and get paid.
Q: What genres of music were you singing on cruise ships, which ones do you enjoy singing, and what styles can we expect to hear in "The Carolina Opry" and "Good Vibrations" shows?
A: Just like the Opry, we sang just about everything on the cruise ships: Gospel, country, R&B, rock. I got a lot of experience in a lot of different styles that way. But I have to say I do like the old-time country music - at 38-years-old, I'm right there at the border line between old and new country.
In the Opry right now, I'm singing a new song, "White Liar" by Miranda Lambert, a country mixture, then we go into a "Where the Boys Are" '50s medley, I sing some R&B and a few gospel numbers with Steve Sifford. The mixture makes it not boring, that's for sure, and there are lots of comedic parts. In "Good Vibrations," I sing some rock and some Cyndi Lauper, with lots of comedy. We have so much fun on stage. Boy, if people could read our minds on stage ...
Q: What's your performance schedule like each season? And what can the audience expect to see and hear, overall, from one season to the next?
A: Starting in two weeks, we have shows six days a week through Christmas. (Carolina Opry founder) Calvin (Gilmore) is great with gradual change; we'll have the same show at beginning of the season, but some shows change out in January, song-by-song, with a different person on each song. Because audiences change. We get everyone from bus tours to kids from high school.
Q: What's the message you like to send to those changing audiences through your performances?
A: First of all, my talent comes from the good Lord above and I wouldn't be able to do it without Him - because my parents sure can't sing. I search for meaning every time I perform. I don't look over the audience, I just don't. I want to connect to that one person out there. To have meaning each time is important. To make someone happier, especially in these hard times, is so important. I'm just extremely lucky to be here and the Calvin allowed me to be here since 1999.
Q: Tell us a little about what you do for fun off-stage.
A: Well, we usually have all day off, unless there are rehearsals. And I have two stepchildren: Lauren, 21, and Cole, 9, who I see after school and on weekends. I have a ready-made family and it's perfect. My husband, Steve Templeton is one of the original Carolina Opry cast members. It's neat, because there are lots of married couples here. If I was married to someone who had a day job, I wouldn't see them. And being that we're in entertainment, no one better understands what we do. But we have normal lives. I'm just a country girl.
In January, I DVR "American Idol" and I think how I would've been there at that age and first in line. When Carrie Underwood came on TV and sang during that season, I said, "That's your winner!" Maybe I'll be on Simon Cowell's new show.
Q: Any future projects or plans?
A: Steve and I had thought about doing a CD compilation, but there's just not enough time. Carolina Opry takes up most of our time. We did get to sing a couple of duets, like "Mary, Did You Know?" during Christmas last year for the first time at the Opry, which was special.
The Carolina Opry is at 8901 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. For additional info, tickets and show schedules, visit www.thecarolinaopry.com.