NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

July 25, 2013

Cardarelli country

Governor's Academy grad making a name for herself in Nashville

Singer Jillian Cardarelli left Rhode Island’s Newport Yachting Center, where she opened for Willie Nelson earlier in the evening, and, along with some family and friends, walked to a local restaurant for a late dinner.

Not long after being seated, Cardarelli and her party were approached by a thrilled staff member.

“Did you perform in Connecticut about a month ago?” the young man asked.

“Yes, I did,” Cardarelli said.

“I was there. You were amazing!” he told her.

Two-and-a-half hours from her Haverhill home and more than 150 miles from where that show took place, Cardarelli had found one of her fans.

A picture was taken, an autograph signed and more evidence was amassed: People are discovering Jillian Cardarelli.

The 20-year-old Haverhill native and Nashville, Tenn.-based artist’s stock has been on the rise during a recent hot streak that has seen her opening for two of the biggest acts in the history of country music.

In June, she took the stage before 10-time Grammy winner Willie Nelson. And in April and May, she opened for Alabama, recently voted the best country band of all time by tasteofcountry.com.

“A year ago, I never would have imagined this,” said Cardarelli, who attended The Governor’s Academy in Byfield. “I have to think to myself, ‘Is this really happening?’”

It’s all very surreal, she said.

“Willie Nelson is an icon. I listen to his records all the time. Everyone in country music bows down to Willie Nelson,” she said. “I never dreamed in a million years that I would be opening for him.”

Cardarelli, who is as comfortable performing a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” as she is delivering the smooth vocals required for Ashley Monroe’s “She’s Driving Me Out of Your Mind,” has dreamed of being a singer and songwriter since she was a child.

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