I’ll never forget the day I saw the email. I’m casually scrolling through my inbox, and my eyes settle on this subject line from my manager, Sam: “Ellie’s Opry Debut”. I couldn’t believe it. Plus, the date it was scheduled for was April 1st, so I thought, “This must be an April Fool's joke! There is NO way I am getting to play the Grand Ole Opry.” After quickly calling my manager to confirm that this was true, I celebrated with my precious husband over the phone! It’s the kind of news you get that makes you hold the phone above your head and dance! “Babes! Did you see the email? I’m getting to play the Grand Ole Opry!” Cue sweet congrats from my husband, squeals from me, and a small phone dance party.
I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve the night before because I was so excited for my Opry moment to come that I couldn’t fall asleep for the life of me! After an early flight from Charlotte on the morning of April 1st, I got to spend the day with my kiddos.
We celebrated, hung a sign up, ate pink cupcakes, & I tried to explain the Grand Ole Opry to my 4 and 1.5 year old. I had the privilege of taking over the @Opry Instagram Stories for the day, and roped my girl, Emmylou into the fun.
It was a very surreal day because I was cooking, playing soccer in the back yard, cleaning up spills, doing laundry after a “didn’t quite make it to the potty” incident, getting the house ready to host my precious in-laws who came in for the night, and re-cleaning the guest bathroom after Huck ran straight from the yard & into the house tracking mud all the way into the tub I’d just cleaned for our guests!
Meanwhile, I’m trying to post on the Opry Instagram page, which made it look like that’s all I was doing...just pondering how amazing the evening would be! I wish I would have done a side by side post, one of the footage I was sending the Opry and the other of the footage from being a mom at home with two precious and crazy little ones.
There’s something so grounding about caring for my children, preparing to host my family, getting food ready for a gathering for my management team and family at my house after the show to celebrate. You know that you’re getting ready to be a part of a legendary show, but you also know the dishes have to be washed and children have to be fed and cared for. You know that before you’ll be on a stage performing under the lights, you are first and foremost a momma and a wife and a member of a beautiful community of folks. I loved going from full-on mom to full-on artist playing her debut at the Opry, because it keeps all the good things (both my family/community and my music career) in perspective. You learn to not take yourself too seriously. I welcomed Hamp and Nancy, my in-laws, & our precious nanny, who was keeping the kids that night, into the house and then rushed upstairs to shower & get ready. My amazing friend Kelley Kirker (@kkhairandmakeup on Instagram) came to my house to get me “Opry Ready” and I rushed out the door an hour later.
From the moment I pulled into the artist parking lot at the Opry, I felt like I was coming home. Everyone was warm and welcoming, from the parking attendant to the security guards, the band director for the Opry band, to the Opry members & guest artists who were there that night. I had the pleasure of meeting the legendary Mike Snider in his overalls as I walked through the Opry Artist Entrance, & he and some of his buddies sort of chuckled as the precious Security Guard, William, took a picture of me in front of the artist entrance. I was so excited and it all felt like a dream.
They showed me to my green room, where Ben Shive, who produced my record, and Devon Curry, my drummer, were waiting to rehearse the two songs we were playing. It was such a gift to have them and a majority of my team at the show, as well as sweet family and friends there to celebrate with me. My precious husband, Drew, had already booked his tour and couldn’t make it for the night because he and his band were playing a show in Asheville, NC (so Nashville of us to be booked in two different cities at the same time, but that is our life these days), so we Facetimed earlier in the day to take in the moment together.
We rehearsed in the famous “band cage”, which is WAY less scary than it sounds, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Red Sea Road and Find You Here sounded lovely with my two players and the rest of the Opry band chiming in. I’ll never forget seeing that red curtain come up to reveal a full house of folks, and being introduced by the lovely Sharon White, “Making her Opry debut tonight, please welcome Ellie Holcomb!” I literally RAN to the microphone and stood in the circle of wood that came from The Ryman’s original floor, and took in the moment as I greeted the crowd. After listening to so much amazing music be played from that very stage, it felt like I was joining a beautiful community of music-makers that night as I sang my two songs and got to speak about a God who gives us hope, even when our hearts our breaking. What an honor to sing what I know to be true from a stage and a place like the Opry.
Everyone kept telling me all night, to just have fun and take it all in, because it would be over before I knew it, and they were exactly right! I ran off stage and got to hug Mrs. Sharon before I waved goodbye to the crowd one more time, and then I got to celebrate! It was such fun when The Whites presented me with the card that Sharon had used to introduce me that they had all signed. And it was maybe even more fun when they said they hoped it would be the first of many Opry performances for me! I certainly hope so. I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of the family at the Grand Ole Opry, and I will forever remember the day I got to be both a mom doing the beautiful mundane things of caring for kids and a home, and an Opry Debuting Artist. I love BOTH jobs so very much.