Lila McCann: Still A Cheerleader, Also A Country Star

Not yet out of high school, the country singer has hits under her belt and a busy performance schedule.

It's a good thing country singer Lila McCann likes fairs.

She has a string of them coming up in the next few months.

"I have tons of fun," said the 18-year-old in a recent phone interview from her home in Tacoma, Wash. "I like pigs. I always look for the pigs and the cows."

But she doesn't take the rides, especially before a show. "I got sick on one once and still had to perform," McCann said with a laugh.

Her debut album, Lila, went gold and yielded three hits: "Down Came a Blackbird," a song she didn't like when she first heard it; the #1 "I Wanna Fall in Love," and "Almost Over You." That was recorded when she was only 15.

Last year, her follow-up album, Something in the Air, was released.

McCann received some all-star help on that one. Steve Wariner, Bryan White and Vince Gill sang backup on "You're Gone" (RealAudio excerpt), a song penned by White and Wariner for the album.

She counts White as a friend. "We have a couple things in common because we're on the same label. It was fun being in the studio with him because I really admire his music and him as an artist. So to be able to work with him is always an honor."

Her producer, Mark Spiro, has produced rock and pop acts including Boyz II Men and Julian Lennon. Spiro's first country album was also McCann's first.

The first time she heard her first single, "Down Came a Blackbird," "I was very embarrassed. We were out singing karaoke at a karaoke club. My song came on and I listened to it for about 20 seconds and I had to leave the room, I was so embarrassed."

McCann began singing when she was four years old, getting up onstage with her father's country band.

Despite her success, she has stayed grounded, with a little help from her friends. "I've had the same group of friends since I was in the second grade," McCann said. "They don't let me get a big head or anything like that. I think being in school helps me stay pretty grounded anyway. But we've all got special things we do and we all support each other in our talents."

She's a varsity cheerleader and was one of Teen People magazine's "Twenty Teens Who Will Change the World."

McCann also received a double platinum record for her contribution to the "Hope Floats" soundtrack, "To Get Me to You," written by Diane Warren and produced by Don Was.

The American Country Music Awards best new artist nominee has appeared on "48 Hours," "Good Morning America" and "Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee." Her acting debut was on "Walker, Texas Ranger" in 1998.

McCann believes her voice has changed since recording her current single, "Kiss Me Now" (RealAudio excerpt), thanks to touring. "I recorded it over a year and a half ago and I heard it on the radio today and I'm going, 'Wow, I don't really sound like that anymore.' I've been singing on the road so much. My voice has grown, definitely. When you're on the road for almost a year you change things around a little bit because you don't want to sing a song the same way every time."

When looking for songs to record, McCann says she looks for things she can relate to. "There's a certain youngness I have to keep because I'm not extremely old. At the same time I have to sing songs that relate to people older than myself. So I try to find a happy medium."

McCann recently taped a Barry Manilow TV special, "Manilow Country," to be aired Tuesday on cable TV's the Nashville Network. Besides Manilow, Trisha Yearwood, Jo Dee Messina and Deana Carter also are in the lineup with McCann.

"That was the coolest thing I've done all year," McCann said. "I was so scared. But he was a very nice man; he put me right at ease. It was a lot of fun. I was awestruck by him most of the time."

Besides fairs, McCann will be going into the studio in September to record her next album. It will be released in November or early December.

Meanwhile, she's looking forward to getting out of school. "I'm ready. I had the opportunity four years ago to go out and tour with the first record or stay in school. I chose to stay in school and finish with my schooling. I'm really glad I did. Sometimes we let things go by too fast and regret that. I didn't want to regret getting out of school and not finishing my childhood and experiencing that. Now I'm ready for it to be done with. I've enjoyed it."