It was a typical Thursday night in the Gillispie household.
Randy and Aimee Gillispie had just finished up watching Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s rendition of “A Star is Born,” when Randy Gillispie had what would turn out to be one of the best ideas ever after hearing Gaga and Cooper sing the movie’s main ballad, “Shallow.”
His daughter, Autumn, a 14-year-old high school student at George Washington, had been singing next to him nearly all of her life, and he had a feeling that she would do the song justice.
“I heard the song and thought, ‘Man, she’d probably kill that Gaga part,’ so let’s just try it,” he said.
Randy Gillispie said he and Autumn ran through the song about twice before Aimee Gillispie pulled out her phone and recorded what would end up becoming a performance that would launch Autumn into the music industry.
The video, which now has more than 50 million views on just one post, not counting the hundreds of other places its been shared, led to Autumn being contacted by representatives from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “America’s Got Talent” and “American Idol,” and appearing on Kellie Pickler’s show, “Pickler & Ben.”
For the young singer, she said the experience has been nothing short of amazing.
“It’s insane, but it’s also amazing,” she said. “I’m very blessed and very grateful.”
Autumn began singing in church with her family when she was around 4 years old. Both of her parents have a background in music, but Autumn said she had no idea how talented she was.
“Dad and I used to get up there and do little Father’s Day things and stuff, so I guess I was so young that I didn’t realize that singing was something that I was completely interested in,” she said.
Her real passion started during middle school, a time that was extremely difficult for her.
“When I got bullied really bad in sixth grade and seventh grade and eighth grade, I basically just used singing as an outlet to get away from that, so I guess it was probably around my middle school years when I decided that singing was something that I wanted to do,” she said.
She had been posting videos on various social media platforms, and they did decently well. However, the success of the “Shallow” video was something the family had never experienced before.
“I was sitting at work and watching that thing, and it really was just odd at the speed at which it was climbing,” Randy Gillispie, who is a fireman for the City of Charleston, said. “It became a joke at work. At the time I went to bed it was two million and then the next day it was six million, and then the Picker show calls us two days later on Sunday and says, ‘Come down Wednesday and shoot the show,’ and at this point, it’s like 12 million.”
For Autumn, she said the whole thing was mind-blowing.
“I was shocked. I was like, ‘I don’t know how this is happening,’ but it was amazing,” she said.
Since the video went viral, doors in the music industry have been opening for Autumn. After her appearance on “Pickler & Ben,” she wrote, recorded and had professionally produced her very first single, “Only One,” in just a few hours.
She also auditioned for NBC’s hit TV show, “The Voice,” in February. While she didn’t make the cut, she hasn’t let that stop her.
Blocks away from where she and her dad waited in line in Nashville, she’s been working with some of the biggest producers in the city.
She and her family have been going back and forth between Charleston and Nashville, working tirelessly to make Autumn’s dreams become reality. While she said the process was a little intimidating at first, she’s getting into the groove of how the industry works.
“It was very nerve-racking, but now that we’ve been down there a couple of times, we’ve gotten used to it,” she said. “I’m currently working in OmniSound Studios with Bill McDermott. He’s an amazing producer.”
McDermott has produced artists such as Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and many more.
Autumn said she wants her sound to be “split down the middle” between country and pop, which makes sense considering two of her main artist inspirations are Ariana Grande and Miranda Lambert.
“We actually got some great advice from some really big heavy hitters in Nashville that she records with down there, and they’re going to pitch her as the Ariana of country, and that’s honestly never been done,” said Randy Gillispie. “Taylor [Swift] went country and then split. Carrie [Underwood] went country and then split.”
Autumn has also been in conversation and is beginning to work with Jon Bon Jovi’s best friend and producer, Obie O’Brien.
O’Brien has worked extensively with Bon Jovi, producing some of his biggest hits and working with other famous acts such as Alice Cooper.
Autumn said her main goal right now is to get more music out for her fans and others to hear. Recently, she worked with Kellie Pickler’s husband, Kyle Jacobs, on a song about one of the more difficult moments of her life.
In 2018, Autumn’s best friend committed suicide, and since then, she has been dedicated to advocating for suicide prevention. She hopes the song, titled “Why,” will be out soon for others to listen to and resonate with.
“She’s been battled as a child. She had kidney disease, had surgery and just fought illnesses all of her life, and to see her rise above the bullying and then losing her best friend ... I mean, the kid has endured more than any 14-year-old should have to,” Aimee Gillispie said. “She wants to help people. She wants to go into schools and talk to people about suicide awareness and bullying, and I think that God has opened so many doors for her.”
Right now, Autumn is waiting for the song that will take her to the top.
“How it was explained was that there’s 26 or 27 things that need to happen for you to make it in a music career,” Randy Gillispie said. “She’s got about 25 of them. She needs a hit song. She’s one hit song away from going through the roof.”
Autumn’s song, “Only One,” has been playing on WQBE radio in Charleston and on over 30 streaming platforms. She said it’s wild to hear herself on the radio, a dream for so many artists.
“It’s very weird, because Carrie Underwood’s song [plays], and then you hear my song and then Kane Brown’s song, and it’s very weird,” she said. “It’s crazy, it’s insane but it’s also amazing.”
For her parents, they hope she makes it as big as possible.
“If she has any of me in her before it’s over with, she’ll want to be the biggest artist that the planet has ever seen. Everything I’ve ever tried to be is always the best, and if she takes after me, she will really want to be the biggest artist ever,” said Randy Gillispie. “She’ll want to be the next Elvis or Michael Jackson. I told her one of these days, if you keep up this pace, maybe Ariana [Grande] can open up for you.”