“Mmmmm, I love coffee-chocolate ice cream!” Adley Stump says.
You know there’s the “Berkee Creamery” right down the road, right?
“There’s a creamery?” Stump asks exuberantly. “I’m checking it out!”
Stump is the type of woman who runs around like a poised pageant queen in wedged, fringy cowgirl boots before a concert, but walks barefoot with her signature kinky-curled butterscotch hair pulled back in a headband while calling corporations like Nissan. She’s the type of lady who knows how to put on smokey eye makeup in order to advertise one of her many sponsorships, MAC Cosmetics, but has a relaxed aura of natural beauty. It only makes sense that this glossy barefoot office queen would need an ice cream with the illusion of caffeine, and the aroma of all around carefree and effortless goodness to get her through a hot day in July.
It’s Independence Day, and everyone’s a bit uncomfortable. Although it feels as though a slight breeze wants to cool the irritatingly sticky air, there’s been a severe storm warning issued over the radio, and everyone’s nervous the weather could ruin the festivities.
Today is the annual Centre County 4th Fest, and everything from the food to the fireworks has been planned months in advance. Unfortunately, it has rained the past four years, and the home to Penn State University is quite used to nasty July weather. Hopes are high however, as Adley Stump has just arrived at the Centre Stage, and is nothing but smiles.
Stump is recognizable from about a mile away. Dressed almost as patriotically as an audience member from the famous Ferris Bueller’s Day Off parade, Stump adorns a red-white-and blue tank top, ripped blue jean shorts, and Nancy Sinatra-type, cowgirl boots.
As she arrives at the scene, her face appears absent of sweat or redness of any kind, despite her carrying a big, bulky box with some heavy contents. “Hey darling!” Stump shouts over to me with a smile. “I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes.”
Today, the 28-year-old obviously hasn’t had a moment to stop. With her midday interview, afternoon parade appearance, and evening concert to finish out her not-so-free Independence Day, still, the woman isn’t sweating it yet.
Returning with a helper in tow, Stump invites me inside a winnebago that looks to be worth at least $100,000 owned by a local, private school’s headmaster. He has granted Stump her temporary home here (pardon the Carrie Underwood pun), simply due to his love for a good time. Inside, the thing is huge and gorgeous, but it’s the table laden with chips, salsa, and guacamole that Stump’s eyes are drawn to. Sitting down, she immediately crosses her legs and says in a rather laid back way, “I kind of live my life not taking things too seriously.”
That sense of going with the flow is exactly what started Stump’s long journey in the music biz. In 2012, Stump got her start singing on Season 2 of The Voice. “Yeah, I didn’t even know I could sing until The Voice” she admits. “I’ve loved music since I was a kid, I’d just re-write lyrics, make super over-the-top emotional songs but…I’ll say this, self awareness is the best gift you can give yourself, and at that point, I wasn’t aware I had a voice.”
Dared by her Oklahoma State sorority sisters to go out and audition, an eager Stump simply went on the show to make some memories. “I just thought it was going to be funny for me and my friends.” she says. “Trying new things is how I discover new parts of myself!”
Stump’s fun, upbeat nature, and gravelly voiced performance got both Blake Shelton’s and Christina Aguilera’s hands to press their buttons. The then 22-year-old rocking a black and gold western t-shirt, big-buckled leather belt, and sparkly headband jumped up and down ecstatically, deciding on Blake Shelton as her mentor. Lucky she did, as their collaborations continue to come up five years later, including a concert at Beaver Stadium, where Adley opened for Blake and a number of other artists like Chris Young at the Happy Valley Jam.
Incredibly however, even her little debut on The Voice came with some debates. “Oh gosh, my hair.” Stump laughs. “People were like 50/50 on loving it or hating it, but at least people were talking. Actually, [after The Voice ] we did a headband licensing deal. It was about 60 boutiques nationwide, and that gave me the opportunity to tour.”
This is exactly the genius of Adley Stump. Seasoned in business, Stump stands out from the millions of wanna-be country stars due in part to her degree in Public Relations/Marketing. “Honestly, I think there’s a sense of entitlement.” she says, referring to Voice contestants who go nowhere after the show. “You feel famous because you got 11,000 Twitter followers in one night, but what you don’t realize is the next season is coming right behind you. You’ve only got four months to market yourself and find a niche.” And Adley’s niche? “Oh, my hair.” she giggles.
There is, of course, also Stump’s music. Armed with big, belty vocals, country-pop melodies that get stuck in your head like lollipops in your hair, and an ensemble of twangy guitars and plucky banjos, Adley Stump is the definition of today’s traditional country-pop music. Accompanied by music videos that are as fun as her personality is, Stump has racked up a lot of hits on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, often reaching between hundreds of thousands to millions of hits on single videos.
One of her most recent music videos, “Don’t Wanna Love Him” won “Grammy Amplified”, a contest sponsored by the Grammy’s for emerging artists.
With her instinctual sense of current country-pop music, business intellect, and a willingness to go all out, Stump has developed a brand: gritty-glam. From her weekly vlogs–where she features the day-in-the-life of any twenty-something to her commitment to charities like “Stay At Home Soldier”–Stump has proven both her hilarious personality and strong moral character.
However, Stump isn’t afraid to point out her flaws. “I’ve failed so many times,” she says bluntly. “Much more than I’ve succeeded. But hey, that’s what makes every success that much sweeter, right?” When further probed, she explains her philosophy, “Hey, if God wants to close a door, he will. So far, he hasn’t, and I’m so grateful.”
Still learning every day, Adley Stump isn’t exactly sure what the future holds, but doesn’t seem too concerned. “I don’t know what’ll happen, but I’m just focused on making a difference.” Softening her wide, business-minded eyes to crinkle into a warm smile, she says “I just try to be the bright spot in someone’s day. When people say ‘I look forward to your Snapchats every day’, that makes me so happy. It’s getting people to laugh. Entertaining is what I feel God put me here to do. That, and learning to market myself, which I’m so grateful for, as I’m not dictated by somebody else who I should be.”
With only two minutes left, as Adley must head to her next destination, the town’s annual Heroes Parade to honor armed forces, Adley has some words of advice for people with big dreams.
“Look, it’s so easy to complain in this world, but before you even start, count your blessings. Come from an attitude of gratitude; your attitude is one of the only things you can control in this world, so make it good.”
With a final handshake, pat on the back, and signed poster at the ready, Stump warmly waves me out of the cozy winnebago.“Don’t be a stranger!” she yells after me.
Both the parade and concert were successes for Stump. Believe it or not, the weather was kept at bay for the first time in four years, and every event ended with a bang. Stump later finished out her killer week by announcing that she has an upcoming single being released in August.
Yup. Driven as they come, but with a willingness to make-a-fool-of-herself, Stump is going to keep rising up in the world; and she’s not going to be afraid to devour a coffee-chocolate ice cream along the way.
Also published on Medium.