Hope native Mae Estes won Female Vocalist of the Year last night at the Arkansas Country Music Awards. She was also nominated for Song of the Year for “Recycled” which she performed with her co-writers during the show. Mae grew up right here in Hope where she performed publicly for the first time when she sang the national anthem before the rodeo at the Fair Park Coliseum; she was just seven years old. She knew then what she was destined to do. With determination, hard work, and a whole lot of talent, Mae is making her dreams come true.
From that very first time Mae held the microphone, she felt that spark and knew music was a way to connect with people. Her parents, Johnny and Darlene Estes from Hope, said Mae always had this God-given gift, an ability to reach people and relate to them. Throughout her childhood, Mae was singing in nursing homes, the rodeos, AM radio stations, and any event that would allow her onto the stage to share this gift of music. “Mae has always known what she wanted to do,” said Darlene. “She is very driven and independent. She didn’t sit around and wait for someone to hand her this; she did all the hard work herself. It’s a tough journey, but Mae has remained humble, honest, and real about who she is, and what you see is what you get. We are so very proud of her.”
Mae set her sights on Nashville early on and knew if she wanted to perform country music then Music City is where she needed to be. First, however, Mae decided to get her college degree. She was so determined to get to Nashville that she completed her bachelor’s degree in just three years while also working. Then, in 2015, Mae moved to Nashville to begin the journey toward a music career. At times, she worked three jobs to get by while writing songs in her spare time and playing shows any time she got the chance. In 2019, Mae independently released her debut single “Naked” and began touring internationally with Armed Forces Entertainment. Along the way, Mae continued to work diligently sharing her love of music with whomever she could, never losing her enthusiasm and optimism. Last November the hard work paid off. Mae signed a publishing deal with Plaid Flag Music which now allows her to work on music full-time every day.
The endeavors of the last six years culminated in Mae’s recent nominations for Song of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year at the Arkansas Country Music Awards. Last night, Hope’s very own Mae Estes won Female Vocalist of the Year at the ACMA’s! Mae shared with SWARK.Today the honor and joy she felt after winning the award. “It feels absolutely incredible,” said Mae. “It is one of those tangible things you get to celebrate. There aren’t many of those in the music industry, especially in the early part of the journey. It’s good to have something physical that represents a lot of hard work that me, my family, and my friends have put into music for most of my life.” Mae attributes much of her success to her parents, Johnny and Darlene. She said they spent years driving her all over the Ark-La-Tex for performances and supported her dream fully with encouragement and love. Mae said, “Anything I could dream up they made me believe I could achieve it. You definitely have to believe in yourself to make a move like this to Nashville, and I wouldn’t be sitting here today if my parents had not believed in me more than I believed in myself.” Mae and her parents both praised another Hope local, Tee Powers, for his unending support and guidance. Tee invited Mae to sing with him and The Bear Creek Boys on stage when she was younger, gave her many guitar lessons over the years, and coached her through the intricacies of the music industry in Nashville. Mae said, “Tee had the industry mindset to make me believe I can make a career out of this even if I was from a small town in Arkansas. He has always been a huge supporter of my music career and he is a great person to talk to when things get hectic. He keeps me grounded.”
When asked about her end-goals for her career, Mae’s gracious humility shines. She says she doesn’t think about her journey that way. She says, “There are plenty of small goals and I choose to focus on one thing at a time. I have to think about this near-sightedly and celebrate every tiny victory I achieve. I don’t look too far ahead because I let God lead me where He is going to take me and I don’t try to plan it myself.” Some of those small goals include releasing her first project, an EP, and her dream of playing at the Grand Ole Opry. While thinking about those small goals and how she got to where she is now in her music career she said, “It’s cool to look back on the six years I’ve been in Nashville and see what dreams have come true, and how much closer to other dreams I have gotten. I’ll keep working really hard and I am very optimistic I’ll get there one day.”
Already, Mae has proven that she knows the recipe for gaining success and reaching one’s dreams. Dream big, but don’t forget to celebrate the small. One of those celebrations is her hometown. Mae said, “I believe in remembering where you come from, and Hope will always be a big piece of me.” Hope will remember her, too. Going from the little girl who sang the national anthem at the local rodeos to the talented young woman winning ACMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Mae Estes affirms that even a small-town girl can reach big-star dreams.
Info about upcoming events and merchandise can be found on Mae’s website maeestes.com.