Since being named runner-up on season 20 of ABC’s American Idol, HunterGirl’s authenticity, unwavering tenacity and heart of gold have positioned her as Country’s next star, earning praise she’d only dreamed of – like Idol judge and Country icon Luke Bryan praised her as the “new age Miranda Lambert” and his “favorite female Country voice.”
Moreover, American Songwriter celebrated that “her crooning vocals…made her one to watch in the Country scene,” People Magazine applauded her “incredible voice,” and CMT her “soaring vocals and superstar potential,” while Billboard solidified her inevitable superstar status, noting she “has wowed the Country music community since she stepped onto the American Idol stage,” and she’s currently “transcending from talented aspiring artist, to make her first steps toward the big leagues.”
More important than trophies, HunterGirl wins hearts.
Skyrocketing to No. 1 on iTunes All-Genre and Country charts with her earnest and deeply personal original track “Red Bird,” she’s performed on Live with Kelly & Ryan, appeared on Good Morning America, and was named a 2023 Artist to Watch by Music Mayhem.
Signed to 19 Records/BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records, HunterGirl, who is working toward her first-label project, just released her latest single “Ain’t About You,” written before she auditioned for Idol and received the first Platinum Ticket of the season.
“I wrote that song two weeks before my American Idol audition and two weeks before my life changed forever,” HunterGirl said. “Two weeks prior, I was sitting there wondering if I was doing the right thing in Nashville, and then two weeks later, I had an audition that completely changed everything.”
Obviously, I have a ton of breakup songs, but the ‘life songs’ for me, I reach down pretty deep for that,” HunterGirl offered. “I call them my ‘heart songs’ – ‘Red Bird’ was a heart song. ‘Ain’t About You’ is a heart song. Those are the songs I think about when I’m reaching down real deep.”
HunterGirl cut her teeth playing gigs at some of Nashville’s most famous venues including Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s Honky Tonk, The Listening Room, and Honky Tonk Central. She’s won songwriting contests including “Nash Next” and the prestigious “Nashville Songwriter Association International.” But the sort of industry attention and success she saw her musician friends achieving eluded her.
“It was one of those days where everything kinda hits you all at once,” she recalled. “I grabbed my guitar and sat there and poured everything out of my head that I was feeling. I had been chasing this since I was 14 and a lot of my friends were getting record deals and publishing deals. I was like, ‘Lord, what am I doing wrong? ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I working hard enough?’ So, I call this my 45-minute conversation with Jesus trying to make sense of everything that was going on in my head.”
“Ain’t About You” follows her first post-Idol tracks “Hometown Out of Me,” a love letter to her southeast Tennessee hometown of Winchester (population 9,500), and “Lonely Outta You,” which was inspired by male contestants on Idol, who struggled with talking about their feelings on the show.
A few weeks after being crowned runner-up, show offers were coming in to UTA faster than she could put a band together.
“Coming off the show was a whirlwind,” she recalled. “That was a huge year of my life. I learned so much about myself as an artist and as a person. I vividly remember the flight home from New York after doing the talk shows after the finale, and I hadn’t been in Tennessee for four months. It was the moment where everything stopped for a second and you think, ‘Wow, this has all just happened.’”
Still dressed from doing morning media, she was walking through Nashville’s airport when someone wished her a happy birthday. She had forgotten it was the next day. “People coming up to me, cheering me on. People hugging me. Telling me they were proud of me – people I had never met before,” she enthused. “And that’s when I realized how much had changed.”
People are drawn to her heart out, head up, boots on approach to everything she does. She’s a gutsy songwriter who works with veterans’ organizations where she uses music therapy to transform worrier’s stories into songs.
“That completely changed the way I view music,” she explained. “This is their song about their life and what they went through. I was so worried about words rhyming. Is this the right word, the right hook? And no, it was about what people were feeling. It took the technical stuff out of songwriting and left all the emotion.”
From Broadway to Hollywood, she went from playing honky tonks to a co-headlining tour with 2022 American Idol winner Noah Thompson and even having her own merch. In 2023, she is hitting the road with Luke Bryan, Parmalee, Josh Turner and Luke Combs for his pre-show tailgate stage. Recently, she’s been opening for Justin Moore, Tracy Lawrence, and Chase Matthews. In March, she opened for Lainey Wilson’s sold-out Nashville show at Brooklyn Bowl.
“It’s funny, I always wanted people to request one of my songs whenever I was playing cover show,” she admitted. “And it’s wild going to a show where I am playing all of my music, and people showing up for it.”
She has a tireless work ethic inspired by her parents – her dad was in agriculture; her mom was a special education teacher – who held down multiple jobs to support the family and allow HunterGirl to shine. Born Hunter Wolkonowski, she found her stage name by being the only “girl” Hunter in her elementary class. “My teachers had too many ‘boy’ Hunters in the class,” she explained. “So, they’d point to me and say, ‘Hunter Girl,’ and it just kinda stuck.”
She started performing when she was three and writing songs when she was nine. In her early teens, she performed at venues across the United States, competed in singing competitions and won the 2014 Texaco Country Showdown. After graduating high school, she moved to Nashville and immediately started playing gigs. She’s shared the stage with Country superstars including Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line, Kane Brown, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Sara Evans and more.
“I’ve wanted to sing since I was a kid,” she said. “It’s always been the dream and the goal. Everything that I’ve done has been leading up to this.”