If you were just listening to the TODAY Show on Wednesday when Gabi Wilson started singing, you would have had to turn to see just who it was who was producing such full and rich sounds. And when you saw it was a 10-year-old girl sitting behind a baby grand piano, you’d be forgiven for being astonished that anyone so young could sing like that.
You were in good company. The feeling was the same in the studio, where everyone from the anchors to guest Patti LaBelle was mesmerized by the little girl from Villejo, Calif., with talent that seems unlimited.
So, where did it all come from, asked TODAY’s Hoda Kotb before Wilson began to play and sing her idol Alicia Keys’ song, “No One.”
“When I was still in my mom’s stomach, my dad, he’s a big musician, and his band used to practice in the living room and I’d hear a lot when my mom was making coffee or something,” she said.
Her mom and dad, Kenny and Agnes Wilson, smiled in the wings when she said that, nodding their agreement. Kenny Wilson was something of a prodigy himself and was compared to Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy as a guitarist and vocalist as a teenager in Arkansas. In Villejo, he founded the Urban Bushmen band, a popular group that is described on its Web site as a “hardcore blues and R&B band with a touch of Hip-Hop and Nubian Soul.”
When Gabi was 6, her father first took her to sing at private gigs, and it wasn’t long before she was wowing big crowds in public. At the age of 8, she was named California’s Most Talented Kid at the state fair, beating out a field of 60 other kids up to the age of 16.
At 9, she was opening for bands like Tony! Toni! Tone!, superstar Keyshia Cole, The Ohio Players and more. And at 10, she was playing the Apollo in New York.
Now, not yet in her teens, Gabi plays four instruments — piano, bass, drums and lead guitar —and has self-published a book of her own poetry.
She took some piano lessons, but said she plays by ear and is just now learning to read music. She’s appeared on “The Maury Povich Show” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
And none of it seems to faze her.
“I just feel like, comfortable,” Gabi told Kotb and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who was filling in for TODAY’s Natalie Morales.
“I feel like I’m just in the living room, that’s why I’m never nervous. Sometimes I feel like I know a lot of the people, and even if I didn’t know any of the people, I know my mom and dad are still there for me.”
A fifth-grader who’s also a straight-A student, Gabi said her friends and classmates aren’t jealous of her fame.
“My friends are really, really supportive,” she said. “Sometimes at school they ask me to sing.”
Increasingly in America, it seems that everybody’s making the same request.