Molly Stevens' music career has taken her from Nashville to Los Angeles, but she loves getting back to her roots.
The Macon native, now a contestant on NBC's "The Voice," returned to her high school Thursday for a pep rally in her honor.
Stevens, a 2001 Tattnall Square Academy graduate, made it through the blind auditions of the reality talent competition on Tuesday night. Judges Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson both turned around their chairs as Stevens performed "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin, and Stevens chose Clarkson as her vocal coach.
"It's been a long time coming, and I'm so thankful that's it's finally here ... to get a big break and to be seen," Stevens said. "I've been knocking on doors ... for at least the past five years. I have not taken no for an answer. The hard work is hopefully paying off."
Wearing her Team Kelly Clarkson jersey Thursday, Stevens performed "Heavenly Day" again as well as two original songs to a packed auditorium at Tattnall. She finished by leading students and staff in singing the school's alma mater. Students held up handmade signs in support of Stevens, including ones that said "U make us proud," "Team Molly" and "Molly fever!"
"I'm just as excited for her to be here in Macon at this great school that loves her," said her mother, Deborah Stevens, who teaches preschool at Tattnall. "We're just such a family here at Tattnall."
Molly splits her time between Nashville and Raleigh, North Carolina, but she was born and raised in Macon. She used to sing at the Baptist church where her grandfather was a pastor, and she was involved in theater at Tattnall and participated in one-act competitions.
She starting learning guitar and writing music when she was 16. After finishing college at Mercer University, she taught theater and humanities at Tattnall for four years before pursuing her music career.
"For them to invite me to come back to do a homecoming-type rally party, what a gift that is ... to be able to give back to these kids," Stevens said. "I got my start singing and playing music right here on this stage. This is where I really found my love for music. I owe a lot to Tattnall."
Stevens has been a regular performer at Macon's Bragg Jam musical festival, and she was formerly part of the group "Me and Molly." She was about to give up on going solo, but then she decided to try "The Voice," and it gave her the boost she needed, she said.
She went through three rounds of callbacks before the blind auditions, and then she spent about a month in Los Angeles in October getting ready for and filming the episode that aired Tuesday. She said she was relieved when Clarkson and Shelton turned their chairs, but it was a "surreal" experience performing in front of the music superstars.
"(Clarkson) is very normal, and I think that's why I connected with her," Stevens said. "It was just like talking with my friend. She's a cool girl. I think we're going to be good friends."
Stevens will next appear on "The Voice" during the battle round, during which contestants are paired up and sing against each other. She thinks her next episode will air toward the end of March.
"You all stay tuned. I think the best is yet to come," she said.