TORONTO - The first time 19-year-old Ottawa native Kira Isabella prepared to take the stage as the opener for country star Carrie Underwood, she was understandably nervous.
So nervous, in fact, that she held the microphone to her chest and was surprised to find that the venue's sound guy could easily hear the beating of her anxious heart (and he teased her about it, too).
Well, things are a bit different now as Isabella prepares to open for Underwood at her hometown show at Scotiabank Place on Saturday.
"For the first Carrie dates, I was terrified ... (but) I'm starting to feel more comfortable," the bubbly Isabella said in a telephone interview Friday.
It's a good thing, too, since Isabella will certainly have the attention of her hometown.
Her parents are coming, and her friends, and the parents of her friends. It's hardly the first time they've seen her of, course, given the way the robust-voiced country up-and-comer pounded the proverbial pavement as a keen high-schooler, performing shows on weekends anywhere that would have her.
"I've played every old-age home in Ottawa," she says, not kidding.
It's been paying off. After she's done performing with Underwood (the pair also play Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Sunday), she'll tour with Terri Clark next year.
Isabella also won the rising star award at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, an honour that left her plainly gobsmacked ("I was so embarrassed by my face on TV — my jaw, like, hit the floor," she says).
And her debut album, "Love Me Like That," was issued by Sony in October, a milestone Isabella still can't quite believe. At home recently, she went to her local HMV with a friend and dug for her CD, finding two copies.
"We danced in the record store," she laughed. "'This is me! Oh my God! I love it!'
"So the novelty has not worn off."
Isabella does lament that her time with Underwood is coming to a close this weekend. But she did get some quality time in with the five-time Grammy winner, who invited Isabella to her dressing room for an introduction.
"She was so, so sweet," Isabella enthused. "I was a little bit starstruck. She's one of my idols.... She's the most genuine person. She even said to me: 'If there's anything I can do to make this a better experience for you, let me know.'
"I was like, um, it's perfect. I don't see how this could get any better."