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Brady heats up South Beach

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

ALBANY -- You see rising Albany-raised urban pop diva-in-waiting Brady Ward -- or you hear her sing -- and you just know it. She's got that something.

No less a luminary than the world's most famous pop singer, Beyonce Knowles, saw it from the stage during one of her recent concerts.

"I was at Beyonce's concert at the (Bank)Atlantic Center (in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), and there was a little open section between the rows of floor seats," said Brady, whose been-there, done-that cool melts into little-girl delight as she tells the story. "I begged security to let me run into that area and snap a picture during 'Single Ladies,' and they said I could.

"Well, I was right there in front of Beyonce, and I got caught up in it. I started doing her dance, and suddenly all the paparazzi were taking pictures of me. She's up there on stage performing, and she points down at me. The next thing you know her PR person is telling me to come backstage after the show."

The subsequent meeting -- that results in a shared hug and encouragement from Knowles -- is just one more in a long line of improbable stories that has marked Brady's -- first name only, please -- rise to the edge of stardom that she's longed for since she was old enough to sing.

"I think I started singing in the womb," Brady tells a visitor to her mom's (Patricia Ward) Lincoln Avenue home. "I started singing before I could even talk. I always heard big sister (Tyler Noel, an Atlanta-based singer) sing, and I wanted to be like big sister."

But it was after the Wards moved to Albany when Brady was in the seventh grade that the around-the-house talent that the youngster displayed started to blossom.

"I was always the chunky girl with the strange, curly hair," Brady says. "But when we moved to Albany, I lost weight. Then one day when I went to school a boy tried to talk with me. I went in the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said, 'Yeah, you're kinda cute.' And I threw all that shyness stuff in the garbage."

Brady's parents -- Patricia and former professional basketball player William "Big Show" Ward -- separated while Brady was attending Albany High School, where she was a cheerleader, and it was while the budding singer was with Big Show in Miami that the performance bug bit.

"My dad and I were watching TV one day, and we saw a commercial for an open mic contest," Brady said. "It was in a club in Miami, and I asked dad if he'd take me and let me compete. It was hilarious; he was the only white person in the place, but he was not going to let his (then) 14-year-old daughter go in there without him.

"Everybody there was all gangster, and I was the only girl and my dad was the only white person. It was great."

William Ward remembers that day quite clearly.

"It was July 10, 2006 and the club was the Miami Pipeline," the Big Show says in a phone conversation. "I kind of knew music would be a big factor in Brady's life, but I never dreamed it would be that great. She did that first open mic show, and in the next 25 days she ended up doing 17 shows. And 36 days later she ended up doing her first big street festival."

Hooked and in demand, Brady performed at open mic competitions and at clubs in Miami throughout that magical summer of 2006.

"When I got on stage, I was somebody else," she said. "I was the focus of attention, and when I sang, I made sure every mouth in the place was open, going 'Oh, my God.' When I got back home, I told mama, 'Get your coins together because I'm going to sing.'

"I've always known I was going to be in the entertainment industry."

Brady finished her education at the Dillard Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale and started to craft her talent in earnest. With William Ward running Big Show Management and guiding her career, she became one of the most in-demand artists in the Miami area.

She's a regular among the South Beach hip-pop crowd and has performed with such artists as T-Pain, Omarion, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Fat Joe and Trina. She also caught the eye of soul legend Betty Wright, who recruited Brady for her innovative MOST ("Mountain of Songs Today equals Mountain of Stars Tomorrow," Wright explains) School, where young artists and songwriters learn everything about the music industry.

"We work on everything from vocal lessons to terminology to contract negotiations to performing to Pro Tools," Brady, who will turn 19 next month, said. "I'm employed as a songwriter, but I'm learning everything about the (music) business from Miss B (Wright)."

Or, as dad/manager Big Show puts it, utilizing an appropriate sports metaphor, "Betty teaches her artists about the business under game-day conditions."

Brady left for Atlanta this week to record and write with ATL hit-makers Don Vito and Jazze Pha. She'll spend a week there at Wright's Atlanta home, working in the studio, updating her website and doing photo shoots.

The song she's recording in Atlanta will be part of a new, more urban pop EP than her first collection, the R&B-flavored "Both Sides of the Story," which includes a duet she wrote and performed with Wright.

"I'm trying to find my image, make a move in that direction," Brady said.

Mom Patricia would rather baby girl's move be toward getting an education, but she's learned to adapt to her daughter's strong will.

"I'm definitely ambivalent about her career," Patricia Ward said. "All of her friends are away at school now. But between her father and her ... well, she's doing what she loves now, so I have to respect that. I have to believe she'll return to school one day."

Right now, though, there's fame to chase down.

"I want world domination with my music, Beyonce and Lady Gaga domination," Brady says with not a trace of irony. "I just remind myself that with God, all things are possible.

"I gave up school for this industry because it's what I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember. If it takes me sitting in front of a record label all day until I get someone's attention, that's what I'll do. I realize it takes more than just talent ... Someone can have all the talent in the world, and it's still just crickets when they perform. Me, I'm going to do whatever I have to do to make it."

It wouldn't be wise to bet against her ... just ask Beyonce.