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Student by day, pop star by night: Alabama’s Bailey Coats is real-life Hannah Montana

From the outside, Bailey Coats looks like your typical college student.

A senior in marketing at the University of Alabama, the 21-year-old is on full academic scholarship and planning to graduate in May.

But while other students might be waiting tables or playing video games in their spare time, you’ll often find Coats behind the microphone – recording the music she’s been writing since an early age.

“It’s something my parents said has always been in my blood,” says Coats, who graduated from Mountain Brook High School. “At the age of 2, I had memorized the lyrics to Faith Hill’s song ‘Breathe.’”

It would be another 10 years or so, though, before Coats would begin to think of music as a career option. At age 13, she performed in a showcase for young performers, landed a development deal and produced her first EP, “American Girl.”

Since then, she has continued honing her craft and writing music, performing on stages throughout the Southeast and developing a following on YouTube. Videos for “American Girl” and the song “Deep Within” have more than 100,000 views each, and “Deep Within” recently reached the top 10 on KIX 95.9, a popular radio station in Nashville.

“’Deep Within’ was never intentionally labeled a country song, but it’s so humbling to be picked up by the country audience,” Coats says.

Her music is hard to pigeon-hole, as evidenced by the artists Coats mentions as her inspirations – Amy Winehouse, Michael Buble, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. The latter is on the list for more than her musical abilities. “I admire her incredible marketing skills as well as her relatability with her fans,” Coats says. “I’m a big fan of just basic Top 40 pop hits right now. I think it’s important to be aware of the music you’re trying to create.”

Coats is working with vocal coach Rob Stevenson, whose clients have included Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna. She and her team are continuing to build on the success she has already found.

“We’re anticipating more singles and an EP as well,” Coats says. “We’re going with the flow and looking for what the demand is in the market right now. I’ve been able to develop and write and grow on top of preparing new music that I’m preparing to release in the coming months.”

Until then, she’ll continue to balance the life of a student with that of a musician.

“It has definitely been a challenge to balance to completely different mindsets,” Coats says. “I’m surrounded by people trying to get their degree and A’s like I am, but I’m also thinking about how my songs are doing on Spotify and iTunes. It’s like ‘Hannah Montana’ in real life, just minus the secret-identity card. Everyone knows it’s me.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)