Lifestyle & Human Interest

Country Superstar Brad Paisley Gives His Golden Buzzer to Teen He Likened to Taylor Swift


I was a quiet seventh-grader. A bit of a misfit, I was much more interested in rereading “Harry Potter” than joining a sports team. At the time, I found solace in Taylor Swift’s music — her songs about being a teenage “outsider” helped me feel a little less alone.

I wish I could have listened to 15-year-old Sophie Pecora’s original song, “Misfits,” when I was a teenager. The NBC “America’s Got Talent” contestant is reminding everyone how important it is to love your peers and recognize yourself in the process.

In her initial “AGT” audition, Pecora wowed the judges with her passion for songwriting. The young musician can rap, strum a guitar and sing with such expertise, no one was surprised when judges voted her in with a unanimous “yes.”

Although she seems at ease onstage, Pecora often writes about her shyness. Since she’s an introvert, her songwriting serves as an outlet for her emotions. The musician explained her writing process in a pre-performance interview with “AGT.”

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“I am a quiet person, but I do have a pretty loud mind,” Pecora said. “A lot of the time I get stuck in my head and I just overthink, a lot.”

On her second AGT round, Pecora performed another original song for the judge panel, which included country music star Brad Paisley. The 46-year-old singer appeared as a special guest for the first round of Judge Cuts.

Pecora’s original song carried a powerful message: “misfits have some powers that are really pretty rad.”

The song touched upon Pecora’s personal experiences, including how it feels to be bullied at school and the urge to compare herself to other girls on social media. Her performance earned an enthusiastic round of applause. It was Brad Paisley who seemed particularly moved.

“I don’t think there’s maybe a more important issue now that social media is this thing that’s pervasive, everywhere we look,” the Grammy-winning singer said.

“Young people not understanding that isn’t that big a deal when you look back on your life. You have schooled so many people in this moment, and I think I’m done.”

The audience roared as Paisley hit the Golden Buzzer, automatically moving Pecora to the live show round. The songwriter was speechless as Paisley walked onstage to embrace her in a congratulatory hug.

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“It was the combination of her talent, and where she was in the show, and the idea that what she has is a talent,” Paisley told PEOPLE.

The star described the singer as “quirky,” with a soft voice that contrasts with the boisterous musical style that naturally pops on television.

“Sophie’s more of the coffee house vibe, and I thought [the Golden Buzzer] might need the nudge, because it reminded me, actually, of some of the early stuff that Taylor Swift was doing,” Paisley said. “In the sense that Taylor was writing these songs that started out with her and a guitar, and what it was like to be that age, and every girl that was anywhere near that situation immediately just took to what Taylor was doing. Sophie delivered it perfectly.”

“thank you @BradPaisley ! Your words mean so much. and you know how much i love words,” Pecora wrote on Twitter. “can’t wait for the song I’m doing at the live shows!”

While you wait for the next “America’s Got Talent” episode, click here to watch the other performances that earned a Golden Buzzer this season.

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Noel Marquis is a journalist and animal-lover hailing from the Midwest. After an internship with Disney following her college graduation, she pursued a career writing content that makes readers smile. Coffee, books and superhero movies are some of her favorite things.