When 17-year-old Hailey James went to Country Fest with her family in late June, she had no intention of ending up onstage with Dustin Lynch.

In an interview, James noted that her parents go to the event every year and have seats toward the front of the grounds. This year, she decided to go with them, and wound up not only onstage, but going viral after the event.

During Lynch's set at the Cadott, Wisc., festival, the singer asked the crowd if anyone wanted to come up and sing his duet “Thinking ‘Bout You” with him. Because James’ parents are Country Fest regulars, those around them knew the high schooler's singing abilities and did their best to attract Lynch’s attention.

“I wasn’t paying attention, so [I] didn’t hear him say that,” James admits. "The next second I hear Dustin say onstage, ‘They’re all pointing at you … Do you want to sing with me?'"

Up she went, and although she says he was nervous at first, that fear quickly subsided as she settled into her “pinch-me moment."

“Dustin Lynch took my hand, and I was just walking him across the stage like I literally owned that stage,” James recalls. "My parents were blown away at how I took the stage … and I did it. I remembered the words, I acted like I was supposed to be up there, and they were super proud of me.”

James posted the footage her family and friends took that night to Facebook, and after it slowly started raking in the views, the singer decided to create a TikTok account the following month and post her performance there.

She went viral, accumulating more than six million views across two videos. Lynch reposted her performance in his Instagram Stories, too.

It's hard for the budding artist to put a moment like this into words. Aside from the new fans on social media, the opportunity to stand onstage in late June was a dream come true.

“I’ve always wanted to play on that stage at Country Fest," James says, "and I finally got to sing on it.”

James lives in Twin Cities and attends a performing arts-focused school. Her dream is to pursue music after she graduates. Fans can check out her music at HaileyJamesMusic.com.

Top Country Songs of 2021, Ranked

You'll find much more than just the Top 10 Country Songs of 2021 on this list.

Our team has sourced fans to create 10 superlatives for this mid-year version of the year-end songs list. Best Country Tearjerker? Best Country Baby-Maker? Best Country Breakup Song of 2021? Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, Chris Bandi and more help make up this portion of the Top Country Songs list, while hitmakers like Thomas Rhett and Little Big Town lead the 10 best songs portion.

Did your favorite song of 2021 make this list? To be considered, the song must have been released in 2021 or have actively charted for a portion of the year (see "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"). New artists including Lainey Wilson, Breland and Triston Marez crack the Top 10. Let us know your favorite song of 2021 at Twitter or email, at staff@tasteofcountry.com.

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