By Clarence Plank: PNT Staff Writer
Those who knew Kacee Lovato best say she was an inspiration to family and friends, a spirit who could take away another person’s pain with just a smile.
To Kevin Gardells, Lovato could light up a room when she walked in the door. When she sang, he said, “Angels stopped to take notice.”
Lovato, 20, of Portales was killed in a car accident early Thursday morning on N.M. 206. four miles south of Dora. The funeral is 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church in Portales.
She graduated from Portales High School in 2006 and worked at Sonic Drive-In and Hot Threads.
It was clear to many she was on her way to stardom.
“She was such a beautiful girl,” said Gardells, guitarist, mentor and friend. “She sang with a deep conviction, she would close her eyes and pull the holy spirit out of her. I know her mother, Angelia, loved that and so did her dad. She was a special person in my life.”
Gardells is a member of the Kacee Lovato Band. He has worked with Lovato since 2003. He met her through her parents, who were convinced Gardells could help her to achieve her dream of being a professional singer. He has 35 years experience in the music industry.
“She came over to the band’s house and sat in,” Gardells said. “We were absolutely flabbergasted, by this tiny, little, beautiful teenage girl and the voice she had. I mean, Leann Rymes’ voice and those young country singers, who are truly talented singers. This was who she was at the drop of a hat.”
She started performing with him at St. Helen Catholic Church. The two sang a song he wrote called “Gods Hands,” about his cancer scare.
“It is a very spiritual song,” Gardells said “The preacher … the entire place was in tears. They had never heard anything like it. The preacher said something to the effect that we are witnessing an angel on earth.”
They formed the Kacee Lovato Band in 2004 and released an album. They performed at weddings, funerals, Relay for Life, agriculture shows, fairs, dances, and private parties across eastern New Mexico and West Texas.
Lovato was a state finalist in the Colgate Country Showdown. She also performed at Nashville Star, Goobers and the Floyd Jamboree. She had been singing since she was 12 years old.
The band also performed live shows for Rooney Moon broadcasting because Moon loved her so much, said Gardells.
Bill Rice, a drummer who played with Lovato at the Floyd Jamboree, said after a show all the musicians would find little bags of candy and beef jerky and a thank you card..
“She would thank every one of us for playing with her,” Rice said. “This was the kind of person she was and she did this every year. I always thought this was a classy thing. I’m going to miss her like crazy.”
“I’m going to miss her beautiful smile, I know she was a beautiful person,” said Kimberly Johnson, a friend and co-worker at Sonic. “I say this on behalf of everyone here at Sonic, she was a pleasure to be around. I’m going to miss her walking in the door with a smile.”
Before starting her big push for a recording contract, Lovato took time away from her music career to spend be with her family and friends, her center.
“As far as her beauty, grace and style, she was a superstar as well,” Gardells said. “She was completely humble.
“In her first concert,” he said, “she was so nervous and she asked me, ‘What do I do?’ I laughed and said, ‘Just do what you do, Kacee. Be Kacee.’”