"I don't even remember the first ones," she says, but competition and travel with her family became a way of life. She was soon beating 18-year-olds, and she was just 9 when she won her first National Rodeo Association Junior Barrel Racing Title. Many titles would follow.
Her family's trip to the U.S. expanded her horizonsbesides getting hooked on music, she branded cattle and drove her first pick-up truckand when she returned to Australia at the age of 12, it was as a singer as well as a rodeo champion.
She asked for and got the chance to sing her country's national anthem at a rodeo and, she says, "loved the adrenaline rush. It was almost the same as getting on a horse or a bull." She met Australian country star Steve Forde at another rodeo and "asked him if I could hop up on stage before he performed and sing a couple. He was wonderfulhe let me do it!"
The two formed a friendship and before long she was touring with him as his opening act. She formed a band, began writing songs and finally went to the U.S. again, this time to record. After that project spawned hit singles in Australia, she returned to the U.S., recording this time with hit producer Landis.
"I've grown so much since then," she says. "Working with Richard is such an honor, because putting Richard's knowledge and my approach together captured something really special. This album reflects where I've come from and shows my progression."
Stroud heard part of the project once Shea had returned to Australia, loved it, and offered to fly her back to talk about a deal.
"I couldn't wait to work with the people at Stroudavarious," she says. "To have somebody like James, who's had so many No. 1 hits and has produced albums that have sold millions of copies, being so supportive of what I do is really incredible. I've been so lucky being a girl my age, being able to travel the world with my parents and now having the experience to live my dream and give it a real shot. I'm an everyday girl with a really cool job."
As sure as Shea introduces a top-notch young singer to American audiences, it introduces an upbeat force of nature as well.
"I believe the sky's the limit," she says, "for me and for everyone. Dream big. Work hard and you'll get there. It's just a matter of time. I'm going to keep dreaming big and keep striving to achieve new things every day."
And, with the hard-won wisdom of one for whom being bucked from a horse or bull is no mere metaphor, she adds, "If you fall, get back up again and keep going. Whatever you want to do is possible if you want to make it happen."