- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

MANSFIELD, Mass. (AP) - “I’ve been involved in music since I was born,” Jillian Hobaica said while sitting in her blue and green bedroom adorned with trophies, dolls and pictures with friends.

Hobaica, 15, sat on a stool next to her new guitar, microphone and keyboard piano, the black and white keys hidden by song sheets of her favorite pop and country artists.

But, one name stood out: her own.

The Mansfield High School freshman has been writing music since she was 10 years old, sometimes scribbling lyrics on the bathroom mirror.

Before her latest song, “Take it Slow” hit iTunes in January, Hobaica wrote down the song’s music notes to practice.

“I wrote ‘Take it Slow’ during the summer before eighth grade. At the time, I was only 13, and I hadn’t had any experiences with love, but I was listening to a lot of Taylor Swift and Adele, so I wrote it as a cross between those two artists,” she said.

But, she kept it quiet.

“Jill is low-key about it,” said Janice Hobaica, Jillian’s mother. “In fact, the only time we hear her new songs is when she sings them in public. She writes in private and then just kind of hits us with it.”

According to her daughter, that privacy stems from an intense stage fright.

After her family moved to Mansfield from Bridgewater, Hobaica was asked to sing the national anthem over the intercom at Qualters Middle School when she was in fourth grade.

“I had never really done any big performances. I had bad stage fright,” Hobaica said. “That was my first big Mansfield performance,” she said.

She got through it though, and did well, according to her parents.

Her next big performances at Qualters would come when she snagged an ensemble in ‘Oliver’ and as Mrs. MacAfee in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ which earned her a best supporting actress nomination in the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild awards.

She didn’t win, but it was good practice for the Qualters Idol competition she entered in eighth grade.

She sang “Listen” from the musical Dreamgirls, and this time, she won.

Cut to a year later, Hobaica sang the national anthem at a Celtics Game, and nailed it, overcoming the stage fright that crept up again.

“It was weird because I was so nervous up until that day, but the staff at TD Garden made me feel so comfortable that when I got on the court, I wasn’t nervous at all,” she said.

Her mother chimed in, “She was cool as a cucumber.”

But, her biggest break was the result of a chance encounter on Martha’s Vineyard.

David Hobaica, Jillian’s dad, is the owner of Easton Pool and Spa, and was working on a project on the island when he bumped into a familiar face.

“I ran into an old friend who’s engaged to Jimmy Parr, an award-winning producer and sound engineer who’s worked extensively with Carly Simon,” David Hobaica said. “When Jillian wrote her first original song, we connected with Jimmy, and went over to the vineyard and recorded it.”

Parr was so impressed with Hobaica that he mentioned her during an interview with radio station WCAI, the NPR Cape and Islands station, saying that “her talent really shows” in the studio.

Parr helped Hobaica with her song’s arrangements and mixed the final version of “Take It Slow” before her father put it up on iTunes through a listing service in January.

And, the young singer-songwriter, who goes by the stage name Jillian Dawn, decided to donate 100 percent of the song’s iTunes proceeds to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which raises money for cancer patients and their families.

“I just began to notice, ‘Oh wow, the foundation does a lot things for a lot of people who need help.’ So I thought it would be a great way to help ease the burden on cancer patients,” Hobaica said.

As more people hear her music, Hobaica said she’s working on a new song called ‘The Player,’ and taking piano lessons to prepare for a summer songwriting workshop at Berklee College of Music.

“I’m really looking forward to it because I want to go to Berklee one day. That’s the dream,” she said.

If you’re interested in purchasing ‘Take It Slow’ on iTunes, you can find it by visiting https://bit.ly/1lBXQOS. To watch Jillian sing a verse of the song, visit The Sun Chronicle’s YouTube channel.

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