Gaines, now 18, still remembers a man in the audience drying his eyes after she finished.
It was the moment she decided to become a professional singer.
"I felt like if I could make a grown man cry, I could make the whole world cry," Gaines said.
She soon might have that chance.
Gaines, a Hephzibah High School graduate, will compete against hundreds of other vocalists today after she travels to Dallas for the final round of auditions for Fox's new fall TV show, The X Factor .
The show, a reality television singing competition created by Simon Cowell, formerly of American Idol , pits solo artists and groups against one another. Contestants are paired with judges based on certain categories, and the judges compete to ensure their act wins.
At her original audition for the show in Atlanta, Gaines said, she sang Minnie Riperton's Loving You . She chose the song for its extraordinarily high and difficult F-sharp-6 note.
"We only had 30 seconds to sing, so I tried to think of something that would catch everybody's attention and that among everybody else I would stand out," she said. "That song has a high note in it that nobody else there could hit."
She will probably sing the Riperton song again when she auditions today.
"I'm thinking about doing the same song because they always say if it ain't broke, don't fix it," she said.
After graduating from Hephzibah High School last year, Gaines moved to Atlanta in August to pursue her singing career full time.
She has formed her own label, Born 2 Sing Records, and is at work writing and recording songs for her first album.
"My goal is, I want people to hear my voice," she said. "I want to be a positive role model."
How does she feel about auditioning in front of Cowell, whose blunt criticism and often insulting remarks are well-known to fans?
"I am (nervous) because he's really hard on people," she said. "But I think when I actually get in front of him, all that will go away and I'll just sing."