Introducing....Kristen Kelly

Regular blog readers will have seen my review of American country singer-songwriter Kristen Kelly's debut self-titled EP last year. I was lucky enough to be able to interview her earlier this week.

What made you want to be a musician and why?
Well I grew up singing in Church and I sang at Church camp and was in choir in school. My grandfather was a country singer-songwriter in Texas and I have forty-five records of him and his band 'Stirling Kelly and The Hearts'. So I grew up in love with country music but it was never anything that was forced upon me, it's just something that I gravitated towards and I was in choir in high school. After I graduated high school I was bar tending my way through college and it was a slow night at the bar and we had karaoke. I sang a song and this guy had come in the bar and he heard me singing and he pulled me aside and said 'can you sing something else?' and I sang. He asked me if I wanted to be in a band and I thought 'is this a loaded question?', like 'where's the hidden camera crew?' and that's what started my three year stint in a classic rock cover band and we played all over Texas and Oklahoma. That's what really light a fire inside me to pursue music for a career.
That's really cool! Can you remember what song it is you sung?
Yeah I sang 'Complicated' by Carolyn Dawn Johnson for him.
You've played the Grand Ole Opry a few times now, how does it feel when you step onto that stage?
It is so intimidating! It's amazing, just the integrity and the history and everything that goes along with the Opry itself and to know that I'm standing in a circle where legends have stood it just blows my mind and I get nervous every single time.
How do you deal with nerves before a performance?
We have a pre-show ritual that everybody in my band and if any of my management team or my booking or anybody from the label is there with me then we all do like a little band huddle and we say a few choice words in our little huddle and that's kind of what helps me. Once we do that it's like 'alright, game faces on, I'm gonna go do this' and I still get nervous but it's kind of like when that happens it's like 'alright, I've got all these other people with me and we're all doing this together' so I can be a little less nervous.
How are you finding having fans sing your songs back to you when you're touring?
That is amazing! That is something that I don't know if I will ever get used to, it's pretty surreal because first and foremost I'm a fan of music and I'm a fan of country music so I have been that fan out in the audience singing songs back and I still am. Whenever I'm out on the road playing with somebody I'll go watch the show and I'm singing along with everybody else in the crowd so it's all so surreal to me.
You've been on some pretty big tours, what would be your dream tour to be a part of?
Oh that's a really good question. I'm just happy to be out there on the road with anybody and everybody. I would love to be on the road with Merle Haggard even for one show and I want to do a Crossroads at some point with Pink so that would be cool. I don't know, I'm just happy to be able to do what I do and be able to share the stage with whoever will allow me to share the stage with them. 
Which song do you wish you had written and why?
 "The Way I Am" which is a Merle Haggard song. It's simple but it says so much in so few words I think. "The House That Built Me" which Miranda Lambert cut. I remember listening to that song driving down the road and I literally had to pull over because it just struck me and hit an emotional chord for me and I was like 'wow this is a great song, I wish I'd written this'. There are songs everyday that I hear, that I stop and think 'wow I wish I had written that'. But those are just a few. 
You write a lot of your own songs, do you find song writing easy?
There are times where I feel like it comes easier than others, song writing for me is a very emotional and therapeutic process. I write a lot about stuff that I've been through, stuff that I'm experiencing, I have a hard time writing about something that I can't really connect with. So sometimes it's easy and then I'll go through spells where I feel like 'uh I'm searching for ideas' and then there are times where it's like the ideas just flow and I'm like 'wow okay I need to write that down' [laughs]
What would you say the hardest song was for you to write?
I don't know if it was really hard to write it but there's a song called "Feeling Nothing" that I wrote with Paul Overstreet - the first song that I ever wrote with him - and it's the first idea that I brought to the table and that was just a very, very emotional song for me. So I guess it was really therapeutic to get that out because I had held on to that idea for several years and I knew what I wanted to say but I just wasn't really sure how to say it and sitting down in the room with him and writing that song, it really captured all the different emotions that I was feeling and I feel like we said it in the best way possible. 
Which song do you have the most fun with performing live?
"Ex-Old Man" is a really fun song to perform and it's awesome to watch the crowd get into it. I'll ask before I play it how many of us have an ex husband and I'll ask how many of the men have an ex wife, so it's just interesting to see the crowd's reaction and see the people get involved and into that.
Which artist would you like to collaborate with and why?
Pink is definitely one that I'd like to collaborate with and if we're talking country music, I know I mentioned Merle Haggard already but he's definitely one....I don't know, those are my two! [laughs] 
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I listen to all kinds of things, I just downloaded Joe Nichols' new album and my friend Will Hoge, I downloaded his new album. So those are a couple that I've been listening to lately and usually whenever I buy new music I'll live with it and listen to it quite a bit and then find something else that I will obsess about and then keep coming back and forth between all the new things that I like.
What's your favourite part about being a musician?
Just the whole process, the whole creative process from beginning until the finished product that you get to share with people. It's a really inspiring process to me and I think it's fascinating that people can put words on paper and put music to it and share it with the world and it move people. That's something that no matter what's going on in our lives, if we're broke, if we're rich, if we're sad, if we're happy, there's all these different emotions that can be brought out by the power of a song - that's just a fascinating and inspiring and awesome thing for me.
What's your least favourite part?
There's this saying that we get paid to load in and load out and we play for free and I wouldn't say that there's a least favourite part because it all goes hand in hand but I think, some of the travelling, the late nights and then you have to get up to catch a really early flight, some of that can be taxing, but I mean it's all worth it. I'm getting to travel and see places and meet people that I probably wouldn't ever have gotten the opportunity to do so if music wasn't my life.
What's been your favourite place to play so far?
The Opry is up there at the top of my list I gotta say [laughs] 
Are there any others?
Well there's something special about every venue that you play. There's a lot of fun in playing a full band show where you get to plug it in, turn it up and rock out but there's also something about playing an intimate camp-fire  Some really good friends of mine had their annual bonfire the weekend before last and it's just a bunch of people sitting out around a camp-fire and we had chilli and grilled stuff and just sitting around with them and I just got up and I sang a few songs and that's cool too, it's not all about lights and cameras and productions and all that stuff, there's also something really cool about an intimate show.
Your EP is brilliant, do you have any news on a release date for your album?
I don't, I'm working on new music right now and I'm eager to get it out there to everybody and as soon as I know more I will eagerly share it! 
I've got to ask, any plans to tour the UK?
I have not toured the UK but I would love to! The moment it gets brought up I'm like yes please! So I will hopefully be there sooner than later. 

I am a big fan of Kristen and would certainly recommend that everyone buys her EP. Kristen is an extremely talented artist and a very humble person and I would definitely suggest going to see her live if you get the opportunity.