I recently had the opportunity to sit down with on-the-rise country artist, Kimberly Kelly. The Texas native recently released a new EP, Don’t Blame It on Me, and she shared her journey through the music industry as a traditional country artist — including a few of the greatest insights she has learned along the way.
What is your backstory?
I’m originally from Lorena, Texas — a small town outside of Waco. I released two independent records while playing the Texas music scene including dates at Gruene Hall and the Houston Rodeo Hideout, opening for artists including Radney Foster, Billy Joe Shaver, Cody Johnson, Jason Aldean and more. I moved to Nashville to sing backup for my sister, opening for Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and others. As a writer, I got my first cut on Tara Thompson, who was signed to Big Machine at the time.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that has happened to you thus far in your music career?
I would have to say meeting and getting to know Billy Joe Shaver might be the most interesting event in my career so far. A woman that I consider to be like another mother to me introduced us while she was selling him a house — the next weekend, I was playing mandolin for him at Antone’s in Austin.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’re currently working on?
Funding and recording the “Don’t Blame It on Me’’ EP has been the focus for me for the past year and a half. It came out on August 31st, so I’m still in the middle of promoting it. I have in the back of my mind a potential Christmas song and house concert tour with my friend and fellow singer/songwriter Erin Enderlin, but I still have a couple things I might do to round out this EP release!
Who are the most famous people you’ve interacted with? What was that like?
Former President Bush and journalist Dan Rather. I played the homecoming party for President Bush in 2008 when they flew him back to Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, TX on the day Obama was elected, so I got to meet him long enough to have a picture taken. Dan Rather I met during Billy Joe Shaver’s 60 Minutes taping. He walked up and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Dan Rather,” and I thought, “Yes! I know you — you’ve only been on my TV while my parents watched the news everyday, for as far back as I can remember!” Both experiences were very surreal.
Who inspires you?
It’s actually hard to say one specific person that inspires me. Musically, I am inspired by artists that are larger than life, like Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. Otherwise, I have a degree in speech pathology, and I still work part-time with children in the school setting and adults in rehabilitation facilities. I honestly get inspired and moved pretty regularly by those I work with — when they make progress on a task they’re focusing on or find joy in a difficult situation. I think those situations — and the way I was raised — inspire me to give my best effort and be gracious.
Who do you aspire to be like?
As an artist, I aspire to be someone like Dolly Parton or Reba. They are both so charismatic.
How have you used your success to bring goodness into the world?
I hope people feel like they have a friend in me when they listen to my music — I hope it brings them joy of some sort.
What are 5 things you wish someone had told you when you first started, and why?
1. Set goals, but don’t put imaginary deadlines on yourself. Work towards your goals, but at some point, you are relying on people and things out of your control, so by keeping that in mind you’re not as hard on yourself if something doesn’t go as planned.
2. Don’t make announcements until something is set in stone. Then, if you miss something by a day or so, no knows — but you.
3. Don’t stress too much about social numbers. Just be yourself, be consistent, and have fun with the people that do support you.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for something. To open a show, for someone to listen to your project — just send the email. They are either going to respond or not, and if they don’t, you’ll end up forgetting you wrote the email anyway!
5. Find and know your brand. It’s like finding your purpose, if you know what you stand for, it’s easier to say yes or no to what does and doesn’t fit you.
Who would you want to share a meal with? Why?
I’ve said before I’d be curious to share a meal Abraham Lincoln, because I have a strange fascination with him. He appears very stoic to me, and I love history. Music related I’d probably say Dolly Parton — to hear her stories and soak up some wisdom.