Interview: Critical Blast
The Message Driven Music of Kaylee Keller
by RJ Carter 11/28/2017
Kaylee Keller's Interview:
In 2003, I was reviewing a music reality series called NASHVILLE STAR. It was sort of the country music version of AMERICAN IDOL, before Carrie Underwood made AI go country itself. The winner of that first season was Buddy Jewell, but I was particularly drawn to the singer who didn't win the big prize, coming in third instead--a young lady named Miranda Lambert.
That particular quality I saw then is similar to what I see now in the music of Kaylee Keller, a twenty-year-old country music ingenue with a quickly growing discography and fanbase.
With her most recent music video, "Nowhere America," Keller garnered the attention of the folks at FOX, who put her on their airwaves and introduced her to a wider audience, who might be a bit surprised to find a millenial who's not quite into millenial things.
"I want people to listen to my music for what my music is, and not get distracted by clothing," says Keller, speaking of her fashion sense, eschewing revealing outfits in favor of more conservative attire. "Of course I like fashion, but I'm just trying to change society a little bit, and some things I see that I don't like, I'm like, 'Hey, I'll change it.' I can take control over the way that people look at me."
We spoke with the artist about her approach to country music, and learned she's more than just a good voice; she has a decent understanding of business acumen, understanding her market's demographics and their purchasing habits.
Country music is something that speaks to fans largely because it's built on life experiences. Being 20 years old, what do you pull from as life experiences to inform your music?
We live in a really fast society. We're growing up faster because social media is introducing us to so much, so quickly. So, for me, half the time I feel like I'm already an adult, and then the other times I feel really immature, like I'm just trying to catch up.
We all have our own experiences, and it is about life experiences. One thing I love about country music is that they're so open to letting you share those life experiences. Country music is very much storytelling, so I get to use my story and write it in music, and pull it from life.
Who are the musicians in country you listened to that made you want to get into it?
I have so many artists that inspire me. Growing up, I listened to Shania Twain the most, so at a really young age she inspired me.
I listen to so many genres. I listen to ABBA. I listen to Shirley Temple and James Taylor and Jimmy Buffet. I think that's probably the reason I like pop-country music, because I love the country vibe and all the pop musical tones. Nowadays I would say who inspires me is Kacey Musgraves--she's got some really fun stuff. Of course Taylor Swift, Kelsea Ballerini, Carrie Underwood...the big names, they're all great.
But my favorite kind of music is message-driven music. I'm very intentional about writing message-based songs, because music gives you a platform, and music changes lives. It affects your life, and I want to affect my listeners in a positive way, and have them listen to my songs, and of course enjoy the beat and the lines; but I want them to pull messages from it and change their lives for the better.
Today more than ever, it seems that music and message and politics all seem to come together. From speeches at the CMA Awards to magazines like Marie Claire demanding to know why Taylor Swift hasn't made a political statement. How do you plan to handle that when you get backed into a corner and made to answer what you believe and stand for?
I answer the question, because that's part of who I am, and that's part of my character. I think it's very clear if you follow me on social media or have conversations with me. I'm very open about [my beliefs] because that's what makes me who I am. I'm open about my religion, and what I believe in, and my moral values. I'm all about "We all have a choice, so make it good." And every choice has a consequence, so the choices that you make have repercussions. I want mine to open doors, I don't want them to put me in jail, or give me an addiction, or kill someone in a car wreck because you're half-bombed drinking and driving. I'm very black-and-white.
You got to go on FOX and perform your newest single, NOWHERE AMERICA. Was this your first "big exposure" for your music?
Yeah, FOX News was definitely a blessing! It was one of my biggest TV platforms. I've done TV, and I've done radio, and things like that, but FOX is definitely my first big exposure. So I was really blessed that I got to go up to New York and be on two branches of their show...and then I got to do a live performance on Fox Extra with my really good guitarist friend, Grant Mickelson, who toured with Taylor Swift for many years.
Any plans for a full-length album?
Well, I definitely could. That's always in the back of my mind. But I really like doing EPs, because I think, especially with what I see among the younger generation, is that everyone's buying the EP thing. Of course if you're Taylor Swift and you release an album, you can sell it. But most kids don't download every song. They're just downloading their top couple of favorites. So if you continue to release EPs, and you change the sound, kids are more likely to download that whole thing or download a couple of the songs.
And I can get them out quicker. Albums definitely take a long time to make, so I can release more songs quicker, and get quicker turnover rate at the level that I'm at right now. I find that that's really effective, and I find that some bigger celebrities are doing that, too. Jessie James Decker, she was releasing her last album in EP form throughout the year, and I know more artists are doing that.
Fans can visit Kaylee Keller's website at www.KayleeKeller.com.