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Interview: Kimberly Kelly tells us ‘What’s Gonna Happen’ now she’s released one of the best albums of 2022

What a pleasure to talk to the artist behind one of our favourite albums of 2022.

Kimberly Kelly
Credit: Show Dog / Thirty Tigers

After many years of hard work getting her Master’s degree, working full time as a speech therapist and plying her musical trade in both the Texan and Nashville markets Kimberly Kelly signed a record deal with Show Dog Nashville last summer, quit her full time job and sold her soul to music! ‘I made this album like it’s the last one I’ll ever make,’ Kelly said recently and that shows in the passion and the drive of ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’. In case you missed our recent review of the album, you can do your homework and catch up first before you read our in-depth chat with Kimberly all about her career and her fabulous album.

Thank you for giving me your time today, it’s lovely to speak to you. Before we get into the music, I wanted to ask is it weird not going back to school this time round? (Kimberly quit her education job as a speech pathologist recently and so isn’t going back to school with the rest of the USA right now!)

You know, yes and no! (laughing) My husband’s parents just sold his childhood home and they closed it over the weekend so we were in Minnesota, right? I was like, ‘I would normally be at work right now and I would have had to have asked for some time off!’ It kind of feels like an extended summer break right now.

I’m absolutely loving ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Going to Happen’. It came out of the blue and was such a wonderful, nice surprise. That album title is quite a statement. Tell me about it.

I was good friends with the singer / songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, he was kind of a family friend. He met Waylon Jennings and Waylon said ‘Come on up to Nashville and play some more songs for me, I’ll record them’. By the time Billy Joe got up here they kind of tried to run him off and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen, you’re gonna listen to these songs or I’m gonna whup ya!’ (laughing)

They recently had an ‘Outlaws and Armadillos’ exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and in there was that quote, and a good friend of mine had gone through and took a picture of it and sent it to me because she knew that I liked Billy Joe. I took a picture and sent it to David Macias, who is the president of 30 Tigers. I told him that this was going to be my mantra for my record, you know, yeah, listen to these Country songs or I’m gonna whup ya! (laughing)

David dared me to name the record ‘Ill Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’ and I went for it. It summed up how I felt, thinking that my musical career was over and then being given another chance.

I love your own description of the album as a sub genre of Country music called ‘Country music’ Are you seeing things swing back a little bit towards a more traditional sound? Kane Brown is just about to hit number one with a very Country sounding song and artists like Scotty McCreary are having chart success too? Does that mean anything to you? Or do you just not care and you plough your own path?

You know, it does mean something to me. I have ploughed my own path before, just continuing to make the type of music that I loved. It wasn’t working for me. I hadn’t signed a record deal. I hadn’t signed a publishing deal. And then, you know, David Macias found me and loved my music. So I got lucky, I think because the pendulum is, maybe, swinging back around a little again. It just happened to be magic timing, I think.

Is it getting easier for Texan artists to make a living in Nashville or is Parker McCollum still a sort of outlier or a black swan? Do Texan artists even need Nashville because with streaming and concert tickets, you can circumnavigate the Nashville labels somewhat?

I don’t think Texans necessarily need Nashville if they don’t want it but if you’re wanting to reach a certain audience, then yes, I think Nashville is vital. I don’t think that Parker McCollum is a black swan or an outlier at all. He’s already had a number one hit so I think he’s cruising right along and then Cody Johnson just had one too. I think that this new group of Texan artists aren’t maybe so vocal about being against Nashville as some artists have been before in the past.

There’s so many great writers and musicians involved in your album. Is there one particular person that you’ve worked with on this album that you never thought of or dreamed you’d be able to work with?

Not necessarily. I will say, when Byron Hill reached out to me and said he heard my cut of ‘First Fool in Line’ that shocked me because I hadn’t met him before. I hadn’t been around him at all, I just knew his legacy as far as his amazing catalogue.

He even sent me a message recently, you know, saying he was so glad that ‘First Fool in Line’ made the record. We might even be doing a thing where we bring in all the writers on the album and they talk about songs. Byron said he’d help out any way he could in regards to that. That’d be so cool if we could do that.

I’m a huge Lori McKenna fan so ‘Person That You Marry’ is my favourite song on the album. Was it weird writing a song about divorce with your husband?

No (laughing), you know, not at all. I’ve experienced a lot of divorce in my family. I haven’t had a divorce but my mom has, unfortunately, and my dad has had a second divorce. My sister too, so it’s just such a universal theme.

You know, even if you haven’t been through a divorce, if you’ve been through a really bad breakup, you can relate to that song a lot. Even people who are married, have said to me that it makes them want to go home and hug their wife or their husband and say ‘Let’s not ever go through this.’

‘Summers Like That’ is another favourite of mine on the album. It references so many songs from the 90s and I was wondering, if you had to build your Mount Rushmore of four artists that you loved from the 90s Who would it be?

I’m gonna say Shania Twain, I just finished watching that documentary about her that’s on Netflix. Alan Jackson would be my second choice then I’d go Mark Chestnutt and I’m gonna say Garth Brooks too because Reba and George Strait has already established their careers in the 80s somewhat.

Talking about artists from the 90s – Steve Wariner features on ‘Blue Jean Country Queen’. That must be so fun to play live?

Ah, yes, it is so much fun. (laughing) Actually, I’m making my Opry debut on August 26th and Steve is on the bill too. He’s playing his own thing, but then he’s gonna come and play guitar with us on that song as well! That’ll be the first time he’s played guitar with us so I’m really excited about it.

Everybody is taking that song exactly how we wanted them to take it. It’s just supposed to be a good time song, like those old classic songs, you know? There are things in that song that obviously have happened to me. You know I’ve gone to the bar before and never had to spend a dime because everybody else will offer you a drink , but you know some of the other things are just made up for the sake of the song! (laughing)

Have you got a favourite song that you recorded for the album and then a favourite song that you love to sing live? Often it’s not the same.

That’s a good question and I think you are right, it isn’t always the same track. My favourite song on the album that I cut was ‘I Remember That Woman.’ Maybe live it might well be ‘Blue Jean Country Queen’ right now or even ‘Black Rose.’

When you’re singing a ballad, you kind of have to be serious. It’s often so quiet so you can hear every little nuance in your voice. Sometimes I’m guilty of over analyzing and being critical of myself whereas when you are singing an upbeat song you’re just getting after it and having some fun!

You are making your debut at the Opry on August 26th. Nervous or excited?

A combination of both right now! (laughing) I aim to just open my mouth, start singing and then let those nerves turn into adrenaline!

Kimberly Kelly’s excellent album ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’ is out everywhere now


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