Q&A with Kimberly Kelly


Kimberly Kelly has been teasing her label debut I’ll Tell You What's Gonna Happen over the past couple months through stellar songs “Summers Like That” and “Blue Jean Country Queen.” We had the awesome opportunity to catch up with Kimberly just before this year’s CMA Fest (2022) and chat with her about playing the fest this year versus 9 years ago when she first played it, signing with a record label, her song teasers and their impact, the upcoming album release, paying her dues in Texas before coming to Nashville, and much more!

(Interview by: Jeffrey Kurtis


1) CMA Fest 2022 is just around the corner! What are you most looking forward to with playing it this go round?

I feel more “official.” I’ve been in Nashville 8 years now, I signed a deal, I’m playing with my husband who’s an established songwriter in town, I have new music coming out, and I‘ve grown so much more into my artistry than I had 9 years ago when I first played it. 

2) You’ll be playing the CMA Spotlight Stage inside Fan Fair X on Saturday June 11 (11:30 AM CST). What can people expect from your performance on that stage and what  is the #1 reason that you feel the fans need to make sure that this show is on their to-do list?

They can expect some genuine country music and some laughs. I usually tell a good joke or two in between songs. And they need to come to my show now so they can say they saw me on the small stage before I hit the big stage next year! 

3) Though you certainly have had your fair share of paying dues (we’ll get to that in a bit). Congratulations on signing with Show Dog + Thirty Tigers! Were other labels approaching you, and ultimately what did those two bring to the table that made you select them as the perfect home for you and your music.

I don’t think a ton of A&R people at labels knew who I was or what I was capable of doing as an artist when I got signed— some publishers yes, labels, no. I’d never really showcased myself as an artist— I’d been focusing more on writing thinking it would lead to an artist deal. ShowDog partnering with Thirty Tigers promised me the opportunity to make the kind of record I wanted to make, but also to have a commercial country promotion team.

4) Through them, as you mentioned, you’re getting set to release your label debut I'll Tell You What's Gonna Happen on July 8, 2022. Tell us more about the album as a whole and what we can expect to hear from it.

It’s a collection of songs that I believe in. You’re going to hear some honky tonk stompers, two-steppers, and some slow, meaningful songs. 

5) Ahead of the album, you’ve done a really great job teasing it by dropping some songs. So, let’s talk about “Summers Like That.” We love that song! Where did it come from? How has it been connecting with listeners? Etc.

I was pitched that song several years ago when I was making the EP that got me signed actually. It’s a nostalgic song that mentions a lot of the songs I grew up on. Karyn Rochelle and Bobby Tomberlin wrote it. It’s taking a lot of the listeners back - I think -  like it took me back when I heard it. 

6) You recently released another song “Blue Jean Country Queen,” which has a little more of a 1970’s country tilt to it. Tell us a little bit more about that song and why you felt it was a great follow-up to “Summers Like That” and a good definition of the album as a whole.

I think the team decided to release it after “Summers” because it was upbeat. I wrote that one with my husband Brett Tyler and a hero of mine, Steve Wariner. I had the title, and we just wrote it about a woman that takes charge. Steve said he could picture Dottie West with fringe on her sleeves while we were writing it. 

7) You mentioned writing it with Steve Wariner, but he also ended up playing guitar on “Blue Jean Country Queen.” How did that all come about and what dynamics did he bring to the song that helped elevate it that much more?

Steve played guitar on the song because he was a writer on it. He has such a signature tone and energy that you can feel in that tune. When we started on the day we wrote “Blue Jean Country Queen” my husband was praising Steve on what seems to be his signature tempo, like on the song he wrote “Nothin’ But The Taillights.” Brett said, “Let’s write something with that Steve tempo!” And the title I had fit that speed. 

8) We mentioned earlier that you’ve absolutely paid dues. Tell us more about balancing getting a master’s degree and working full-time, with trying to navigate the very competitive Texas music scene and make your mark.

People use to ask me how I did it, and I really didn’t know until I slowly started to eliminate things. In Texas I was playing every weekend, going to school, and working full-time. I used to drive my 12- passenger van to work at an elementary school every day. Once I finished school all I had to balance was work and music, now I just finally was able to quit my job. I come from a family of hard workers. I never felt like because I was working I didn’t care about music as much— to me, being able to work and provide for myself gave me peace of mind to create instead of worrying about paying my bills.

9) Both Nashville and Texas have very strong music scenes, though both decisively different from one another. Can you shed some light on both scenes from the artist perspective, and the similarities you’ve found between them, but also the major differences that make them unique from one another?

I am so thankful for the Texas music scene. The Texas music scene showed me the ropes, even though the two industries have their differences. I did it all, fronted a band, hauled a trailer, did a radio tour— you name it. Some people come to Nashville and have never set foot on a stage. It takes the same work ethic in both places. The only difference I’d say is from Nashville you’re taking a broader approach, while in Texas you start out regionally. The songwriting is different also. You have to write your own songs to prove yourself in Texas, and there’s more co-writing in Nashville I think. The fans back home want to know you have what it takes. 

10) What is the best piece of advice that you can offer an aspiring songwriter/artist just trying to break into the music business?

Just don’t quit. I think I got lucky because I didn’t quit. Also, find and hone in on your brand— the thing that makes you, YOU. If you do that it helps you stick to your goals and not get too caught up in getting ahead of yourself or trying to compete with others.


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