Gary James' Interview With Singer / Songwriter
She's performed with Jo Dee Messina, Jewel, Craig Campbell, Marty Stuart, Bucky Covington, Raelynn and Eric Paslay. She's been featured on the highly acclaimed television show The Voice. She is Kelsie May, an up and coming singer / songwriter who is definitely someone you need to watch. Kelsie May talked with us about her life so far.
Q - Kelsie, according to your bio there's a vast number of superstars born and raised along Eastern Kentucky's Country Music Highway 23. Who are you talking about there?
A - There are so many artists that have come from this region, Keith Whitley, The Judds, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Dwight Yoakam, Tom T. Hall. Just a barrage of different artists, especially on the Country music side of things because it is Eastern Kentucky after all.
Q - Wow! You're in great company.
A - I am for sure. There's been obviously so many well known, talented artists coming from the Hills. We have sone just really great local talent. I think it's because of how everybody grew up here. Everybody's used to going to church and listening to everybody sing there and primarily that's kind of the main activity that everyone kind of grew up knowing, playing music, whether it's on somebody's front porch or down at the community center. You can definitely tell from the amount of stars this region has produced.
Q - Do you call Kentucky home, or Nashville home these days?
A - I'm still living in Kentucky currently, but I do travel down to Nashville a lot. It's about a five and a half hour drive, but I've done it so many times with my dad it's like nothing.
Q - How is it that you were introduced to Bernard Porter, the president and founder of PCG Nashville? Did he see you sing somewhere? Did you send him a demo tape or post something on YouTube?
A - Well, it was kind of along the lines of him finding me online indirectly. I had never performed out of the place before. I just lived there. I turned 13 in February and a few months before I turned 14 my parents like begged me to put YouTube videos on the internet because they thought I was extremely talented, but I have always been such an introvert. I was very shy and it took me like forever to actually gain enough courage to just sing in front of my parents. After I did that, they're like, "Kelsie, you really have to sing in front of everybody else because you're so good at what you do." So they talked me into putting YouTube videos on there. Somehow it got passed along to a local promoter in West Virginia because I live right across the border from West Virginia. And he passed it along to Bernard Porter and after Bernard had heard me he contacted my parents about me getting started in their artist development company.
Q - With so many people posting videos on YouTube on a daily basis, how does a Bernard Porter ever come across one of your videos? Do you know the answer to that?
A - All it takes is like a friend of a friend and maybe sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, one of those huge social platforms, for you to get linked up to someone that's connected in Nashville. It's just crazy how that all works out.
Q - What is David Malloy doing for your singing career? Is he trying to match you with a song? Is he trying to write material for you or collaborate with you on material?
A - Bernard had actually introduced him to me after I got off The Voice obviously because I'd had a huge platform with that. So, we kind of like reached out to him. He reached out to us. He actually produced my last EP which is called "Make Mine Count". He is a huge producer because he actually produced forty Number One hits for like Reba, Fleetwood Mac, Tim McGraw, Eddie Rabbitt, just a bunch of very, very talented artists. He's been in the music scene for a really long time. So, we kind of got introduced pretty quickly. Then he produced my last EP as I was saying. That was a blast to work with somebody that just had so much in-depth knowledge of the business. I'm definitely counting my lucky stars that I got introduced to him.
Q - How did you prepare yourself for The Voice? You hadn't been singing on stage before, had you?
A - No. I've been doing this whole singing career for about three years now. So I'd only been performing for a year I suppose, just in local areas where I live. Then I just continually put videos out there on Facebook and YouTube. The Voice actually contacted me to do a private audition because there are several steps you have to go to before you get to meet Blake (Shelton) and Adam (Levine) and all of them. So, they called me in and asked me to do a blind audition in front of some of the producers in Cleveland, Ohio. So I went down there. I did a couple songs for them and then they sent me to L.A. for an executive audition in front of all their producers and I made it past that round. So then they asked me to come back to L.A. and film for the blind audition, which I did. That was just an amazing experience, but it was definitely nerve-racking because obviously I was very, very new to the whole music scene. Even though I had been performing for a year, it definitely wasn't in front of a mass crowd that The Voice brings in. There was like fourteen million people watching the night my blind audition aired. So it was definitely a very, very cool experience, but a nerve-racking one for sure.
Q - When you were working locally, did you have a band backing you up?
A - I didn't. I have a band now. I performed with tracks and with just me and my guitar and that was it. It was just a very intimate setting whenever I performed. I don't know. I loved it. I opened for Tate Stevens in Rich Hill, Missouri. If you don't know who Tate is, he's the winner of The X Factor. He did a show for his hometown for like a Fourth Of July weekend concert. It was just me and my guitar. I just did a lot of concerts like that because I didn't have anybody else to back me in that sense. Obviously I hadn't been doing it long enough to get introduced to all these people. So it was cool, but very scary for a 14-year-old.
Q - Would it have been harder for you to break into the business had you not been on The Voice?
A - I do not regret being on the show at all. I think it was an amazing opportunity. I do think it gave me a national platform because there's millions of viewers every single time an episode airs. So in that regard I feel like it did push me a few steps up the ladder. If I hadn't been on the show I would definitely still be doing music, but I guess I really can't answer the question "Do you know where you would be without The Voice?" because I gained a lot of support from the show, so I think it probably would've taken me a few years to gain as many fans as I have now because of the show.
Q - Where does your career stand now as we're talking? What are you going to do in the near future?
A - Well, I'm actually about to record and release a new EP with new material. I'm super excited about that. This year (2016) I've been to so many different places to perform. I actually headlined a show with my band in Las Vegas, which is awesome, and I got to do a show in Georgia with Tate Stevens, oh, I'm sorry, in Florida with Tate Stevens. I actually performed two sold-out shows with Ray Stevens in Georgia. I got to travel a lot and expand my brand and meet new people, gain new experiences. I'm about to go back into the studio. So I'm excited. I definitely feel like this will be the most authentic material I've ever released because I have more topics to write about and talk about as a whole.