It wasn’t a typical path to country music for Kelley Swindall, but rather she began as an actress. For school she moved to New York City where she would act in plays. There she also met a musician who later became her boyfriend and exposed her to the music scene. After their breakup, Kelley was filled with emotions and decided to put them in a song.
It has been music ever since. Learning to play the harmonica and the guitar in addition to singing, Kelley made her way to the stage. With a love of performing, being on the road has given her the opportunity to do what she wants, when she wants. Kelley most enjoys connecting to fans of all ages and diversities and hearing their stories. Her goal is to tour abroad in Europe and Asia.
Coming up for Kelley is the release of her new album “You Can Call Me Darlin’ If You Want” which is set to release on September 18th. The title track is about defining a relationship with a friend and encompasses her vintage sound. You can hear it here.
You can follow Kelley on social media at @kelley.swindall and on her website here.
If you’ve ever wondered what the sonic lovechild of Oasis and Dolly Parton would sound like, look no further than Savannah Conley.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee to a background singer mother and a session guitarist father, Savannah Conley was immersed in the music industry from a young age. Her childhood was soundtracked by a countless spin of records, spanning genres and decades, unwittingly laying the foundation for her own artistic development. Drawing inspiration from the Southern whiskey-tinged sounds of her hometown, her parents’ eclectic record collection, and the emerging local indie-rock scene, eleven-year-old Conley began her own foray into the world of songwriting. By 2016, at the ripe young age of nineteen, Savannah was awarded the BMI Foundation John Lennon award for her impressive songwriting ability.
Savannah Conley has quickly become one of the most promising talents to rise from the local Nashville scene. In 2018 she released her debut EP, Twenty Twenty, which was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb (Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, John Prine) and released via Low Country/Elektra Records. “She really reminds me of a southern Mazzy Star and I was blown away with her lyrics,” the legendary producer remarks of Conley. Twenty Twenty was released to widespread acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, NPR, Ones To Watch, and Refinery29. Rolling Stone praised the EP as an “emotionally rich collection of tracks full of moody instrumentation and whip-smart lines” and Conley was named as one of their ‘Artists You Need To Know.’ The EP release was followed by a US tour supporting Ben Folds and Violent Femmes, and a variety of gigs with iconic acts like Brandi Carlile, The Head and the Heart, Willie Nelson, and Ruston Kelly.
It’s hard to pinpoint Savannah Conley’s sound, but that’s what makes it so special. Combining a nostalgic guitar-driven musicality, unavoidable Southern charm, and a healthy dose of cross-genre inspiration, Conley has carved out a sound that feels both fresh yet timeless. Her lyricism is enchanting and goose-bump inducing, teeming with raw vulnerability that demonstrates a wisdom beyond her years, and her storytelling is only enhanced by her distinctive, rich, crystalline vocals and dynamic, full-bodied instrumentation.
Savannah Conley’s new single, “Never Want To Be In Love,” is out now!
Have you ever heard of Alice Randall? No? How about this instead, do you know Trisha Yearwood’s hit song, “XXX’s and OOO’s”? This number one single was co-written by Randall, the first African-American woman to co-write a number-one country hit. She has had over 20 of her songs recorded and she boasts numerous top 10’s. Randall currently resides in Nashville and is a writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University and teaches numerous courses including a seminar on the country music lyric in American literature.
Perhaps you have heard of Mickey Guyton. 36-year-old, Guyton, is the only Black-female country artist signed to a label. Her recent anthem, “Black Like Me” is finding its place amidst the growing movement for racial justice. Guyton told People Magazine, “As long as I can spark conversation that’s really all that matters.” Having released this song prior to the chain of devastating racial violence, she was afraid the song would be too provocative for country music fans. She said, “there’s no way they’re ever going to let me play this.” After the death of George Floyd, Guyton tweeted the lyrics to her song, “Now I'm all grown up and nothing has changed / Yeah, it's still the same / It's a hard life on easy street / Just white-painted picket fences far as you can see / If you think we live in the land of the free / you should try to be black like me." Within days, the song rose to the top of Spotify’s charts and has been featured on other playlists curated by Apple Music, YouTube, and Amazon.
Ashlie Amber is a woman of many talents. She just released her very first single, “Almost Love”, and is currently collaborating with Grammy and Emmy award winner, Jamie Tate, to create a country album. However, she also performed a residency while cruising on international waters aboard The Celebrity Edge, a $1.2 billion cruise ship. To top it off, Amber recently became a part of the esteemed Actors’ Equity Association and has performed all over the world from the past decade while being nominated for multiple Henry Awards and playing leading roles in broadway musicals.
Rissi Palmer is a Black country music artist who debuted in 2007 with the single, “Country Girl.” This single made her the first African-American woman to chart a country song since Dona Mason in 1987. She released her full length album, Revival, in 2019. The second release off this album, “Soul Message” was featured in Rolling Stone Country’s “10 Best Songs of the Week.”
Not only is country music male-dominated, it is also white-male dominated. Many chalk up the lack of Black country music singers to poor participation. However, this is clearly not the case. It is not solely up to successful Black country musicians such as Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, and Kane Brown to be paving the way for increased diversity in country music. Of the 139 inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame, there are less than 5 people of color. Country radio, award shows, journalists, and every type of media outlet needs to be an ally in promoting diversity in country music. Now is the time to hold ourselves accountable and to create a large scale change. You can be part of the change by supporting these artists mentioned, and by not shying away when the conversation becomes uncomfortable.
For more, please listen to our Voices of Color Spotify playlist here.
Canadian singer Kendra Kay is rooted in tradition country. Always busy on the farm, riding horses and listening to 90s’ country artists Loretta Lynn and Linda Ronstadt, music came easy to her. Now evolved as an artist, she has found her own unique found incorporating the banjo and fiddle in her music.
Kendra’s new single “Steady” speaks of her supportive family in the music industry. She notes, “When times get tough, especially these days with everyone staying home and our incredible frontline workers keeping everyone safe, along with the sacrifices their families have made, the message of this song is more important than ever. There are days when I feel like falling apart, and I am so greatful have an incredibly supportive family and team of people around me that are my rocks and keep me strong and pushing forward. This song is a tribute to the people, whether it be family, friends or anyone in between, who are holding each other up and keeping us 'Steady'. This song is a representation of the amazing support system I, and many other people have, in this crazy world."
Not a goal setter, but someone who lives in the moment Kendra will keep pursing music until it’s not fun anymore, despite the challenges ahead. To hear more from Kendra follow her on social media at @KendraKMusic and on her website here.
Amy Jack believes, “Music is the most powerful mover in the world” and she continues to prove that through the passion and conviction in her music produced by legend, Merle Haggard. Amy is a native of Sulphur, OK and currently resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. The Women of Country recently spoke with Amy to learn more about her journey from beginning as an Account Executive at iHeart Media to hearing her own songs played on radio.
Growing up on a ranch, Amy was your All American girl. She loved to ride horses, fish, work on the farm, and roam the pastures. Her mother was a music teacher, so Amy’s love for music began at the early age of 5. Amy certainly had many country music stars to look up to that also hailed from Oklahoma such as Reba, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and so many more. However, her favorite artist is Merle Haggard. Amy says, “I remember feeling like he was singing directly to me when I heard his songs. We met at one of his shows, became close friends, and soon crafted an album together. Merle was such an inspiration to me, and he was such a good friend; I’m so blessed to have him produce my debut album.”
After receiving a degree in Broadcast Journalism from The University of Oklahoma, she became an executive at iHeart Media. This allowed her to meet so many inspirational and successful people in the music industry. Her journey through life has allowed her to write meaningful songs of faith, love, family, spirituality, history and even patriotism. When people listen to her music, her goal is for them to feel happy and carefree in that moment. A talented singer and songwriter is one who is able to allow you to escape the moment and that is what Amy Jack does.
Amy’s advice to new artists is, “Listen to your inner convictions and faith. Dig into your motivations that are good and true and pure. Find how to express your story and you will be able to connect with others.” Specifically, for female artists, Amy speaks of the power of a woman in her songs, “Jack of All Trades” and “Got A Life To Catch.” These songs are dedicated to women who don’t take the traditional approach to life, and are able to prioritize their career all while wearing several different hats and fitting many different roles. She encourages readers to give new artists a chance, especially female artists who many have less opportunity. “New artists can really contribute towards the genre and can really drive the future of the industry.”
You can stream Amy Jack on any major streaming platform. Her website is AmyJackMusic.com.