20 Artists to Watch In 2020
Artist of The Decade: Final Round
Artist of the Decade
Round 1 of voting for our Artist of the Decade is complete with Miranda Lambert and Ashley McBryde moving on to the final round,
Vegas-born, California-raised and now living in Nashville, Kailey Nicole’s music is inspired by her family’s southern roots.
Nicole was shaped by the country music always playing in the house. Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash all made an indelible impression on Nicole and their “honesty and ‘trailblazing’ attitude toward their craft” helped shape her own musical spirit. “Back in the day, my grandmother looked and sounded like Connie Frances,” Nicole described. “In order to pay her way through nursing school she would perform as Connie throughout Kentucky. She picked me up every day after school when I was young, so she has had a big influence on my music and me.”
Kailey Nicole got her professional start singing and acting in theatre when she was nine years old. She’s worked in film, TV, voice-over, and commercials, which has helped set the stage for her recording career. But above all, Kailey has always enjoyed playing the guitar and writing music. She made her first mark on the music scene in 2015 when she was just 16 years old, with her first EP, Nashville Stick-up (Fervor Records). The EP and accompanying video for the title track were well received by critics and marked Nicole as someone who sang like an old soul at a young age.
With the Nashville Stick-up under her belt Nicole decided to take time off from performing to study music at the University of Southern California. Now graduated, she has reemerged with the release of her bold new eponymous titled EP. The new collection of songs was produced by musician Niles Thomas (Roxystar), the EP was mastered and engineered by six-time Grammy winner Bonzai Caruso (Madonna, Stephen Marley).
With this new record, Kailey Nicole has found her harmonious sweet spot –the place where old and new meet. “Both EPs are traditional as well as contemporary country, but I think this new EP blends in some other genres, as well. This time the approach to production is different, the lyricism is different, and my approach to vocals is different. I think what’s working now is a sense of vulnerability and my comfortability in myself and the artist/songwriter I’m becoming.” Her blend of old-school country with new-school style makes her sound diverse and yet, relatable. Kailey Nicole is known for soulful lyrics—Y’all wire called them “gut wrenching and soul searching”—and it’s a one-two punch when paired with her powerful, yet ethereal voice.
Nicole actually started out recording a group of singles that slowly developed into Kailey Nicole. Two of the songs have been previously released as singles; “Diamonds and Coal” was released in February 2018 and “Brand New Day” was released in September 2018. The spirited sharp-tongued send-off “ “Diamonds and Coal” was written after a breakup and leaves you with the sense that Nicole isn’t going to let anything get her down—“Coming ‘round you miss me now, seems as though you’ve figured out, never be another one like me.” The song, “Brand New Day” was originally intended to be a demo for Kenny Chesney and she was asked to sing the vocal for the pitch. After Kenny passed on the tune the writers (Niles Thomas, Bonzai Caruso) offered it to Nicole and she decided to put it on her EP.
The soft and sweet, “Save Me For A Rainy Day” is a song that Nicole said, “just fell out of me” and was inspired by Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight”. The lively and rousing song, “Tennessee” didn’t start out that way. “When I first wrote the song I had the intention that is was going to be a heartfelt ballad about chasing your dreams and not letting anyone stop you,” she relays. “Then I stepped out of the room for a moment and when I came back Niles was completely changing the vibe of the song. He asked me to give him 20 minutes to see what he could do and if it didn’t work out, we’d go back to the ballad. I was practically having a panic attack, but after a few minutes I started to see where he was going and of course, that’s where the song ended up. Now it’s not only about chasing your dreams, but it has a little fight to it.”
“Country Love Song” is one of the first songs she ever wrote at the age of 15. “Because of that it will always have a special place in my heart,” she explains. “What is funny is the fact that I was 15 and certainly didn’t have any boys in my life to write about at that time so I used my imagination. That’s half the fun of songwriting sometimes.”
Nicole has recently made her home in Nashville. “I love Nashville and always knew it would be where I ended up,” she notes. “I was visiting there not too long ago and had a hard time getting back on the plane to head home. I didn’t want to leave Nashville and just sat there as the airlines called my name over the loudspeaker. It was then that I realized, ‘Hey! I’m an adult now. If I want to move here, I can.’ I got on the plane to California and started making the plans to make Nashville my new home.”
Playful yet determined, Kailey Nicole reminds us of popular music’s rich history of strong female voices and relative importance. The record follows in their footsteps with its fresh, vibrant vocals and Nicole’s fearless confidence and firmness in her musical direction.
The Group of The Decade