Meet Nashville’s Rising Stars: Kelsey Hickman
Asa part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kelsey Hickman.
As a singer-songwriter from Illinois, Kelsey Hickman wows audiences from all over the world, relentlessly playing residencies at several Music City venues, including the infamous Tootsies Orchid Lounge. A sweet singer with a smart ass kinda soul, Kelsey’s passion and all-in approach to life spills over into her vocals and stage performance, allowing her to bring the party to any stage.
Working with producer Kent Wells, who is known for his work with Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Kenny Rogers, has been a long time coming since starting out as a performer in her hometown. Seeing the opportunity to take her music career to an entirely new level in Music City, Kelsey teamed up with Wells as he produced her debut single, “Gone” which was written by Wells, and Bill DiLuigi, as well her full-length album called Gypsy released in 2016. DiLuigi was the grand prize winner of American Songwriter’s lyric contest and has over 300 recorded cuts in his career.
Since her adolescence, Kelsey was captivated by the country and rock ’n’ roll worlds and believed she had found her calling as a musician. Kelsey wrote her first song around the age of 12 while her parents were out one night. She later became well known for taking part in all the plays and musicals offered in her community.
As a 16-year-old, Kelsey became the lead singer of a Midwest band called Still Kickn’ after a garage audition. Her tenure with the band gave her the opportunity to perform in front of over 25,000 people while they opened for Lady A. Along with performances at notable venues, fairs, and festivals throughout the Midwest, the band was invited to open for Chris Young, Montgomery Gentry, Easton Corbin, and Tracy Lawrence.
Despite the discovery of her calling, Hickman’s devotion to her craft wasn’t without difficulty. “My parents’ marriage began to fall apart, and the subject of their fights was often my choice to pursue music. I felt caught in the crossfire, and even contemplated quitting the band.” The divorce of her parents, however, also encouraged Hickman to use music as an escape. “I lost myself in songwriting and performing — which was certainly beneficial. The very thing my parents fought over became my saving grace, my release.” In 2013, the band Still Kickn’ decided to part ways and it led Kelsey to make the decision to embark on a solo career. Kelsey’s artistry continues to show through her powerful vocals., Kelsey says, “I want to write and perform music that my listeners can connect with. If I’ve done that, I’ve done what I’ve been put on this earth to do.” Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
Igrew up in Sherman, IL. I’m not from Chicago. I say, “I’m from the corn!” Definitely a country girl with a rock n roll attitude.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been singing. My parents have plenty of home movies of me putting on shows for them in the living room. I was in choir and musicals as a young girl but got a taste of being in a country band called “Still Kickn” at the age of 16. I was lucky enough to tour the Midwest, opening for big names. Montgomery Gentry, Lady Antebellum, Easton Corbin, the Confederate Railroad, Chris Young, Lonestar, and Tracy Lawrence Performing on stage is where I thrive. I have the gift of being able to connect with an audience through music, and I can’t get enough of it.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Personally, I think it’s really cool that I have made a living doing music my whole life. I’ve been in a band performing ever since I was 16. It’s how I’ve paid all my bills and been able to keep my passion going. I’m very thankful for that. And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
When I moved to Nashville, I was so excited to run into a celebrity. You know, maybe one of my idols is her. The first person I met was Pauley Shore! He came to one of my shows at Tootsies. Pretty funny.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
The talent in the town just blows me away. I can honestly say I have grown into a better artist by taking a little piece of everyone I meet. Good or bad experiences! If you are willing to network, you will learn so much!
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am not vocally trained professionally by any means. This talent I have is a gift. What I have learned, I really taught myself. I have started songs in the wrong key and sung the whole thing straight through in the wrong key! I’m not embarrassed. It simply raises my awareness and motivates me to do better! Being tone deaf is a thing sometimes, haha.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would be nowhere in life or career without my papa! He has always been my number one fan, telling me to never give up. I have so many amazing memories with him and music. Whether it’s seeing him front row at almost every gig growing up or just riding around with him in the truck and listening to music.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Creating music that I can sing my asses off on! I have really found my voice in the past couple years. I am so thankful to have met Don Miggs. He’s stupidly talented, and he really has brought out the best in me, and we are just getting started.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s journey is different. I truly believe God has a plan for all of us, and he will put you where you need to be in life when you are supposed to be there. There have been times when I didn’t feel good enough for this industry because I wasn’t as far along as I wanted to be. Today, I am so thankful to be where I am because I am more confident and ready for anything life throws at me.
BE YOURSELF. Cliché I know. But NO ONE ELSE CAN BE YOU.
Surround yourself with good people. If you feel someone’s energy is off, remove yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to do so, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run. Trust your gut.
Always say YES. TO EVERYTHING! You never know where something so random could take you.
Work on your strengths just as much as your weaknesses. My anxiety can get the best of me sometimes when I’m in a situation I’m not familiar with. Learn how to control your weaknesses so they don’t win in the end.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Listen to your body. If you need rest emotionally or physically, it’s ok to take some time to yourself. In order to keep going and still have motivation to be the best, you HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR INSIDES!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Body positivity is huge for me! This world we live in can be so cruel. Being kind and lifting people up is something I LOVE doing. I’m so sick of people tearing others down to make themselves feel better! We need to stop this. I understand we make mistakes and no one is perfect, but we gotta stop being asses. Lol
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mom has always taught me “pretty is as pretty does” you can be drop dead gorgeous but having a good heart and soul will take you miles.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Shaina Twain! I’ve been a fan of her story and music ever since I can remember. She is so inspiring for the women of country music. I’ve always loved her look for Sound and her overall outlook on life.
How can our readers follow you online?