Screamer Magazine Premieres Kelsey Hickman's Music Video "Novocaine"
Video Premiere and Interview
It has been said that modern country music is rock music with cowboy hats, which would indeed be an apt description. Even though it’s a phone interview, one can imagine Kelsey Hickman emphatically nodding in agreement. She’s wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt in one of her videos, and the first single, Novocaine off her upcoming EP definitely ain’t your grandmother’s twangy old country. Hickman mentions Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean, two of modern country’s heavyweights, as favorites. “Jason Aldean is one of my influences when it comes to producing,” says Hickman. “Anytime I’m working on something in the studio, I reference the guitars and heavy bass and drums in his songs because that’s how I like to rock out on stage. That’s the stuff that people feel in their chest. I don’t like puny stuff, and Jason doesn’t do that either.”
Although Hickman may seem like a newcomer who is making a splash on the music scene, she has been at it since she was 16 years old when she fronted a Midwest band called Still Kickin’. The school of hard knocks, on the job training, it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n’ roll…Hickman has experienced all the cliches and come out stronger for it. “I thank God every day for my mom and my family always believing in me. They told me not to give up. When I was in high school, my dad told me I had to go to college. I did two years at a community college studying to be a PE teacher. Sounds crazy, right? I was going to be a PE teacher so I could wear sweatpants every day,” she laughs. “That was my reasoning. My dad finally came around, but I don’t know what I’d do without my parents.”
Hickman released an album entitled Gypsy in 2016, and currently has an as-yet-untitled EP scheduled for release this year. Her work ethic is relentless and she is not just music smart, but business savvy as well. Again, she learned from the ground up, making mistakes along the way but emerging stronger for it. “I’m from a small town and being on stage at such a young age, I was like a golden retriever bouncing around like ‘Hi! You wanna talk to me? Glad to meet you!’ I learned very quickly that you have to have a little wall up, you gotta protect yourself. I’m a road dog, that’s for sure, and that builds character. It puts a good head on your shoulders. You meet a lot of idiots in this world, but the more you meet, the better you can handle them. I’m definitely a people person. I love talking to my fans and I love talking to people like you, but at the same time, you gotta be careful.”
Given that, when asked how much control she has over her career, it’s not surprising that she answers confidently, “Absolutely everything. The older I get, the more of a control freak I am. I like to be hands on with everything. My team gets annoyed sometimes, they’ll say ‘you don’t need to know this’ and I reply ‘oh yes, I do!’ Everything goes through me.”
“Nothing is released, nothing is put out without my say. It’s my vision, it’s my baby, this represents me, and I don’t want to be represented in the wrong way. Some might think that I’m just some blonde country rocker chick, but I’m much more complex than that. I want to be portrayed the right way.” For the music video to the song, Novocaine, Hickman definitely went deep into the process. She relates how the production company would tell her that they’d put a concept together and send it to her, a proposal that Hickman flatly rejected. “I told them that I’m going to go in there while they’re doing it, and in fact, I went through every single frame on that video. I made sure that every camera angle was right and that the story line matched up and the angst and losing my shit on the video made sense. I love what I do and I take it seriously.”
When she’s not working on original music, Hickman plays the bars and clubs in Nashville, on Broadway Street, which is famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) as a gathering place for musicians and a launch pad for musical dreams. You can find videos on YouTube of her signing covers of Go Your Own Way, Sweet Home Alabama, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Walk This Way and others. The music business may seem glamorous, but the reality is that bills need to be paid, something that Hickman freely admits. Doing covers also makes recording her own songs that much sweeter, as she explains. “The musicians I play with, they listen to these cover tunes for one minute and say ‘yeah, I’ve got it down.’ But the songs on the EP, I’ve played them for my friends, and they’ve said ‘this is awesome!’ We actually had to put in serious time learning them. We have to sit down, chart them out, and it’s enjoyable learning the tunes and playing them. In the studio is a challenge for me, it’s a challenge for my players, and I feel that it makes all of us have more fun on stage.”
Recording studios can be magical places, as anyone who’s spent time in one can attest to. Starting with nothing except perhaps a demo and emerging with a finished track is a fascinating experience to participate in or observe. “The creative process is mind-blowing,” says Hickman. For the EP, she teamed up with with producer Don Miggs, a veteran of the music industry whom Hickman credits for bringing her craft to an entirely new level. “I have worked with a lot of producers, but when I met Don, it just immediately clicked. Not only is he smart and creative, he’s a great human. He’s so inviting and that space is so vulnerable and I just love the fact that I can go in there and I feel completely safe. I feel like I can be my 100% myself. That’s been one of the problems I’ve had in the past, not feeling like I had a voice, not feeling that I had my vision come to life. That’s why I’m so proud of what I’m going to be releasing this year. These songs, while a lot of them I haven’t written, have my fingerprints all over them.”
To use yet another cliche, while hindsight is always 20/20, Hickman’s decision to abandon her career as a PE teacher and to focus on music looks pretty clear right now.