Kristen Kae Has the Fire in Her Soul
Written by: Miles Riddell
“This girl’s got grit, determination” (Just Watch Me) Kristen Kae is a vocal powerhouse who’s excelled in multiple contests dating back to 2013, where she placed second in the National Association of Teachers of Singing, as a sophomore. From there she has done well in contests showcasing her raw voice.
A natural singer with a great set of pipes and a classic country twang. Influences include Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and Ashley McBryde. These artists can be heard in her music, as she follows the classic pop-country formula. After listening to her song “Just Watch Me” the band “The Wreckers” comes to mind, as sharing a similar sound.
Listening further into “Just Watch Me”, the listener instantly starts bobbing their head to the rhythmic, kicking and pronounced bass drum. This song has hints of bluegrass combined with modern country while utilizing multiple layers of stringed instruments. This adds unique rhythms and harmonies, bringing the track to life. The song diverges from its country roots with a ripping guitar solo, which manages not to detract from the country sound. The chorus comes in a bit lighter making for a nice change-up for a fierce and powerful song. She delivers her lyrics with a down-home girl vibe through a classic southern accent which mixes well with the instrumental. The lyrics are powerful and imbued with confidence. As it is stated clearly in the lyrics, Kristen is trying to make a point and prove someone wrong.
What and who inspired you to start a career in music?
Well shoot, I have honestly been singing and dance performing pretty much since I figured out how. My life has always been surrounded by music. I found that at a really early age that it was my passion and what I really loved, and I think around middle school I was starting to watch a lot of country stars and pop stars. I was kind of like “I really want to do that, it sounds really cool.” So, I kind of just got into it and then around high school is when I started really doing solo shows and stuff. I had a background in theater and all types of performing arts. You name a performing arts thing and I’ve probably tried it or done it, but I just finally decided that I wanted to take the music, singer, songwriter route because it was what I was best at and where my passions really lie. So many people especially one of my biggest idols Kelly Clarkson that I looked up to really early on was always inspiring me in various ways to be myself and help me through hard times with music and I wanted to be able to do that. Sorry, that’s a long answer.
How has your music career gone so far?
It’s kind of weird for me because I have so many years with performance arts but as an actual solo artist, I’m still kind of new. I know how to get the support but on the business side of things, opportunities, and how to get your way through everything is what I’m still learning all the time.
I kind of got started professionally though when I joined the Highway Women basically two summers ago, when I decided to dig in and really give it my all-in music. I didn’t know what to do or how to meet people so I just went on Facebook and friended a whole bunch of people in the industry and then I invited them all to my music page and one of those people happened to be Jill Pavel, who is now my manager. She ended up seeing one of my videos, actually the first video I posted from a karaoke competition. Then she got back to me like “hey, I really like what you’re doing, I’m impressed”,” and she ended up asking me to be part of the Highway Women.
So, all this happened, and I ended up getting into the group, then she asked if I wanted to become a solo artist. At the end of last year in November, I put out my debut single, then I have been trying to work hard on moving to Tennessee, which I just did this past weekend. I have been busy with that plus everything that is going on in the world so I got a little delayed but I should be recording my next song next month sometime so I can get more music out, but the Highway Women have kept me busy with music.
Are you going to be a part of the Highway Women and do your own thing at the same time?
Yeah that’s the thing with the Highway Women, each of us is also solo artists so we kind of double-dip, which is crazy, but both they’re full time. People always ask if one is a side gig. Not really, I work full time it’s just I kind of fun juggling them back and forth.
Do you write songs for the Highway Women too or only your solo work?
I write for both actually. I had to hand in some writing on some of the new songs we will be recording. So far, I always co-write my solo stuff. The next single I’m going to be recording I co-wrote. I’m trying to have more of a hand in writing because I want to get better at it but that’s one of the reasons I wanted to move to the Nashville area, there are so many good writers here. I find that the more you write with people who have a lot of experience you can learn from them because I’m a singer and performer first and I still have a lot of room to grow as a writer.
Where do you see your career in five years?
I will first say that I am a really big dreamer, so I always kind of go big or go home but I don’t know. I always used to say I don’t know if there’s a per se major goal. Obviously, every country artist wants to be in the Grand Ole Opry, singing with some amazing people like my idols. That would be a total honor but I just want to keep going. I really do want to go all the way, try to be a star and do all that. Not because the fame because I really want to make an impact and inspire people and I just have always felt like that was my calling in life.
What is your song “Just Watch Me” about?
It’s one of those songs that were written in like 3 hours because we knew it was going to be the recording song. I always say that “Just Watch Me” is kind of my motto in life because when you’re going after something that big people look at you like what are you doing how do you know it will work out. I get it but just watch me is my reaction to all who told me you can’t do this you won’t go anywhere and me being like that’s cool and just watch me kill it. It’s my answer for anyone who has been told not to do what they are passionate about. The best thing I ever did was just go after my music and I wish I would have sooner. In general, for music or songwriting, if I’m going to write and song or put a song out there is always a story cause for me music is an extension of the thoughts that I have or the things that I go through. It’s not only there for you to write the song but a lot of people listen to it and understand where you’re coming from; they know they’re not the only one who’s ever felt that way.
The COVID Effect
How has the pandemic affected you personally?
I am really lucky that I have not had anyone in my circle actually get COVID or anything. Thank God, knock on wood, but obviously we all had to deal with the fact that the world had stopped in a sense and how to deal with that. We are all trying to run a race all the time and we are always on to the next thing and the next thing always thinking so far in the future so when the world stops and everyone’s like now “what do I do?” I’m not saying that the situation is a good thing because I feel bad for everyone affected, but I think that it made everyone slow down and I think that’s a good thing for a lot of people. At least for me, it made me live more for the day rather than what I’m going to be doing next week. I’ve shifted my thinking a lot and I’ve never been so in the moment. People always say that, but now it’s reality. This way of thinking will follow me into the future. A lot of times we don’t have time to sit down and master the guitar or write a bunch of songs. Trying to do so many things at once can get kind of rushed sometimes so it is kind of nice because a lot of people have been writing more, making music more, I am jealous of people with home studios, but I think that it was cool that it had this effect.
Are you touring with Highway Women or is that on hold with the pandemic?
Yeah, we were supposed to tour this summer, but everything got cancelled. We are mostly staying on recording music, getting in rehearsals, and getting our stuff together on that front right now.
How has it affected your music career?
It hasn’t been all bad. We just miss live shows really bad. Not being able to play live has hit me hard but at a certain point I was just like “well, you could either go out and do shows and possibly not be in a safe situation,” but also its not just about the artists ourselves, but you have to think about all the people and fans that follow you to your shows. So, you have to think about them. That’s personally why I haven’t pursued doing shows during this time. I wouldn’t want to bring a bunch of people to a show and have something bad happen and I know that I brought them there. It’s a responsibility that you have to think about. It must be hard for other musicians because I still have a day job, others don’t. I understand they have to do shows because they have to pay bills.
Have you been able to go to the studio or make any new songs during this time?
No, but partly because I was in Kentucky for the pandemic. I have taken day trips to Nashville many times, as it is about 2 hours from Nashville, but I didn’t want to cross borders during the situation. That’s why I’m planning, very soon here, to get back in the studio and record some stuff. I am doing solo stuff and probably with the Highway Women recording stuff next month as well.
Now that things are starting to open back up, what are your plans for the near future to bounce back?
There are plenty of bars that are open, but I have felt weird about going there because I heard the positive cases of COVID run crazy down there possibly, everybody has their own opinion.
I have stayed away because you can be safe yourself, but I think especially at least in Nashville, near Broadway and stuff, all the bars are teeny tiny so if you even tried to space it out, it would be hard because it’s not a part of the culture. I can’t say for sure when I’m going to go back into it, I’ve just been taking it day by day. Shoot, I can’t figure any of this out, but I want to get out there at some point, I guess. I’m just going to feel it out.
Has the pandemic made getting noticed harder? Have you had more time to connect with fans?
I have definitely had more time to reach out to fans and be on social media. It became the one place we could all connect when we couldn’t go anywhere. The coolest thing that I saw was artists going live on Instagram, Facebook, and all the socials and doing live shows. During parts of the pandemic, people would be watching people lives and watching them play live music and it helps you get through all of it so I commend everybody who did live streams because they were showing “hey, I know what you guys are going through,” some talk to their fans and they were just there for them. It was cool to watch them go through the pandemic themselves, but they’re going to give a little bit of themselves to show I care.
Have you thought about doing any live streams or did you do any?
I did some but I will tell you something I learned from the pandemic and having the quarantine and time off. I worked really hard on becoming a better guitar player. I am not the most confident at this. I normally hire guitar players for most of my stuff. It looks easy but it’s not my first instrument. I worked really hard to get better at it, so I did some lives at the end of it, but it took me a minute. I would like to do more now that I’m getting the hang of it. I was busy with so many other things. I did really have the time to sit down with it for 30 minutes or an hour every day.
“Just Watch Over Me” was a great first song for Kristen to release. She’s letting us know that she can make it in music and we better all know her name. Kristen Kae is here to stay! Listening to this song, you are left feeling she is empowered, inspired, and ready to prove some people wrong. I’m excited to see what Kristen will bring us in the future.
For more information on Kristen Kae check out: https://www.kristenkae.com/
Miles Riddell is a Senior studying Entrepreneurship and Entertainment Business at Concordia University Ann Arbor. His passion for music started at a young age attending his first concert at 8 years old. Miles was inspired to play the guitar and drums, then started to dabble with friends in mixing, sound design, and music production, but identified his interests are more geared towards the business side of the industry. He loves to attend music festivals and continues to listen to everything from early blues and folk to more current genres such as electronic or hip hop. Miles is pursuing a career in the music industry.