If you’re looking for songs about cut-off jeans and pick up trucks, you won’t find them in Kelsey Waldon‘s catalog of music. Those country cliches aren’t a part of what made the Kentucky-native so connected to music at an early age. There’s an authenticity that’s found through every line and in each note that she sings, thanks to a mixture of her own life experiences and a wide array of musical influences that include Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Stanley and Keith Whitley.
Waldon comes from a long line of self-taught musicians that goes back to all the way back to her great-grandmother. “I’ve been writing songs since I was a little girl,” she told Wide Open Country during a recent sit-down interview, “and I was raised on country and bluegrass.” The now 27-year-old made her way to Nashville to follow in the footsteps of her musical heroes when she was a teenager. She felt connected to the city from a young age, when she would travel to the Music City with her family. “Even when Opryland was still a theme park, we came [to Nashville] all the time,” Waldon says. The choice to make the move was a natural one for the singer. “This is where all my heroes lived.”
Over the years, Waldon consistently recorded and released her own music, which led to her first full-length LP, The Goldmine. The album was released last summer and garnered a lot of buzz and critical acclaim, thanks in part to its release during a time when many listeners are looking for a more traditional take on country music. Since its release, Waldon has stayed active on the touring scene while also working on new tracks for a follow-up album. “This past year, I’ve been able to have a consistent band and I’ve been lucky to have a lot of people who have my back,” she explained. “It feels really good.”
If you have the chance to see Waldon live, it’s an opportunity to see talent kept front and center. Each member of her band brings their own set of incredible musicianship, which has morphed together over the past year into one of the most stellar backing bands in Nashville. At a recent show at The Basement in Nashville, Waldon performed numerous solid tracks from her next studio album, which she says is almost ready to be recorded. A stand-out moment was her cover of “There Must Be Someone (I Can Turn To),” by Vern Gosdin, who she named as one of her one of her “favorite singers ever.” She wrapped up the night with “High in Heels,” one of the most popular and well-written tracks off The Goldmine. “This is a song about being proud of where you’re from,” Waldon said from the stage, “wherever it might be.”
Yes, you can easily compare her to old-school female greats like Loretta and Tammy, thanks to her distinct fearlessness as a writer and performer. While she shares the same talents of being a storyteller, she does it in her own way that stands on its own. Kelsey Waldon is telling her story in her own words, and we as listeners are all the more lucky for it.