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Kristen Kelly: On the Way to the Top of Country Music


Editor’s Note: The love of country music runs deep in the hearts of many in the Mossy Oak family. Selected as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, Kristen Kelly is a country music singer/songwriter. She travels the country on her own tours and with other country artists like Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley. Kelly’s single “Ex-Old Man” hit the top 30 on the country music charts. She’s released a new single on May 27th “Kiss by Kiss.” Kelly says, “Just being able to sing well isn’t all that’s required to be a successful country music artist and business person.”

In the early days, I would call the different venues in Texas and book my own shows. I saved money by not having a booking agent. Also, I would get opportunities to perform with other artists in Texas sometimes who already had acts booked when perhaps they would need an opening act or another band to give them a break. Using these tactics, I saved the money that I would have had to give to an agent. So, immediately out of college I was making more money than the artists who didn’t know how to book their own shows, or how to work with other country artists and bands that already had shows booked. 

I averaged 150-180 days on tour exclusively in Texas. At that time, I made the decision that music would be my career. I recorded a couple of albums and produced those albums independently in Texas, and I had a couple of singles on the Texas music charts. Texas has its own charts that the radio stations in Texas have helped to develop. Their charts are separate from and independent of the Billboard charts. 

One of the events that I played was Dierks Bentley’s Miles and Music event at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas, in April of 2010. Mandy McCluster of Big Hearted Babes was helping Dierks put together his event at Billy Bob’s. She was coordinating all the many details and people who would come to the event. She called me and said, “Kristen, we have a time slot that we need to fill for the event. Would you and your band like to come play?” I answered, “Sure.” We got that opportunity, because I had learned the value of networking, being dependable and developing strong working relationships with people in the music industry. Dierks and his band put on this event to help the Cook Children’s Hospital in Dallas. The event included a motorcycle ride, a concert and an auction. Dierks holds four or five of these events all over the country for different charities. 

KKelly3_llWhile I was at the event, I met Paul Overstreet (a Grammy-winning songwriter) who also had a solo singing career. He invited me to come to Nashville and write country songs with him. Because of that relationship, he introduced me to the people at Sony Records in Nashville, which led to my record deal with Arista, a record label with Sony Nashville. I signed the record deal April 22, 2011. I hired an attorney to help negotiate the deal. But I read my contract beforehand and put redlined notes on every item in the contract that I didn’t agree with or wanted to change. I couldn’t believe it when my lawyer looked me in the eyes and asked, “You actually read your contract?” I answered, “Yes, and I have some questions and notes that we need to go over.” Once again, I learned how to read contracts and what should be and shouldn’t be acceptable in a record deal, while I was in college. As a result, my attorney and I were able to negotiate a better contract than I would have received if I didn’t know what to look for in a music contract. 

The contract was a seven-option record deal. We recorded an album and released two singles off that album - “Ex-Old Man” and “He Loves To Make Me Cry.” We also released an EP (extended play), which included four more songs off the album. Last October, I sat down with my record label, and we amicably parted ways. There had been a lot of changing of the guard at the label. I explained I was grateful for the opportunity to work with Arista, and I had learned a lot more about the music industry. Who knows - I may be working with them again some day. However, right now, I’m an independent artist.  

To learn more about Mossy Oak’s Kristen Kelly, her music and her life go to,, or

Day 2: Kristen Kelly Tells about the Road She’s Traveled to Become a Country Artist

Tomorrow: Mossy Oak’s Kristen Kelly on Touring With Brad Paisley

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