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.”
After I signed my record deal with Arista of Nashville, I went on a 3-month radio tour. I didn’t get paid to make these appearances, but I certainly recognized their importance. Sometimes I’d visit and make an appearance at three different radio stations in one day. I was on a bus driven by Bill Parks who once drove a bus for Conway Twitty. We went from radio station to radio station. I’d go into the stations, meet the manager and the DJs, visit with them, play them a couple of my songs and be on the air. Then, we’d load up and go to the next radio station. I hoped at each station that the people liked me, liked my music and would play my music. That tour started in February, 2012, and finished at the end of April, 2012.
I got a phone call saying I was going on tour with Brad Paisley. I had a week to audition and hire a band and get together a 25-minute performance. I was in the process of moving from Texas to Nashville. My band in Texas couldn’t pick up and move to Nashville with me. So, I had 2 days to hold auditions for the band, and I hired a complete band in 2 days. The band consisted of a drummer, a bass player, a keyboard player, a guitar player and a utility player. A utility player generally plays guitar, mandolin, dobro and many other instruments. My first utility player mostly played rhythm guitar, and he played lead guitar sometimes. My second utility player played guitar, dobro, mandolin and fiddle.
Once I hired my band, then I had to pay them. I knew how much I’d get paid for the tour. I had to calculate how-many shows we would do on the tour. For instance, let’s say, we’d do 30 shows on the tour. I’d take the amount of money I’d get paid for the tour, subtract the money for the lease of the bus, pay for the bus driver, fuel, hotels and all other costs incurred from being on the road, including food on the bus and food at mealtimes. Then I had to pay my musicians, who got paid for the days too that they were traveling and not playing. At this point, I had to hire a business manager to help me handle all the bookwork, check writing, and making sure everyone got paid when and what they were supposed to get paid. I still had radio visits that I had to make in-between the concerts we had to play, and I still had to write and develop new music.
A country-music artist has to build a team of people that he/she trusts, who are like-minded and can help manage the money. This is where my college education really paid off. I had learned how to put together a team, what each person’s responsibility should be, and how to read people and choose people I could trust. This side of country music is what people who go to concerts, listen to records and/or watch country artists perform on television never see.
So, for Brad Paisley’s Virtual Reality Tour on the Virtual Opry Stage, I had a 25-minute set. I wanted to use the original music that I had written, but I also realized that I had to capture the audience’s attention. If they weren’t familiar with my music, then we needed to play songs that most of the audience knew during the first part of the set. Hopefully then, they would listen to my music. So, we opened our set with Conway Twitty’s “Slow Hand.”
I’m often asked, “What was being on tour with Brad Paisley like?” I can honestly say that tour was really a lot of fun. Brad Paisley is such a gracious guy. He would take us to different places every weekend. For instance, he rented a movie theater and took us all to see the movie “The Incredibles.” He took us go-cart racing and bowling, and he threw a couple of parties that we all attended. I got to spend the greater part of 2012 on the road with Brad Paisley.
My Grand Ole Opry debut was May 5, 2012. My dad, my mom, my Granny Kelly, my Aunt Diane, my stepmom Diane, and some other friends came to the Grand Ole Opry for my debut. Since then, I’ve played at the Grand Ole Opry more than 30 times.
To learn more about Mossy Oak’s Kristen Kelly, her music and her life go to www.kristenkellymusic.com, www.facebook.com/kristenkellymusic, https://twitter.com/KristenKelly or instagram.com/kristenkellymusic.