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.”
I grew up singing in Cottonwood Baptist church in Lorena, Texas, and singing at church camps. My granddad, Sterling Kelly, was a country singer/songwriter who sang throughout Texas. Even today one of his songs is on iTunes. When I went to interview to sing on the Grand Ole Opry for the “Bill Cody Show,” we were coming out of a break from that meeting, and the band was playing one of Pappaw’s songs. Instantly, I recognized it and started crying. I thought, “Wow! This is cool. I’m at the Grand Ole Opry where Pappaw played and sang. I’m interviewing for an opportunity to stand on that same stage and play and sing.”
My dad and my uncles played with Pappaw when he sang much of the time. I grew up in country music with a country music family, but I never was pushed to be a country music singer. I just naturally gravitated toward country music. I actually started singing professionally when I was 21 with a classic-rock cover band called Big Dave and the Freaks. I didn’t really plan to be a country music artist. After spending 3 years in the classic-rock cover band, I went to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, to get a music degree. I’m often asked, “Why did you decide to go back to college and get a degree in music, if you were already singing and earning money in a rock band?” I had been attending college part-time as a business major but studying business just didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was going to college just to say I was going to college. Then I discovered that McLennan Community College had a music program. At that time, my sister was in the class. In one of my classes, I had to become part of a country band and go out and perform in the community. All the students got grades for this. I thought the idea was really neat, but I learned so much more there than just music.
Today my degree is in commercial-music management where I learned a lot about the business side of commercial music that prepared me to work in the music industry. I learned how to chart a song, the structure of songwriting, music theory, the management side of the music industry and the history of all the different genres of music. Also, I leaned about copywriting and royalties. I discovered that I could learn about the business of music by selecting specific classes to take. My college education really prepared me for the business side of the music business as well as the performing side. I soon learned that there was plenty to the business side of the music business that most artists didn’t learn. There was a business side to music, just like there was a business side to any profession. I realized that if I didn’t learn how to take care of the business side of music, I’d end up a broke professional musician and singer. If I didn’t know how to manage my money, I’d not have any money to manage. I also learned that the people I associated with in the music industry might not be the best people to help me build my career and income level.
This is one of the reasons I’m proud to be a part of Mossy Oak. That company and all its folks are the right people for me and my career and are helping me grow, as I’m trying to help their company grow. In school, I’ve learned that to make it as a professional singer, you’ve also got to make it as a business professional. One of my dreams has come true by becoming a professional in the outdoor industry with a company like Mossy Oak.
I’d advise any young person, who thinks he or she wants to become a country-music artist or any type of music artist, to go to college and learn the business side of music. You need a strong foundation to build a long career. Also, knowing the business side of music is an insurance policy. If you love music, and the performance side of the music business doesn’t work out for you, you’ll have the knowledge and the tools to still work on the business side of the music industry.
Country music is much, much more than just talented people writing and singing country songs. You need to know how to book a show. You need to know how to make that show happen - for instance, how much will an event cost, and how much will you pay the musicians in your band. If you’re taking a bus, you have to pay your driver. Too, your driver only can drive for so long without rest. So, you have to decide if you’ll break up the drive to the show to give the bus driver his required rest, and/or if you’ll hire a second driver to drive the bus while the first driver is sleeping. You don’t just show-up and play a major event. On a tour, there are thousands and thousands of small details that require your attention for the tour to take place. You have to arrive on time and leave one event in time to go practice and set-up for the next show. The behind-the-scenes planning and preparation take many more hours than the actual performance does. Each different stop on the tour creates different challenges and various details that have to be attended to and anticipated.
My college education really taught me how to prepare and execute a business plan, and what logistics are required for a performance and for a tour to take place. My degree in commercial-music management has been invaluable throughout my entire career.
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.