Female singers pull into Nashville every day with their eyes on platinum and Grammys. But many of them have had years of experience and have decided to take a chance on Tennessee before they get too old for the business, as Music Row tends to turn its nose up at women over 25.
Then there are singers like young Kelcy Lee, who know what they want and know what they were born to do, and who make the move to Nashville to learn the ropes and make contacts before Father Time has his way with them.
Kelcy Lee is barely 17, but worked hard enough to graduate from high school at barely 16 so she could make the move to Music City from Pahrump, Nevada, a small desert town between Las Vegas and Death Valley. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be a singer,” she said, “and my parents told me I couldn’t go to Nashville until after I graduated from high school. So I graduated two years early.” And Mom and Dad made good on their promise, packing up the family and moving to Tennessee.
There are few opportunities for singers in Pahrump beyond an occasional honky-tonk or casino gig, or, at best, getting an opening slot for someone like Darryl Worley at a special event. Which Kelcy had already done by the time she was 13. But she took advantage of every opportunity she could in Nevada, including performing at an after-party for a Trace Adkins show at the Sunset Station in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, and participating in the Colgate Country Showdown competition in the Southern Nevada gambling Mecca of Laughlin, where she claimed the prize as first runner-up.
After that, Nashville beckoned.
Her age can be somewhat of a limiting factor when it comes to attracting a Nashville following, but she has managed to perform downtown on Lower Broad at both Tootsie’s and Rippy’s. Kelcy also plays guitar and writes songs, and Kelcy is learning the co-writing ropes with a Nashville favorite, singer/songwriter Bill DiLuigi, who took her under his wing after she cut one of his songs while still living in Nevada.
“She and her mom came to see me at the Bluebird a couple years ago when they were in town,” DiLuigi said. “She sings great, but she also definitely thinks like a songwriter. I invited her to play the last Bluebird show I did with me and it was great. She’s really got something special.”
Kelcy said she’s excited to be writing with a veteran pro like DiLuigi, and said that she’s learning a lot from him. “I love writing with Bill,” she said, “because, somehow, no matter what we write it comes out sounding like me.” She has managed to get some airplay in both Nevada and Tennessee, and she also shot a music video for “Hard to Be a Girl,” a humorous look at the trials and tribulations of a teenage girl with an overprotective father trying to find a boyfriend. This song is one of her co-writes with DiLuigi, and the video, which can be seen on YouTube, was clearly shot in her desert home of Nevada.
While still in Nevada Kelcy studied voice under world-renowned opera singer Madelene Capelle, and if there was one thing the Las Vegas opera star taught the budding teen country artist, it was how to use her own power. “She can belt it,” Kelcy said, laughing. “She doesn’t need a microphone.” Kelcy is a country singer through and through, though, and while she got good advice from a leading operatic icon, she isn’t about to change her style. Some of her favorite singers include Carrie Underwood, Leann Rimes and Shania Twain, though she has enough confidence in her own sound and abilities to not compare herself to anybody. “I’m country, and I’m more country than Shania,” she said. “I’m not exactly Patsy Cline either though, I guess I’m somewhere in the middle.”
She’s currently planning to record an album soon and is planning for the entire album to be her own original material. “I’ve got over half of it written already,” she said. “I’m still just deciding who I’m going to work with on it.”
DiLuigi predicts a bright future for the teenager. “She’s really got something different,” he said. “She’s very focused and she knows who she is.”
Kelcy said that, while she is glad to be in Nashville, she really has no special affinity for the city yet beyond what it represents musically. “I like it here okay, but I didn’t come here for the scenery,” she said. “I only came here for one thing, and that’s to sing.”
Kelcy Lee can be found all over the Internet, including at ReverbNation, MySpace, and on Facebook and Twitter.
By Rick Moore