“Is it really true that there isn’t a place for us? We’ve been told that for so long, I was told that 10 years ago and 2011 when I signed my first record deal and now it’s even worse, that we are even less of a presence on the radio and I don’t say that to call out radio, I just want to know is it true that in 2018 there is no room for women in this genre?”
Singer-songwriter Kelleigh Bannen took the time to chat with our Managing Editor recently about growing up in the heart of music city, finding her path to her music career and especially about being a woman in this music industry. Although she may be a new artist being played across your Spotify or your radio waves, Bannen has been in this industry, working to unveil the struggles and provide an honest look at the life of a singer and songwriter for years. She did grow up in Nashville but that does not mean that she automatically chose the life she is now pursuing. “The people that I knew that were chasing country music were our babysitters who moved to town and they would sing jingles and trying to get there break and I really just saw a lot of people come to town and then go home when it didn’t work out. To me as a Nashville native, the music business felt really unattainable,” she explained. She grew up learning to play classical instruments like the violin and even to this day says that it informs the melody in her writing.
She fell in love with storytelling, the way Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss, and even Frank Sinatra would express the lyrics in a song. In high school is when her admiration for women in country music started, looking to Martina McBride, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood for inspiration. Now, as her own artist creating music, she strives to always write the best song, looking for lyrics that mean something and tell a great story.
Most recently she released a mini EP, The Joneses, featuring three songs all co-written by Bannen. Her latest single, “Happy Birthday” has resonated with fans and listeners after she premiered it on Sirius XM The Highway which has fully embraced all three songs, playing them for their listeners across the country. The track tells the story of missing someone on their birthday and making the bold choice to reach out even though it may not be the best decision at the time. “I love that way that songs happen to you as a writer, you work really hard and you try really hard to do certain things in the writing room but the most magical things that happen, are the things that happen to you,” Bannen explains about the writing process.
Besides songwriting and recording new music, Bannen has her own podcast. ‘This Nashville Life’ discusses the inner workings of the music industry, the good, the bad, and the sometimes not so pretty. She features executives, Nashville’s biggest songwriters and influencers in the business looking to shine a light on what fans of the genre may not realize. “I have a neat perspective where I can be an ambassador for our town and I love storytelling and I think there are so many ways to go about it and it’s just another way to be a storyteller and to advocate for our business, not from a financial perspective from a heart perspective,” she says. “I really care about what we do and I care that great songs still have a place in this world. I really care about people knowing about those stories and another way to let the fan in and connect with what we are doing and let them peek behind the curtain and be a part of it.” She explains that she loves how in country music the artists and the songwriters have an intimate relationship with their fans and this podcast is just another way to let them be involved in the process behind the songs that they are supporting. Click here to listen to ‘This Nashville Life’.
Finally, we discuss the topic on everyone’s minds this past month, women in country music. Bannen has a lot to say and laughs telling us, “Okay, this is going to be a long answer…”. Earlier this month, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild included her name during her acceptance speech at the CMT Artist of the Year event, proving that women are making great music they just need the recognition and chance to be heard. First, she comments on how much she respects and admires Karen and Kimberly from Little Big Town and explains that they have been huge supporters of her career for many years. After that, she digs into the real problem, being told that there isn’t a place for women in this genre. “I just want to know is it true that in 2018 there is no room for women in this genre? What the heck, I don’t believe that there isn’t an audience for us because we are telling the truth about our lives, we are writing our asses off, we are singing our asses off, I just don’t believe it, I just believe there is a disconnect.”
She says these things, not knocking the men who are out there getting radio play and huge tours, she is happy for their success, however, she knows that it isn’t just the women that need to advocate for other women, the men need to step out and do it too. “What we need is the opportunity and when you hear a song of ours that you love, don’t just text me privately, it is so sweet but I want to be like ‘Hey, thank you, can you please tell someone.’ My girls do it, Raelynn just shared the video this week, Kelsea [Ballerini] did it when the song first came out so, hey dudes, we need you to use your incredible platform to champion us. We are so glad that you get the opportunities that you have we are just asking to champion us too,” she passionately expresses. She honestly tells us that although she understands how the business works, she hopes that we can break the cycle of women not being played on the radio, therefore they don’t have hit singles and then don’t get picked up for major tours.
As an independant artist, Bannen is continuing to pave her own journey in this industry, releasing music and looking forward to a full-length album in the new year. Be sure to follow Kelligh Bannen on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and listen to The Joneses below.
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