By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Astray from traditional Americana, Kay Jay Keller did everything possible to make her listeners want more, especially after the momentum she gained after a breakout performance at Lollapalooza 2020.
For her EP, she worked with producer Jimmy McGorman (Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne) and songwriter Sam Hollander (Panic! At The Disco, Katy Perry), who helped fine-tune her country-pop style – akin to artists like Shania Twain and Maren Morris – and put an emphasis on both vocal ability and optimistic vulnerability.
Anybody who needs evidence of this can look to singles like “In A Dream,” “Everything” and “I Choose You,” an emphatic callback to songstresses like Brandi Carlile, one of her biggest inspirations.
The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with the Charlotte, N.C.-based musician about her EP and more.
Music Bugle – After the success of your first single, what made you want to release “I Choose You” as the second one?
Kay Jay Keller – I think we could all use a little love and positivity right now. That song is delicate and sweet, but at the same time, it recognizes that a relationship must change and evolve in order to endure the hardships life throws our way. Seemed appropriate, considering the times!
Music Bugle – How has 2021 treated you?
Kay Jay Keller – Certainly better than 2020 did! I’ve never celebrated New Year’s Eve harder than I did when 2021 arrived.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Kay Jay Keller – I think what’s most exciting is that I’m truly proud of my music. These stories are authentically me. I know my songwriting will continue to grow right along with me, but my hope is that my style remains timeless and accessible to everyone.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Kay Jay Keller – Without a doubt, it’s “In A Dream,” but it’s also the most meaningful to me. I’m hoping those who have lost someone close to them – but still feel their presence – will find peace in this song.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest memory involving music?
Kay Jay Keller – Probably the day I quit my desk job to pursue music full-time. I was terrified, but it felt like I was finally living with a purpose. I’ll never forget that feeling.
Music Bugle – What was your goal with your debut EP?
Kay Jay Keller – My goal is to build and grow with each release. My first single “Everything” performed very well and gave me hope that the second single “I Choose You” would bring even more streams and more fans to my social media accounts.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Kay Jay Keller – Julia Michaels, Miley and Noah Cyrus, Brandi Carlile… so inspiring!
Music Bugle – What do you attribute your streaming success to?
Kay Jay Keller – I think the first single is did so well because it’s relatable and it stands out! People seem to appreciate the honesty in the lyrics… and it’s catchy as hell.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kay Jay Keller – It has been alienating, for sure. My producer Jimmy McGorman and I have still found ways to connect and work on music together, but because I started this EP during quarantine, I never had performed these songs with a band! Quarantine has taught me patience, for sure.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Kay Jay Keller – I drive. I get in my car, turn up the radio and roll the windows down. It’s like therapy to me.
*Photo Credit – James Helms*