Country Grrrl to watch: Jadea Kelly

Travelling between Toronto and Nashville, Jadea Kelly has built an inimitable sound that blends the grit of folk and Americana with the roundness of indie-pop and blues-rock. The Canadian songstress has been making a name for herself in the folk world and, with the boundaries of country blurring, is now on her way to sway the East-Nashville scene.

Jadea Kelly’s sound is contemporary yet deeply rooted in tradition, and it’s this fragile balance that makes her stand out in the ocean of indie/multi-genre-inspired Nashville musicians. She affirmed her sonic identity in her first two records, Eastbound Platform and Clover, staying away from the stripped-down acoustic arrangements we usually hear in country music and choosing a more powerful production style.

“To be a songwriter is to be courageous, vulnerable, transparent, honest and uncensored” she says, and the delicacy of her voice and authenticity of her lyrics perfectly reflect this description. Singing about love, pain, and her family’s history of farming in contrast with her musician’s life, Kelly’s songwriting will not disappoint country purists. Nevertheless, like an edgier version of Lucie Silvas or a more avant-garde Lindi Ortega, Kelly’s music is worth listening to, whether you like folk, alt-country or indie-pop.

Jadea Kelly is already a stand-out in the folk world, but as the country scene evolves, her upcoming album – expected for spring 2016 – might very well arrive at the perfect time to introduce her music to the alt-country audience. In the meantime, the lucky ones will have the chance to enjoy her neo-folk sound live during her Canadian tour this February.

Picture by Jen Squires

 

 

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Country Grrrl to watch: Dara Niemi

Very few young artists have managed to find the right balance between country and pop, and Dara Niemi is one of them. With a style inspired by Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift, Niemi offers a modernized vision of country filled with multi-genre inspirations and catchy hooks!

The Georgia-native has been touring the south for a while now, promoting her first EP She’s Not Me and expanding her fanbase– which can be pretty tricky in the midst of such a huge pop-country trend. But Niemi stands out with her powerful vocals and her ability to cover all kinds of modern country, from love ballads to rock anthems.

Niemi’s EP She’s Not Me is packed with radio-material songs, from the powerful title track to the up-tempo ‘We Kissed’ that Taylor Swift could have written in her country times. We discover Niemi’s rock side with the electric guitar and gender stereotype puns of ‘Man in Men’. But the biggest surprise in this record remains the soulful ‘Disguise’, a languishing song that perfectly blends traditional country and Christina Aguilera RnB.

Dara Niemi’s sound successfully incorporates pop inspirations while keeping strong country roots, a balance we hope more up-and-coming country-pop artists will follow.

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Country Grrrl to watch: Lisa Wright

Great Britain is without a doubt the new home of emerging country artists, and more specifically great country-pop music – the kind that combines meaningful lyrics and catchy melodies. And Lisa Wright proves this theory right with her first EP Before I Die.

The Essex-native graduated with an acting degree before finding her voice in country music, and we’re glad she did! In her first record we discover a sound that we can only describe as authentic, bringing a lyrical depth and an element of modernity to country-folk – almost grassroots – arrangements.

But after listening to this collection of love, growth and self-acceptance songs over and over again, the pop-inspiration finally appears as you find yourself singing along to every track and having them stuck in your head for days.

The EP opens with the title track, a bucket list illustrated by a video that follows Wright crossing “going to Nashville” off of hers. Follows ‘Here We Go Again’, a melancholic break-up ballad and the only love-theme song of the record – a rarity nowadays and proof that Lisa Wright can write beautiful songs that reach beyond the love/heartbreak cliché.

In ‘Girl Like Me’ we are introduced to who Wright truly is with such an honest and no-BS style that it will inspired you to accept all about your complex and complicated self. “The only way to love yourself is to let go” she sings, as a transition to that last track, ‘You Grow but You Don’t Change’, where she tackles the harsh truths of growing up. The up-tempo song is packed with powerful messages about facing life’s obstacles and remembering that “life makes lessons / it makes damn sure you learn them”, all while maintaining a pragmatic nuanced optimism.

With Before I Die, Lisa Wright delivers an inspiring and oh-so-catchy record that blends a level of authenticity and lyrical depth that will remind you of Kacey Musgraves’ songwriting and a northern country-pop style similar to Canadian trio Bella Starr. And while she is making a name for herself in the UK country scene, we hope she will reach beyond its frontiers very soon!

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Country Grrrl to watch: Emily Hackett

Emily Hackett is part of this new generation of country singer-songwriters who are not afraid of singing things as they are, and who most of all have the talent to turn these harsh truths into gracefully haunting songs.

I came across Hackett’s music on Youtube where I accidently found the video for ‘Take My Hand (The Wedding Song)’, her duet with Will Anderson from Parachute. And although I instantly fell in love with the song, the loveliness of this big day anthem was nothing compared to the songstress’ lyrical depth and wittiness I later discovered.

‘Take My Hand’ reached #4 on the iTunes® Singer-Songwriter chart and her cover of Lorde’s ‘Royal’ with Megan Davies earned them the praises of Ryan Seacrest along with a strong Youtube fanbase, proving that the audience is ready for non-sugarcoated life lessons put to country-folk melodies.

And Emily Hackett’s Youtube channel (and EPs) is packed with these gems, where her powerful vocals smoothen lyrics as sharp as a knife. “I’m a liar in the meanest of ways” she sings on the moving ‘Gave Him Away’, adding a twist to the “lost love” song as she blames herself for the failed relationship. ‘Bad Weather’, co-written with Adam James and Michael Reaves, manages to portray the healing progress of a broken heart with a poetic elegance.

Hackett displays her ability to create playful truth-telling songs with ‘The Truth is A Bitch’ “Well I guess you could say it’s probably my fault / ’Cause I live like a lie that ain’t been caught”. Co-written with Nate Montgomery, this alt-country song blends wittiness and grittiness in a refreshing way.

But Emily Hackett’s lyrical dexterity truly peaks in the poignant ‘The Part They Don’t Tell You’ that every twenty-something – wondering where they are heading in life and feeling so weary while being so young – can identify to.

In the midst of a depthless pop-country trend, Emily Hackett and fellow truth-telling musicians Hailey Whitters and Logan Brill bring a much needed fresh touch to modern country music!

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Country Grrrl to watch: Madison Kozak

Known for her countrified covers of pop hits, Canadian singer-songwriter Madison Kozak is now taking over Nashville with original songs that mix sassy lyrics and country-pop sound.

Growing up in Lindsay, Ontario, Madison Kozak filled her ears with country music from Cash and Loretta to Reba and Shania, until an open mic performance at nine years old made her realize her true vocation: music!

After moving to Nashville at 14 she started sharing her talent on her Youtube channel where she’s been uploading covers of country, folk and pop hits. An opening gig on the Emerson Drive tour later, and we finally discover Kozak’s fresh approach to songwriting.

Her collaborations with, among others, fellow rising country grrrls Minnie Murphy and Kalie Shorr introduce us to her country-pop sound that blends 90s inspiration with modern flair.

And between the sweet love anthem ‘Old Couple’, the swinging energy of ‘Stand Up Guy’, and the 90s pop vibe of ‘Back for More’, we can only expect Madison Kozak to be the next big thing on the country-pop scene!

Country Grrrl(s) to watch: The Church Sisters

You may know The Church Sisters, aka 19 year-old twins Sarah and Savannah, from their two albums of bluegrass and gospel standards. Or you may have heard their silvery harmonies when they sang back-up for Hank Williams Jr. and Eric Church at the 2015 CMA Awards. Well this Virginia-native duo is taking over Nashville, as they release a self-titled country album and sign a development deal with Big Machine Records.

Savannah, lead vocalist and fiddler, and Sarah, harmony singer and hand-held percussionist, grew up singing gospel and touring local churches. But lately they’ve decided to expand their horizons and pick their inspirations from a larger pool of sonorities, ones that include traditional but also pop-oriented country.

While their first two albums – Farther Along and There’s You – were collections of traditional gospel standards, the new record demonstrates their wish to step out of their comfort zone, both by venturing into the country world and writing original songs.

As evidenced by the singles ‘You Make Me’ and ‘Lucky You’, the Church Sisters are able to adapt to different kinds of musical styles without losing their identity, distinctive by the authenticity in their voices and the simplicity of the arrangements.

The two songs also showcase their strong songwriting potential, as the clarity of their lyrics appears as a reminder of their grassroots origin while the themes and melodies confirm their newly-found country affinity.

As the Church Sisters work their way through a 12-month development deal with Big Machine Records, we can only look forward to hear more of their original blend of bluegrass, country and ethereal harmonies, and hope the label won’t disturb this successful balance of styles.

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