By Poppy Tohill
‘New Zealand’ and ‘country music’ have never particularly had a strong relationship with one another, however this may all be about to change if the determination and already striking success of our very own country singer-songwriter, Kaylee Bell is anything to go by.
“It is a total misconception that comes down to the lack of knowing what country music sounds like, because we don’t hear it at all,” Bell exclaimed, when asked why she thinks country music as a genre tends to struggle throughout New Zealand. “You can’t like something you don’t hear and until radio start giving it a crack, it’s going to be a hard fight, but we’re getting ourselves there every way we can through social media and by playing shows and it’s definitely picking up,” she confidently declared. “Keith Urban being in New Zealand is something that wouldn’t have happened five years ago, and that itself shows there’s a following and audience here, but until radio realise that it’s going to be a lot of hard work and I’m in it for the long haul.”
With passion and talent on her side, Bell’s new single Getting Closer is definitely getting country music out there in a positive light. Debuting at #14 on the NZ Top 40 and taking out the #1 position on the iTunes Country Chart, the young songstress also found herself on stage singing with none other than Keith Urban at his recent Wellington concert, making this the second time she has taken to the stage with her idol.
“I sang with him during one of his shows on the Light The Fuse tour in Australia two years ago and that was an incredible experience I never thought would happen again,” Bell excitedly proclaimed. “I was the first Kiwi to win Toyota Star Marker in Australia since Keith back in 1990, so that’s how the connection was initially made, but this was his first time performing in New Zealand which made the whole experience very special,” she revealed. “It’s like everything has come around in a full circle. It was the ultimate being able to sing with him here at home.”
“After meeting Keith through the Star Maker Competition I then met his band who I’ve actually had a lot to do with since,” Bell explained when asked how the duet came about a second time around. “I’ve written a lot with Jerry Flowers who has been Keith’s right hand man for 25 years and he was the one that asked Keith if he’d like to do the duo with me. I literally found out at 4pm on Friday afternoon that this was happening on Saturday,” Bell laughed,” So I went to soundcheck on the Friday night and they were having major sound issues, which was actually great because it meant I got to hang out with them all for about three hours, it was very cool, I even met Keith’s mum and brother!” she chuckled.
Whilst Keith Urban remains at the top of Kaylee’s favourites list, Kelsea Ballerini is another artist Bell admits she’s a massive fan of. “Kelsea really came through at a time where females were finding it hard in the country scene. She’s been the first woman since the 1960s to have three number one’s so she’s doing incredibly well,” Bell declared. “Taylor Swift is a massive advocate of Kelsea’s, she’s super genuine and I actually wrote Getting Closer with her boyfriend Morgan Evans... everyone’s connected somehow!” she concluded.
“It’s the ultimate break up song!” Bell declared, as we went on to talk about her latest single Getting Closer. When I first moved to Australia at age 22 I didn’t really know anyone and I ended up playing my first show with Morgan Evans and his band and they just really looked after me and became good friends,” she continued. Evans’ later moved to Nashvilleand I went over there to escape ahorrific and toxic relationship, so we met up and wrote Getting Closer together. It was one of the easiest songs to write because it just flew out of us in a matter of hours,” Bell explained.
“I feel like as a singer, you have a responsibility to use your voice to help other people going through similar situations, so that was really important for me when it came to Getting Closer,” Bell admit. “It feels really empowering knowing so many people are listening and relating to the song,” she replied as we pointed out the singles’ current success in the charts, sitting at number 14 in the NZ top 40, number 1 on the iTunes Country Chart and number 3 on the All Genres Chart. “I’ve received so much great feedback from people this far and there’s seriously no better feeling than watching something you’ve written that means so much to you, become something to somebody else,” Bell honestly concluded.
With Getting Closer setting the mark for Kaylee’s forthcoming album she fills us in on what else to expect of her upcoming release. “The album is going to be a lot more mainstream country-pop,” she declared. “I think it is very much going to be about relationships and things like that, because that’s something I’ve been through and know other people can also relate to very well.”
Between writing, recording and touring, Bell reveals she’s also been squeezing postgraduate studies into her schedule this year. “I’ve just finished my postgraduate teaching degree in 12 months,” she laughs, knowing just how crazy this sounds. “It was incredibly hard juggling that with everything, but I’m glad it’s behind me and I can get back to putting 100 percent into the music.”
Speaking of which, the new year is already looking rather busy for the rising star. Winding down for Christmas with a recent performance at Christchurch’ Coca Cola Christmas In The Park and joining the line up for Top Paddock New Years Eve Festival alongside fellow kiwi country singer-songwriter, Jody Direen, an Australian tour is planned for the new year with the promise of a New Zealand summer tour shortly, which we are already very much looking forward to.