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It takes some people years to discover what they want to do in life. Not Kelsey K! She’s known since she was too small to reach a microphone, and nothing has deterred her from that dream. At the age of 15, Kelsey is already an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician who has held her own in front of thousands of people, opening shows for acts like Lady Antebellum, Billy Currington, Toby Keith, Scotty McCreery, Hunter Hayes, Joe Diffie and Jerrod Niemann. She is a natural talent poised on the brink of success, following a career vision she’s had as long as she can remember.
As a toddler in Moville Iowa, Kelsey loved singing and dancing and would entertain anywhere she saw a crowd — or could create one. She made her public debut at age 4 performing “Grand Ole Flag” complete with cartwheels and tap dancing. Her love of country music blossomed after she attended her first concert where she saw Shania Twain. “I’m going to do that someday!” she told her mom, setting the stage for her future career. By age 6 she was writing her own songs complete with verses and choruses. At 9, she took birthday money and bought her first guitar so she could put music to her tunes. Two years later, Kelsey entered and won a local talent contest, giving her the opportunity to open a concert for Gary Allen. A few months later, she made her first trip to Nashville to record an all-original album, Live, Laugh, Love with Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Killgallon, who said, “Kelsey’s melody and lyric writing far surpasses anyone I’ve met at her age.” His sentiments were echoed when the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) awarded Kelsey a scholarship into their Advanced Songwriters Camp, the youngest songwriter in the organization’s history to receive such recognition.
By the time she was 12, she was fronting her first band and hosting writers’ rounds at Nashville venues such as The Listening Room and the Commodore Grille. More importantly, Kelsey was sharpening her co-writing skills with some of Music City’s top tunesmiths. Things got serious with the CD “Blue Jean Girl”, which was recorded at Starstruck Studios in Nashville in 2012 and featured 10 of Kelsey’s own songs. The album yielded two music videos: “Country Mess" and “Blue Jean Girl,” an Independent Music Award for Best Country Song for “Country Mess” and "Blue Jean Girl" made the top 5 on NSAI's Top 40 chart for 2014. Kelsey’s song “Blue Jean Girl” is also featured in the movie Dakota’s Summer and on the soundtrack for the movie, which released this Spring. Kelsey is currently living in Nashville and is writing on music row everyday. Her song "Unforgettable" was recently selected by Warner and is featured in NSAI's top 40 chart.
A straight-A student, Kelsey has no difficulty balancing schoolwork with her increasingly-demanding professional career — which is very good news since she averages 50 shows a year. Whether opening for Toby Keith at the Missouri State Fair, Lady Antebellum at the Iowa State Fair, or guesting in a special performance with the Sioux City Symphony, the diminutive singer confidently holds her own – and owns every stage she’s on. When Kelsey stepped out on the Hard Rock Stage at the 2013 CMA Music Fest to perform songs from her Blue Jean Girl CD, few in the crowd could believe the petite dynamo they were watching was just 14 years old.
Yet young as she is, Kelsey has a real connection with her audience on and off the stage. She lights up any room she’s in, and genuinely loves chatting with fans in person or through her Facebook page, sharing their experiences. She is very close with her parents Tammy and Brian Klingensmith (both schoolteachers) and her three brothers Zach, Luke and Cole, who she says keep her “pretty level-headed.” As a youngster, Kelsey’s natural athleticism shone through in horseback riding, sports, dancing and especially gymnastics, where she took top honors at the State level in bars and vault at the age of six. But music always remained her foremost passion, even helping her through a difficult childhood illness. Today, with a repertoire of instruments she plays (acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, drums, and mandolin), a powerhouse vocal range twice her size, and hundreds of songs under her belt, Kelsey is excited for the next step.
“I love being an artist, and getting to write and sing songs,” she says. “I’d feel very blessed if I get to have a superstar career and touch millions of people. But if I’m supposed to be a songwriter and stay behind the scenes, that’s okay, too. I would just love to be someone that other little girls can look up to.”