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 14, 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 Toby Keith, 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 chance 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, the Commodore Grille, and Roosters. More importantly, Kelsey was sharpening her co-writing skills with some of Music City’s top tunesmiths, including Kim Tribble, Victoria Shaw, Wade Kirby, Steve Bogard, Anthony Smith, Billy Montana, and Don Rollins. Through an acquaintance, Kelsey came to the attention of renowned Nashville producer Jimmy Nichols. Struck by the maturity of her performing and songwriting skills, Nichols began mentoring her long distance, and eventually he and his partner Frank Myers signed her to a co-publishing/production deal with their company, Vision Artist Development. Their first collaboration, Blue Jean Girl, was recorded at Starstruck Studios in Nashville in 2012 and featured 10 of Kelsey’s own songs. The album yielded three music videos: “Country Mess,” “The One” and “Blue Jean Girl,” an Independent Music Award for Best Country Song for “Country Mess” and helped secure Kelsey a spot with the prestigious William Morris Endeavor Agency for booking.
A straight-A student, Kelsey has no difficulty balancing schoolwork with her increasingly-demanding professional career and frequent trips to Nashville — which is very good news since she averages 100 shows a year. Whether opening for Toby Keith at the Missouri State Fair, Jerrod Niemann at the Kentucky and Oklahoma State Fairs, 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 school teachers) 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 guitar, 12-string, keyboards, electric drums, and mandolin), a powerhouse vocal range twice her size, and a new album project underway in Nashville with Jimmy Nichols, 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.”