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This article was published 20/12/2018 (307 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Elkhorn country musician Kendra Kay is coming out of her biggest year yet.
She was the winner of the 2018 Manitoba Country Music Association Fans’ Choice Award, following the launch her sophomore EP "More to Me" earlier this year— her two recent singles that cracked the Top 100 Canada Country National Airplay. And she also played to a crowd of more than 33,000 fans at the CFL Banjo Bowl halftime show.
Kay’s star is on the rise.
"This year has been amazing, it’s honestly been more than I ever could have dreamed of," Kay said. "I just love singing so I hope I can keep moving forward."
The Banjo Bowl was her first arena gig, and it was incredible — a surreal experience. Kay described the cheers of the crowd when the set was done as rumbling through the stadium.
"It just gave me chills, I smiled for the whole rest of that day and for a few months after," Kay said.
Never expecting to have these opportunities, Kay feels lucky and still remembers her roots.
She remains grateful for the support she has received along the way.
"Elkhorn’s a great little town, I’m kind of lucky to call Elkhorn home. It’s always been such a community-oriented place to live, everybody is so supportive," Kay said.
Growing up in the area greatly influenced her music, offering the opportunity to sing in public from an early age.
She began singing when she was around eight years old, hitting the stage for fairs, school concerts, the Western Weekend and singing the national anthem for hockey games.
Kay stormed the stages of Elkhorn, relishing every opportunity to hone her craft.
"I was pretty lucky to have that opportunity to build my confidence in front of crowds," Kay said.
Soon after, she began taking singing lessons and entering competitions.
Wanting to honour the village that played a major role in raising her, she continually pays homage to Elkhorn.
Bucking the trend of many Manitoban artists who release their music in larger urban areas, Kay instead held her "More to Me" release party in Elkhorn.
"I wanted the people that have been behind me the longest to hear what I’ve done and see how much I’ve grown since the last time I played in Elkhorn," Kay said.
Hosting the EP release at home offered the opportunity to pack the house and celebrate together with her community, Kay said, allowing her to share that big moment with the important people from her hometown who played a major role in crafting the foundations for her to launch her career.
Finding that country music is one of the most relatable genres out there, Kay says some her favourite songs feel like "home," and she hopes that her songs speak to fans in that same way.
Kay works hard to find her own sound, slaving away in the studio to create unique songs that represent what’s heard on country radio today, while still pulling from the traditional ‘90s country music she grew up with.
"I really like to find my own sound," Kay said. "My music is who I am."
The goal is to have fans enjoy and feel good while listening to her music, while also relating to and connecting with the songs.
The emotion of a song should speak to audiences, and she hopes that they feel that when they hear her tunes.
"Country music makes you feel at home, for me anyways," Kay said. Continuing to fuel her rising star, Kay will soon be heading down to Nashville for a songwriting trip.
"I’m going to be doing pretty much nothing but songwriting and maybe a fewdemos in the studio," Kay said.
When she sits down in a room with other songwriters, she finds that even if a song doesn’t quite work out it can spark an idea that leads to something great.
A rarity in today’s culture to hear live music, Nashville is inspiring — artists are surrounded by a vibrant celebration of country music from morning to night, Kay said.
Surrounded by people who love country music, and are also chasing the dream of stardom, Kay said it is relatable and nice to see others on the same path as her.
At the best of times, it can be difficult to get radio play, and Kay said it can be even more difficult as a woman. The last couple of years have been especially challenging for women in the industry.
"I’m not sure what it is," Kay said.
Knowing a number of strong Canadian country women currently making waves in the industry, she finds the gender roles still have an effect.
The issue of women getting airplay on the radio was recently called out by country star Miranda Lambert.
Kay remains hopeful that a turn in the industry is coming, especially with the number of people shining a spotlight on the lack of women being played on country radio.
People will be heard and step up to help ensure female voices are heard on country radio, Kay hopes.
"It’s tough because there is such strong women in country and the fact that they don’t get quite as much recognition is heartbreaking," Kay said. "You gotta just keep plugging along and soon enough people will realize what they’re missing out on. A change is coming." »firstname.lastname@example.org »Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp