31 Days of Women: Kelleigh Bannen


I chatted with Kelleigh Bannen just over a year ago about her fantastic single “Church Clothes” and it remains one of my most honest interviews to date. One of the most vulnerable country songs I’ve ever heard, Bannen first stumbled across “Church Clothes” in 2013 while working on a demo session with songwriter Nicolle Galyon, who wrote the track with Liz Rose. Bannen shared the song with her manager and says they “were losing our minds.”

“Church Clothes” paints a vivid picture of a struggling marriage where both sides want out. All the while, the couple keep up appearances while their problems remain hidden from those around them. It was a theme that struck a chord for Bannen as her parents had separated after 40 years of marriage and later divorced.

“It was so exactly what I was going through with my own family at the time when I first heard it. It was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is my world,’ at the time we recorded this because I was on the road a lot and was trying to figure out how to make my marriage work in that setting too,” she confesses. “We started to share it out and play it out [and] so many people can connect with it. Whether it’s a family that went through a divorce – even if they’re not churchgoing – but if they feel that pressure to clean up for the world or to put on the smiling face or to not be real about the stuff that’s going on in their lives.”



Bannen told me that she hopes the song’s vulnerability gives people permission to not be perfect. Instead of looking at the world through social media’s glossy filters of each other, she urges people to own their “messy glory.”

“People have to see your mess. You have to see theirs to really see each other and be with each other,” she advises. “The invitation of ‘Church Clothes’ is to let people see the real you and to trust that in doing that, you may actually have more love or you may be more accepted. You open yourself up to connection in a totally different way instead of covering it up and hiding and all those things that we do so that nobody knows who we really are and what we’re really going through.”

For the rest of my interview with Kelleigh Bannen, visit Sounds Like Nashville.


5 New Female Country Artists to Know in 2015



Caitlyn Smith, Kelleigh Bannen, Kelsea Ballerini, Michaela Anne and Mickey Guyton (Courtesy: Spencer Combs, Universal Music Group, Black River Publishing, Five Head Entertainment, Capitol Records Nashville)

While 2014 may not have been a stellar year for females on country radio, it was a memorable year for breakout country acts like Brandy Clark, Angaleena Presley and Maddie and Tae to be introduced to the mainstream.

Last year did, however, wind down with a big No. 1 radio hit for Maddie & Tae and two high-profile GRAMMY nominations for Clark, so we take that as a good sign for things to come. And with additional new female artists continuing to gather attention for their songs, we can already tell that 2015 is setting up to be strong year for women in country music.

I’ve picked out five new female country artists that I feel have both the talent and the potential to break out this year and provide fans with new songs and a fresh point of view. Listen to their music below, then if you like what you hear, put them on your playlist and request their songs at your local radio stations.

Here’s hoping that 2015 will be the year the ladies take back the radio from the bros.

1. Michaela Anne



Michaela Anne is well-known in the Brooklyn alt-country music scene and has opened up for acts like Brandy Clark, Steel Magnolias and country-punk powerhouse Lydia Loveless. On top of that, her excellent 2014 release Ease My Mind separates her from the pack. Whispered vocals are sung over wavering banjo, harmonica and pedal steel, making for the most traditional-sounding country record we’ve heard in a while. Tracks like the yearning “Black and Gray” strike an emotional chord, while title track “Ease My Mind” showcases her fun side.

2. Mickey Guyton



Mickey Guyton is kicking off 2015 with great strides. She made her Opry debut this past weekend, and she just released her very first single to radio on Monday (Jan. 12). Titled “Better Than You Left Me,” it’s a soulful track that shows off her powerhouse singing. On the song, Guyton laments about an ex who left her only to try to win her back months later. But Guyton isn’t having it: she’s stronger and has long moved on. An anthem for anyone who has had their heartbroken, why wouldn’t you root for Guyton?

3. Kelsea Ballerini



Kelsea Ballerini’s latest single “Love Me Like You Mean It” is already getting radio play, which is a huge feat for females in country. The former dancer (yes, she was a ballerina) was also named CMT’s Next Women In Country last year, proving she’s well on her way to representing the ladies of country music. While Ballerini admits her discovery of country music was a bit late, the Knoxville, Tenn. native came on the scene at the perfect time as her single was the most added female debut of 2014.

For my complete write-up, visit

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: Kelleigh Bannen’s “Smoke When I Drink”

kelleigh bannen

Late last year, I stumbled upon Kelleigh Bannen‘s ear worm of a track, “Smoke When I Drink,” on Spotify. I was immediately hooked and the chorus of the song stayed in my head for days.

“Smoke When I Drink” hits the listener at full force from the very first guitar lick. When her smooth vocals enter, the song picks up steam as she sings of taking a shot to calm her nerves just in case she runs into her ex at the bar.

“Baby you’re a cigarette straight to my head/ I’m high as a kite while I’m saying I only smoke when I drink,” she sings as her former flame walks on over. Bannen’s growl on the chorus further compliments the edginess of the song.

The gritty track turns the boys on their heads because, hey, girls smoke and drink, too. Listen to the track below.