Kayla Adams succeeding in Nashville by staying true to her Montana roots
Flathead native Kayla Adams, one of Nashville’s biggest up-and-coming new stars, might have burned her cheating boyfriend’s prized possessions in “Sober and Sorry,” but she admits in an interview with Big Sky State Buzz that’s a side of her that was exaggerated for the video.
She’s never gotten revenge in quite that fashion in real life, however she said that element of the song, which she co-wrote with Billy Atherholt and Pete Nanney, has the power to connect with a lot of people.
“Really, that’s a big part of the reason why people like music like this,” she said. “It’s an outlet for those types of things that you feel but don’t have a way to express it in an appropriate way.”
Adams, a 2008 graduate of Flathead High School, also said because this was her first commercial single, she wanted to shoot it in one of her favorite venues, Casey’s Bar in Whitefish. “That was really important for me and I kind of had to fight for it,” she said. “It was not as easy as doing it in Nashville, but I wanted it to be there just to give people a bigger piece of me and one of the best ways of doing that was to have it shot in my hometown.” The track recently jumped to 32 on the Music Row charts and is being shown on CMT.com, MTV.com and VH1.com among others.
Adams said another big reason for shooting in her hometown was that the song isn’t one that gets to the heart of who she is.
“Obviously with a song like this, you’re not going to be able to get to the core of someone’s being, you know, because it’s more of an emotional song as opposed to a story or something that would be maybe calmer,” she said. “But, it’s definitely a piece of me and Montana and shows where I came from, but I mean, there’s more to me than this angry person I am in the video, for sure.”
The video also invokes images of other successful female artists such as Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert.
She said she’s expected to receive these types of comparisons, even if they can sometimes do more bad than good, because while some of the comparisons are flattering, she said in the end she wants to make her own name for herself.
“I’ve probably been compared to pretty much anyone and I think some people are just more informed than others,” she said. “But yeah, it’s definitely double sided because it’s a huge compliment, but the other part of it is you want to make it on your own and you hope you’re not too much like this person or that person and it’s important that people see you as your own thing.”
She said being compared to some of her country idols from the 1990s has especially been flattering because she remembers growing up hoping to be like them some day. “When someone says I might sound like Sarah Evans or some of the other 90’s country stars, that’s cool because I remember wanting to be like them when I was little,” she said.
Adams said in that same vein, she’s proud that she’s been able to start making it as a professional singer even though she’s from a small town in Montana.
“I think overall, one of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten was from my Spanish teacher from high school who messaged me on Facebook and she had cut out an article on me and put it in her room and has been telling kids how I went to school there and how what I’m doing is proof you can do anything no matter where you live.”
Adams said that touched her personally because she’s always been a strong believer in taking control of your life through your own actions and always trying to make things better. “I just love that because I’ve always had the mentality that if you don’t like something you can change it,” she said. “Whether that means you need to change where you live or change your path, but I think it’s so cool that people are seeing it is possible to get out of this town if you want, or that it is possible to be successful and be more creative.”
She also said she isn’t content on savoring what she’s accomplished already.
“I’m one of those people that find it hard to enjoy the moment because I’m always looking ahead and working toward an ultimate goal, I guess,” she said. “This single (‘Sober and Sorry’) has done incredibly well, and I mean better than anyone could have expected, so that’s awesome … but hopefully with the next single we can break onto the Billboard charts, for example, and that’s kind of the next step that’s building on what we’ve created and continuing with that.”
Adams also has her debut album coming out in the next few months. She said she will have written or co-written all of the songs on the album, contains a mix of up-tempo tracks, slow and sad tracks and a few surprises as well.
“It’s definitely got a good mix,” she said. “We’ve got the songs that are upbeat and rocking, similar to ‘Sober and Sorry’ but I’ve always been a huge lover of slow songs, too. For instance, my favorite Pandora station is one sad, slow song after another, so there’s a little of that. Really, though, it’s just basically a lot of stories from my life that we’ve put together.”
She first started writing songs early in her career and has continued learning and improving her skills as not only a performer, but a songwriter also.
In the meantime, she keeps performing and exposing her music to new audiences across the country.
She said while she was floored when she got word that ‘Sober and Sorry’ would be shown on all Virgin Airlines flights in the U.S., and Australia, she’s still not quite used to the attention she’s receiving.
“It’s definitely crazy and like the video has started to premiere on some TV channels and I’m getting messages from people who say ‘I saw your video and I really liked it,’ which is crazy because for me up to this point the only way I ever found fans was by physically being there and playing for them so this is really cool for people to be like, ‘wow I liked your song’ even though I’ve never seen them before.”
A big part of that, she said, comes from her promotions team at SSM Entertainment. “I have a great team behind me who have been doing more things with the song and video than I’ve ever done on my own,” she said.
Raised on a farm in northwest Montana, Adams discovered at an early age her desire to become a full-time musician. She auditioned to be part of a Christian band through the organization Youth Encounter. The group, named Captive Free, was one of five national bands that toured the Midwest. After that experience, Adams knew she had to keep playing music because of the joy she experiences while on stage.
As she grew up, she attended a semester at the music program at Belmont University and later the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music for a year in Los Angeles. Adams then returned to Montana to perform across the state, before moving to Nashville full-time last year. She said that experience of performing on the road for as long as she has gave her a leg up on other Nashville hopefuls in that it showed record producers that she has what it takes to become a touring musician because she’s done it on her own so much already.
That, combined with her love of performing, has her on the road destined for stardom.
“When I’m on a stage it’s like ‘This is what I do it all for,’ and that’s like this is where I belong,” she said. “The rest of it is fine, too, but it doesn’t compare to playing on stage. That’s what I love. It can be an acoustic show for not many people or a huge show with a band in front of a giant crowd, there’s something about being on stage. I feel like I belong there and it’s one of the few times when I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m just there and it feels right.”