Get To Know: Laci Kaye Booth [Exclusive Interview]

Her debut single, "Treasure," hits country radio on September 13!

Written by Jeremy Chua
Get To Know: Laci Kaye Booth [Exclusive Interview]
Laci Kaye Booth; Photo Credit: Robby Klein

After finishing Top 5 on 2019’s Season 17 of American Idol, country newcomer Laci Kaye Booth has finally released her long-awaited self-titled debut collection. Proving herself a unique and essential addition to the format, Booth’s eponymous project is anchored in two things: authenticity and “dreamy country.”

A Texas native, Booth cites an eclectic, multi-genre list of influences, which include George Strait,  Stevie Nicks, Merle Haggard, Lana Del Rey, Lee Ann Womack and Norah Jones. On her debut project, the sonics from these superstars meld together to create the aforementioned “dreamy country” sound, a term which she affectionately coined to describe her artistry.

Booth’s eight-track project is every bit authentic and captures her artistry to a T. Each track comes from an honest place in her life, although as Booth admits, it was “very scary” on the onset to share her deepest, most personal stories with new co-writers—which include famed hitmakers Laura Veltz, Jessie Jo Dillon, Nathan Chapman and Jimmy Robbins.

There is nothing cookie-cutter about the eight songs on Booth’s introductory project. The tunes stay true to Booth’s unique brand of country. Its make-up couples plenty of country instrumentation and honest storytelling. Her Texas country roots and both soft pop and singer/songwriter influences weave together seamlessly throughout the set. 

“Heart of Texas” is a slow-burning country ballad with gorgeous harmonies, “Shuffle” is a sassy Maddie & Tae and Shania Twain-esque number, and “Treasure”—Booth’s debut single—is a Latin-infused, summery, feel-good track that pays an ode to her Mexican heritage. The crux of this breakup song is an old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” which the singer masterfully puts her spin on with her velvety vocals and a clever quip, over a robust and effervescent production. 

“If He Would’ve Stayed” is perhaps the collection’s most beautiful and vulnerable song. On the track, Booth, whose parents divorced when she was three, digs into her palpable familial pain and ruminates on the dent it’s left on her life. “Would I be as lonely? Would I feel protected? Would I be confident? A little less confused?” the 25-year-old ponders in the opening verse, imagining what life would’ve been like if her parents had remained together. Booth isn’t afraid of baring her heart in her music—and both this heart-rending tune and the entire collection are evidence of that.

Recently, the 19 Recordings/Big Machine Label Group recording artist was also named by SiriusXM The Highway as their brand new ‘Highway Find’ artist. This spotlight is part of the channel’s ongoing commitment to discovering, introducing and breaking new artists. Past ‘Highway Find’ artists include Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, Luke Combs, Carly Pearce, and Maren Morris. 

Sounds Like Nashville got to talk with Booth recently to find out more about her Texas roots, time on American Idol, road to Nashville and of course, her stellar self-titled “dreamy country” debut collection.

Introducing the next promising newcomer you have to “Get To Know”: Laci Kaye Booth.

What was life like growing up in Livingston, Texas? 

Growing up in Livingston, it was a very small town. Population: 5,000. I knew everybody! (laughs) I don’t ever remember a time where music wasn’t the focal point of my whole life. My dad’s a Texas country music artist and he’s been playing around Texas since he was 14. I came along when he was 15, so just right when [his career] started. Music was always around me and very second nature to me. My parents divorced when I was about three, and I grew up in a barn. My stepdad had a loft built in a barn, so I like to say I was raised in a barn for nine years of my life!

How did you get into music?

At the age of eight was when I played my first show. I got a standing ovation, and I think that’s when it lit a fire in my soul. I was like, “OK, I want to do this.” I picked up the guitar at nine, started learning chords and songs and, from then on, I just did every talent show I could do.

Who are some artists you’d cite as your biggest musical influences? 

There’s a lot! I grew up on old-school country music. I love Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and George Strait is one of my favorites. I saw him in concert right before COVID happened, and it was great. I was also raised on Lee Ann Womack, Shania Twain, The Chicks and all those great ladies in the 90’s. But what was a game-changer for me was discovering Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac and Norah Jones on my own. I felt like they had really authentic voices. I knew my voice was different even from [a young] age, and they made me feel better. There were times I felt like I needed to sing like Martina McBride or Carrie Underwood to be a great singer, which is not always the case. I discovered that fact with Stevie and Norah, which was really cool.

You made a little pitstop on American Idol before this, where you finished off at Top 5. Now, how has that show impacted your life, as an artist?

I didn’t have a lot of confidence growing up. Going into it, I just didn’t have any confidence. Most of the time, I would play gigs in Texas. I was playing at restaurants and bars and I was in the corner of those restaurants. Most of the time I was being ignored because most people want to eat and talk to their family and friends. I never knew the impact my voice and music could have on people. I think that’s something really special that I didn’t know before. But also, moving out of a small town opens your eyes up to the world. You start making connections and relationships with all kinds of people that you wouldn’t if you had stayed in your hometown. I think that was the most special thing for me.

How did you land a record deal with Big Machine?

I moved to Nashville the summer after Idol. I’m still signed to 19 Recordings from Idol but also Big Machine Label Group now. I had that record deal going on and they paid for me to be in Nashville for a few months. As soon as I moved here, I was like, “I need to live here. This can’t just be a couple of months kinda thing. I want to live here.” I started writing a lot, and wrote over 400 songs in the past two years of living here. I think how I landed the deal was because the more I wrote, the more my name was getting around in town. I was starting to have more conversations and meetings with different people. Everybody in Nashville [was] just so welcoming and so great, and I felt so lucky to be here in that situation at that time. My mentor, Autumn, who works at Red Light Management, told me about Dann Huff and said that if we’re looking at producing a record, Dann [has to do it]. So, she took me over to his house and I sang “Heart Of Texas” for him since I had just written that song, and he recorded me on his phone as I was singing it. He really liked me and then told me he’d produce me. I wanted to jump in the air and scream at that time. But, he actually talked to Jimmy Harnen, who’s the President of Big Machine along with Scott Borchetta, and showed him that little recording he had of me. That’s when Jimmy was like, “We got to get a meeting with her!” As soon as I met Jimmy, Scott, the whole radio team and everybody at Big Machine, it felt like home. 

What were your first few co-writes like for you? I know you collaborated with some pretty big writers like Laura Veltz, James Slater, Nathan Chapman and more! Was it scary to initially walk into the room with strangers and then share your most personal stories with them?

Yes, it was very scary! I have written by myself since I was nine years old. I never co-wrote with anybody. Moving to Nashville was the first time I had that experience of co-writing with other people. It was a game-changer for sure, but you have to be vulnerable and willing to share the deepest parts about yourself in some situations. And putting yourself out there like, “Oh, what about this melody?” and having somebody go, “Oh, I don’t know about that…” It hurts your ego too! (laughs) But, it’s also a very humbling experience. It taught and still teaches me so much. It’s insane and a game-changer, for sure. All of these writers have so much talent, and I’m just lucky to be in the room with them!

Was there a vision you had for your debut project? And how hard was it to narrow it down to just eight tracks on this collection?

It was so painful to narrow it down to these eight songs out of the 400-plus songs I had written. Since the very beginning when I moved here and people would ask me what my style was, I would tell them “dreamy country.” It’s just something I came up with. That has a lot to do with my influence from Stevie Nicks. But, I think, it’s more of me just trying to make my sound more identifiable, especially in this day and age where there are so many artists out there. With this collection, when it came down to it, it was “the best song wins.” When you look at it, it’s very well-rounded. I think there’s a little bit of something for everybody. There are dancing songs and there are heartbreak songs. It’s very well-rounded and I hope people appreciate that.

Your debut radio single on country radio is “Treasure,” which goes for adds on September 13. Congratulations! What a great choice. What was the inspiration for writing this song? And… you have Keith Urban shredding a little on it as well?!

Yes! Jimmy, the president of my label, had texted me that Keith wanted to play on that song. I was at Target, and I about fell out in the middle of Target! I grew up on Keith Urban and I’m obsessed with him. That was the coolest thing to see. Yes, it does have a big Latin influence because I have a lot of Mexican heritage. My grandpa’s Mexican, my mom’s half and my grandpa has 19 brothers and sisters that are from the same mom and dad. So, we have a very big family and I’m very proud of my heritage. I think that this is going to be his favorite song, so I’m excited about that. This song came about when I wrote with Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz and Jessie Jo Dillon. We were playing around with the saying “one man’s trash is another one’s treasure” and Laura looked at me before we started writing the song and asked, “Would you call yourself trash in a song?” And I was like, “Yeah, I actually would! Dolly would, so why not me?!”

Another collaboration you have on the collection is “Broken Heart Still Beats,” featuring Lady A’s Charles Kelley, who also co-wrote the track. Right out the gate, you have your label mate and a pretty big name featured on your debut set! How did that happen?

I’ve also wanted to write with Charles. I call him one of the most talented people in Nashville. I got to see Lady A in 2013 when I graduated high school just sat in the audience and was so inspired by them. I’ve always been a huge fan of Lady A both as individuals and as a group. When the chance came to write with them, I jumped on it. It happened with Charles, Paul DiGiovanni, whom I grew up loving from [pop band] Boys Like Girls, and Adam Hambrick, who I love. It was me and the three of them. I was playing around with the guitar part that is in “Broken Heart Still Beats,” and Charles came in with these beautiful melodies and lyrics. It was just magical having it all come together. At the end of recording my vocal and demo, I asked, “Charles, would you want to put your harmony on it?” And he was like, “Of course!” Once he did that, it took the song to a whole different level. He is the nicest, funniest and most talented human being, so I’m very blessed to say he wanted to be a part of this first release with me. 

You share a delicate, personal side of your story on “If He Would’ve Stayed,” an emotional ballad about your parents’ divorce. Were you initially afraid of putting such a vulnerable part of your story out there?

A hundred percent I was afraid. When I first wrote the song and I demoed it, I sent it to my manager and said, “Please don’t share it with anyone. I want this locked in a vault, I don’t want anybody to hear it. It’s just way too vulnerable.” It happened originally as a poem that I wrote and I wasn’t planning on sharing it. It was an evening co-write that I had with James (Slater) and Carlo (Colasacco), and it happened very organically. I was very thankful for it because it was really therapeutic to write. But, it accidentally slipped into a list of songs sent to the whole team. That’s how people heard it, because I didn’t want anybody to hear it. Jimmy called me when he first listened to it, and I had no idea anybody heard the song but my manager. He said, “Laci, this song! I had burst into tears. It’s so powerful.” It was so scary, and I told him, “Let me think…” My biggest fear was putting it out there and people thinking I’m [asking for pity], because divorce happens to so many people, you know? But, thinking about how therapeutic it was for me to write “If He Would’ve Stayed,” I hope it’s also therapeutic to listen to for some people. I’m really grateful we recorded it, and I hope it does something for people.

The collection’s closer, “Heart of Texas,” is such a plaintive, country heartbreak ballad. Would you talk about what inspired that song, both lyrically and sonically?

It was the first or second week that I came to Nashville, I originally only came to Nashville for two weeks to write. It was with Nathan Chapman and Emily Landis, and we were on a completely different song about my hometown or something. It was hard for me at first, like I said, to put my heart out there. We were actually forming a connection and I was getting more personal with them as we were writing this other song and I was sharing how hard it is for me to leave people I love in Texas behind, because I knew I was eventually going to move here. Nathan then looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re gonna break the ‘heart of texas.’” At that moment, we all looked at each other and knew we had to write that song. So we totally trashed the other song and wrote “Heart Of Texas.” Nathan started to talk to me about the “dreamy country” thing, which is what I told him I want to do. He was like, “I kind of feel like Lana Del Rey meets country music,” and I said, “If we can do something like that, that would be incredible.”

What else do you have on for the rest of the year? “Treasure” is your very first single being sent to country radio, right?

Yes! The debut single is “Treasure,” and we’re sending that to country radio. I’ve been doing Zoom radio tours and meeting some incredible radio people. It’s been really good. We were supposed to be doing it in person, and then COVID numbers started rising, so we decided the safest thing would be to do it over Zoom. But it’s been going great! I’m really grateful to do it regardless. And then next year, I’m playing Stagecoach. Hopefully some other performances get lined up as well! 

It’s time for some quick and fun questions before we officially wrap up! First, if you had to choose one sad country song to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Marina Del Rey” by George Strait! 

Who are three artists you’d love to collaborate with?

Stevie Nicks, Chris Stapleton, and George Strait! 

What’s one career bucket list for you where after you’ve checked it off, you’ll be like “OK, I’ve done this. I’ve made it!”

I think when I get to meet Stevie Nicks or George Strait. That would be my “OK, I’ve made it” moment. I think, also, it would be walking down Broadway and hearing one of the singers on Broadway covering my songs. I would just burst into tears. That would be like, “Damn.”

Lastly, Laci, what’s one thing you hope listeners take away from your self-titled debut collection?

I’ve thought about this a lot actually. My favorite thing about country music is feeling that emotion. Whether it’s pain, whether it’s love, when you hear that song, whatever emotion listeners get from my music, I hope they feel it.

Stream Laci Kaye Booth’s debut collection below.