Newcomer Kelsey Waldon admits she’s pinched herself lately because life is going so great she feels like she must be dreaming. In reality the native of Monkey’s Eyebrow, KY (yes, she assures that it’s a real place), has filmed a new video with her musical hero, John Prine, and it gets even better than that. The talented newcomer is the first artist to be signed to Prine’s Oh Boy Records in 15 years.
“The first time I heard Kelsey sing I thought it was one of the most authentic country voices I had heard in a long time,” Prine tells Sounds Like Nashville. “She is the real deal and we are delighted to have her at this point in her career. She’s a good writer and takes her work seriously. We are excited to see how far she will go!”
Waldon is ready to spread her wings with the October 4 release of her Oh Boy Records debut White Noise/White Lines and an upcoming tour. “There’s a lot more work for me to do,” she says in a voice teeming with energy. “It’s never ending, but I’ve made it this far and being able to have an opportunity to release new music, to make records under John’s endorsement, that’s definitely a dream to me. I feel like half the battle as an artist is being able to keep going in this day in age and I definitely feel incredibly lucky. I’m working hard, and working amongst my peers, I know firsthand how hard it is sometimes. I’m definitely pinching myself.”
One of the highlights of Waldon’s career has been filming a new video with Prine on his classic hit “Paradise,” which is premiering exclusively on Sounds Like Nashville today (9/18). “I really didn’t know what we were going to do when we went into the studio that day because it was very loose,” says Waldon, who was thrilled when they settled on “Paradise.” “It was very, very comfortable. I always love singing with John. I’ve sang duets with him numerous times and it never gets old. I’ll sing ‘Paradise’ with John anytime he would like me to and honestly, it’s a day I will never forget because it’s the day before they announced the signing. I just couldn’t believe I was actually getting to be in the studio with John Prine. It was a special day for all of us and he kept us laughing. We literally were cracking up the whole time and I think he had a lot of fun too.”
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Y’all don’t know how long it feels like I’ve been waiting to tell you this. It’s hard for me to put into words what it truly means to me to be signed to @ohboyrecords. To have someone like John, who I have looked up to since I started writing songs, who I have set my songwriting and general music-making standards after, to have someone like him endorse my music and care enough about it to make sure it reaches a wider audience…that means everything. As artists, we know all about the highs and lows. This is why it means everything to me. I couldn’t ask for a better dream team. Oh Boy feels like home. It feels like some kind of crazy dream, but I’m so thankful it’s not. I have been taken back by all the love so far. Thank you, everyone. Also, thank you @opry, @john_prine, @ohboyrecords for a night that i’ll never forget. Photo by @lauraepartain.
Prine first recorded “Paradise” on his 1971 self-titled debut album. Over the years, it has also been recorded by John Denver, Jackie DeShannon, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, the Everly Brothers and John Fogerty, among others. When asked why he thought the song has become such an enduring classic, Prine responds, “Well I think the fact that the song is about family. I wrote it for my Dad and address him in the first line. Almost everyone can relate to it. Of course, the whole strip-mining thing is always in the news one way or the other and so I think people can relate to it on several levels. I sing the song every night at the end of my show.”
“It takes people back to a simpler time,” Waldon says of the song’s enduring appeal. “People have heard that song in jam circles and picking circles if they grew up in the bluegrass community or grew up with anyone who played music. That song was always played and a lot of people have a lot of memories connected to that song. Even if it’s not about their actual hometown, they relate it to their hometown. It could be in anywhere and I think the lyrics and everything about it has just really stuck with people. We only grew up an hour and 30 minutes away from Muhlenberg County and it was about Western Kentucky, so we certainly took that to heart.”
Waldon moved to Nashville eight years ago, but has fond memories of growing up in Monkey’s Eyebrow. “It’s the actual name of it. It’s completely for real,” she laughs. “The funny thing about back home Kentucky there’s actually quite a few crazy names, small little communities. We didn’t think it was that crazy until I left home and moved to Nashville and people were like, ‘Oh that’s weird!’ but when you live at home that’s the way it was. To me, it’s wild and wonderfully weird. I really embrace culture, so I certainly embrace that. It stuck with me.”
Waldon has accomplished a lot since she left Monkey’s Eyebrow. She performed on the Grand Ole Opry and has been featured on some of the country’s biggest festivals, including ROMP Fest, Pickathon, Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion and the National Folk Festival. Her second indie album, I’ve Got a Way, caught the attention of Prine and his wife Fiona, paving the way for her to sign with Oh Boy and share the stage with Prine on select dates this fall. “I waited a long time. I was very patient and I waited for what seemed right for me,” she says of signing with Oh Boy. “They wanted to do it. I could not believe it. I still can’t. I had his first self-titled record when I was 16 years old. I’m 31 now, but I could never imagine that years later John Prine would help put out my music. It’s pretty amazing.”
Fans who purchase Kelsey’s new record will receive a limited edition 7-inch vinyl called The Kentucky Sessions. The vinyl includes her “Paradise” collaboration with Prine. To learn more, visit ohboy.com/kelsey-waldon.