In the country music world, Kelleigh Bannen is one of many female vocalists and songwriters making an impact on the genre. Following the release of her 2016 EP Cheap Sunglasses, the Nashville native is back with "Church Clothes," a beautiful, genuine track that speaks volumes about dropping façades and the masks we present to others. Through her music, Kelleigh's proving that it's completely acceptable to let your vulnerabilities show. Speaking to HC, Kelleigh shared her thoughts on the female artists that have influenced her music and what "Church Clothes" means to her.
Kelleigh was born and raised in Nashville, TN—also known as "Music City." Growing up in a city that's known for the music it generates, Kelleigh had an abundance of exposure to how the entertainment business operates.
"I think that being a native, you just see that a lot of people can't make it work," she explains. "You see that it really doesn't have anything to do with talent sometimes."
Despite having talent and being willing to work hard, Kelleigh was aware of the fact that there are so many other components that play a role in succeeding as a musician. Because of this, she waited until she was certain of her career choice before making a commitment. "It wasn't until after college when I really started writing and performing," Kelleigh says.
Kelleigh’s favorite artists include some of country's most popular women, like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and the Dixie Chicks—but she also loves a great Garth Brooks track. Such artists are inspirational because of their distinct voices and impressive songwriting. "I really admire Little Big Town, both Karen [Fairchild] and Kimberly [Schlapman]," she says. "I think they both have really unique sounds as singers and they do really unique things with their voices, like the stories that they tell and the songs they sing."
Kelleigh first caught the attention of country music fans with her 2013 track "Famous." Last year, she released her Cheap Sunglasses EP, filled with upbeat, catchy tracks that are absolutely necessary for the ultimate summer playlist.
Her most recent song, "Church Clothes," takes on a different tone than her summer EP. The song describes a couple that attends church services and keeps up appearances, but at home, they couldn't be further apart.
Lyrics like "We walk in and head to the same pew / And hold hands, just like we're supposed to / But last night you slept on the sofa / And these days I don't even know ya / We fight like hell but nobody knows / When we're wearing our church clothes" highlight the masks that people put on for others, pretending as though everything is all right.
The song is heartbreaking and vulnerable, and whether or not you relate to the couple described in "Church Clothes," the broader idea is that we all are guilty of putting on a façade at some point—and this track is SO relatable.
Kelleigh realized just how much this song resonated with listeners when she received an overflow of feedback.
"The reaction from fans to 'Church Clothes,' just to see that people care about the song, has been really overwhelming and encouraging to me—especially as an artist," Kelleigh shared. "As an artist, I’m trying to figure out how to make it work, continue putting music out and grow on what I'm doing."
"People were finding it really inspiring, like, 'Oh my gosh, that happened to me, too,' or, 'I can relate,' Kelleigh adds. "It's a way to build a community and help start conversations."
In an effort to spark discussions, Kelleigh often writes blog posts and creates podcasts that give fans a more in-depth glimpse into her life and career. Her articles and podcast series—This Nashville Life—have explored every facet of the industry, from how a song makes its way to radio to how co-writing and publishing work. The result is a unique perspective, straight from an artist currently navigating country music.
"I think what's special about country music is that the fans really do care about more than just the music," Kelleigh says. "They want to know about your life. It's more of a lifestyle genre. The idea behind the blogs and the podcasts is to invite them in."
For the remainder of the year, Kelleigh hopes to release more music (fingers crossed for an EP or album in the near future!). To hold you over until that happens, Kelleigh will be hitting the road this summer, belting out "Church Clothes" and her other tracks at music festivals across the country.
"There's something about live shows that makes you feel really connected to the audience, even though you may not be able to see the faces of everyone."