By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
Country singer/songwriter Kiley Evans, 24, is no stranger to appearing on radio and television, as she performed her hit, “Papa’s Song” on the Steve Katsos Show and was accompanied by cellist Morgan Santos.
Additionally, her first single “Johnny Depp,” which was released a year ago, has played on multiple regional stations such as WCIB-Cool 102; WNBR-88.1; WATD-95.9; as well as WCTK- 98.1, a major country station better known as Cat Country. According to Evans, she is the only unsigned artist being played on Cat Country at the moment.
But before she made it to radio and T.V., she was a young girl whose father instilled in her a love of music. She remembers when he soothed her to sleep with his guitar playing at bedtime while growing up in their home located just outside Boston. In fact, she said he often used it as bribery for her to brush her teeth and put on pajamas.
“Then, he’d play ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ or the Winnie the Pooh theme song,” said Evans. “We were the house on the street that always had music coming out of it. I assumed everyone’s dad played guitar when I was younger.”
Yet, it wasn’t until her teen years that country music entered her life. In high school, her father had two tickets to see country star Vince Gill. He planned to go with a friend but at the last minute his buddy backed out, freeing a ticket for his daughter.
“Sugerland opened and I loved it,” she said. “It was a sound I wasn’t used to. That was the turning point for me so I grabbed onto country music and ran with it. I remember falling in love with music but I never thought I’d actually be pursuing it for a career.”
Jennifer Nettles, the vocalist for Sugerland, is just one female singer Evans gravitates toward. She also enjoys artists like Reba McIntyre and Miranda Lambert, who inspired her to write music.
The first time she composed a song was in her college days at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where she was majoring in Engineering. On semester break, she had free time and began fiddling around with her father’s guitar, an old Guild, the same one he brought with him to college.
“I think I started playing because I really missed my dad and he allowed me to take his guitar with me to school as a security blanket,” Evans said. “Up until a few years ago I didn’t really know how to play it. I only knew the three basic chords he taught me.”
Then a friend sent her a link posted by Country Music Television that advertised an original song contest and encouraged musicians to film a homemade video. Her song “The Only One” made the top 64 of a few thousand applicants and a clip aired on national television, launching her into the music spotlight.
“I loved everything about it and I never went back to college,” she said. “It’s clear to me that there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”
Since then, Evans released a five-song self-titled EP in September and filmed a video for her song, “Johnny Depp.” In addition to “Johnny Depp,” the EP features “Papa’s Song,” which was influenced by her grandfather. She said the two songs are nothing alike, as “Johnny Depp” is a pop-country tune, while “Papa’s Song” it’s more of a stripped down folk song.
“It’s a full story and a lot of people listen to country music for stories,” Evans said. “Every time I sing it I still have the emotion I was feeling when I wrote it. It’s something I feel very strongly about.”
Her grandfather, who she is extremely close to, is the first person she played it for because she wanted to be sure he was comfortable with her singing about his life experiences.
It all started when they were watching a baseball game. During a commercial break, she asked him if he had had ever been in love before he met her grandmother. He told her he had, as he met a woman when he was in the service and stationed in Texas. After he was discharged, he traveled back to his hometown in Massachusetts and planned to save money to send for her. Time went by and it never happened.
“It was the worst heartbreak he’s ever known,” said Evens. “The song is about how your greatest love is usually your greatest heartbreak.”
For Evans, her greatest love is music and she recently journeyed to Nashville to get a taste of the music scene. She said she always wondered what it would be like and to her pleasure it was better than expected.
“Everywhere you turn people are all about music,” said Evans. “No matter who you bump into on the street they are in the music business. I felt at home there because I knew everyone was doing the same thing I was and I automatically had something in common with everyone.”
Evans plans to travel back to Nashville in February and will then head back home to record a new batch of songs. For now, visit stevekatsos.com to stream her appearance on The Steve Katsos Show and check out the website for airings.