Country singer Kendra Kay comes to Regina

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Just feeling a little wistful, Kay? Ryley Dawson

Rising star talks barrel racing, her new single, and mentorship from Canadian icons

Country singer Kendra Kay from the small town of Elkhorn, Manitoba is very committed to “living the country lifestyle” she talks about in her music. She “grew up with horses” in a “rodeo family” and travelled a lot because of her parents’ involvement in chuckwagon races. Since the pandemic, Kay has been able to devote time to her barrel racing too. She’s always ridden and competed where she could, but “the past few years [she] really actually got into it deep enough [to be] competitive,” and as a result won a championship buckle last year.

Kay’s new single, “Wild,” which came out January 28, was created by some pretty big names in country music. She said that when she “got pitched” the song, she “was excited to hear it before it even fully finished downloading when [she] got the email because [she] saw the songwriters on it” – Jeff Pardo, Molly Reed, and Carly Pearce. “I’m a big Carly Pearce fan,” Kay says. “I love her sound and her style.”

When asked how she feels about the song, Kay says “it’s very relatable. The song is all about just kind of letting yourself go and letting yourself find somebody and just being free with them. And letting the love run wild, kind of a thing.”

The reception for “Wild” has already been quite positive. “People say it’s a relatable song for, you know, young and old, because it’s kind of that first love, letting go, ‘Wild’ type of feeling,” Kay says. “And then on the other hand, you have the relationships [of] older couples who have been together for years and years that can think back on the time when they found that moment. It’s been pretty cool to hear [from] people that are connecting with the song. It’s all you could ever ask for.”

Before I interviewed Kay, I noticed that she worked with Terri Clark on her latest EP. As a big fan myself, I had to know all about what that was like. Kay was equally starstruck, and says the experience was “definitely one of the biggest full circle moments [she’s] ever had.”

“Terri Clark was my first concert,” Kay says. “So, I was a Terri Clark fan [as] a little kid, and I vividly remember that first concert my parents ever took me to. It was in Brandon. And I fell in love with her. I still have that concert tee shirt!”

“When I walked into the studio that day, she was sitting there and they were going over some production stuff and I just kind of stopped and I was like, in my head, little eight-year-old Kendra was like ‘oh my god! It’s Terri Clark!’”

Kay said she “really respected” Clark’s guidance because of how much she admired her career. Kay says that she would give her style ideas on parts of her songs: “She’d go over the top back mic in the studio and be like ‘hey, try this!’ and she’d sing the part. And I’d just stop and be like, ‘I need to take a second, because Terri Clark is singing my song.’”

“It was all very surreal,” Kay says. “She’s such a beautiful person. I’m so grateful that I have her support in this industry.” The following year they shared the stage at a country music festival, and Kay recalls being invited to catch up with her on her tour bus. “She wasn’t Terri Clark; she was just some friend that you’d had for years. I appreciate a lot of the country music scene and the artists, especially the females, that are paving the way and then helping us young ones also find the way down the path.”

Kay is equally starstruck to be sharing the stage with Dean Brody this Saturday (February 5) here in Regina. “Growing up where I did,” she says, “I always travelled to Regina for pretty much everything. We were closer to Regina than we were Winnipeg, so it was our centre to go for back-to-school shopping and any time we needed a city run for Christmas shopping, Regina was our stop.”

“I grew up always going to Agribition every year,” Kay adds, “so to be able to come and be entertainment in that building is pretty exciting for me, and then [to also be] direct support for Dean Brody is super cool.” It’s even more of a full circle moment because Dean Brody opened for Terri Clark at Kay’s fateful first concert. “All these connections and moments, they kinda warm my heart,” Kay says. “If I could think back to tell that kid that was sitting in the crowd what she was doing and who she would be working with […] I don’t think I would have ever believed anyone if they told me that.”

Kay gets a lot of inspiration and support from her family. She feels very lucky and tells me that they’ve always had her back, especially since she started her music career so young. She says that she began recording at 17, and being “straight out of high school, [had her] worries of like ‘well what if it doesn’t work out?’ or ‘am I wasting my young years?’ and this and that.” She says her parents “kept [her] going” and “helped [her] realize what [she] truly wants.” She said “without that, [she] definitely wouldn’t have the strength that [she] do[es].”

She’s also fortunate enough to have a good team behind her. “They’re wonderful people and they’re all family to me,” Kay says. “And we’ve really created this group that we can all get together and it’s like a family reunion.” She’s also “been with the same band since [she] started,” and this is their “eighth year playing together.” “The guys and I have kinda grown up together,” Kay says. “They were all in their early twenties… I’ve watched them all get married and have kids and it’s been great to have that.”

Kay is proud to announce she has “lots coming up.” She says that in the “last couple years with not being able to be on the road as much, [she] spent all the time in the studio. So, [she has] a whole whack of new music ready to go” – and she feels it’s her best yet.

“I really truly think that this is the most authentic Kendra Kay that I could have ever done for anybody to listen to,” Kay says. “I’m so proud of the songs we compiled and the ones that I’ve written and the stories that they all tell.”

 After her stop in Regina, she has some shows out west in Alberta as well as a trip planned for Ontario – shows that aren’t even announced yet. On top of that, she even has “a couple trips” to Nashville planned for some more song writing and recording. She hopes that by summer, we’re able to safely go back to full festival seasons. She has booked some tentative shows, “assuming that if numbers are wide open, they’ll be a go.”

The pandemic has allowed Kay to spend time barrel racing, writing, and recording, and she doesn’t feel like it’s wasted time. But of course, she’s more than ready to get back out on tour. “After the last two years,” Kay says, “I’m just ready to let ‘er buck.”

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