I met singer/songwriter/producer Kelly Lang several years ago and have loved her and her music ever since. Having just released her new “Throwback” album featuring Kelly’s gorgeous takes on several classic tunes, and with an upcoming show in Nashville at 3rd & Lindsley (located not so ironically at the corner of 3rd & Lindsley), I felt it was time to feature Kelly in my latest round of Rapid Fire 20 Q.
JONATHAN PINKERTON: For those who may not know, your Dad, Velton Lang was Conway Twitty’s tour manager. What’s your earliest musical memory?
KELLY LANG: I remember sitting on the side of the stage while Conway performed and the fans screaming his name. I also remember writing my very first song in the bathtub at six years old, something I still continued to this day.
JP: How did you’re career in music begin?
KELLY LANG: I made my own little wooden microphone and sold tickets to my family and whomever would listen to me sing, and that turned into doing the “Ralph Emery Show” when I was 12 years old. I then recorded the song “Lady Lady”, which did really well for me and opened more doors. Then opportunities came rather quickly as the “go to opening act” for the big stars.
JP: “Lady, Lady” became your first Billboard single and the video was soon featured on then-upstart video channel, CMT. What was it like seeing your video on TV the first time?
KELLY LANG: It was such an honor that they would actually contact me and pay for my very first video so they could have content when they first began. I was a very young girl and had a big crush on the cowboy in the video so that was my focus at the moment.
JP: Speaking of TV, not long after the success of “Lady, Lady”, you appeared on “Star Search” the popular forerunner to shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent”. Do you remember that experience fondly?
KELLY LANG: Oh yes, it was a wonderful opportunity for me. A funny story, being from Tennessee (they treated me like a country bumpkin) and not having a lot of experience at that young age, I was told to make a version of my song cut down to two minutes. Well when I got to California for rehearsal, they said my song had run over two minutes and 33 seconds. I said, ” How could that be, I timed it with my egg timer?”…It was a big laugh for them out there in LA.
JP: Ha. Love it. You mentioned earlier your first appearance on the “Ralph Emery Show”. Those of us who’ve been in Music City for a while remember your eventual conning association that show, a longtime staple of morning television here in Nashville. I simply adore Mr. Ralph. You were with the show off and on for about a decade, right?
KELLY LANG: Yes I did a spot here or there from the time I was 12 years old up into my adulthood but I became a solid cast member taking Lorrie Morgan’s place there towards the end. It was like my college education and I could never be thankful enough to Ralph Emery for believing in me and giving me such a wonderful start to my career.
JP: In addition to appearing on the Ralph Emery Show, you also appeared on Emery’s TNN series Nashville Now as well as the network’s Music City Tonight. Those shows were known for showcasing not only upcoming talent, but some of the biggest stars in the business. Was it during that time your forged your longtime friendship with country star Lorrie Morgan?
KELLY LANG: I knew Lorrie a little bit back then but became better friends with her years later as we wrote a lot of her songs together. She and I truly bonded when I went through Breast cancer, as we would work out everyday together at the YMCA.
JP: Among your other many notable friends is Barry Gibb. How did that friendship come to be?
KELLY LANG: About 10 years ago Barry asked me to sing a duet with him at a benefit for tornado victims in Hendersonville. I’m fortunate enough to consider both Lorrie, Barry and so many others part of my extended family.
JP: Now that you’ve mentioned family…we can’t chat without mentioning your beautiful daughters. How did you balance motherhood with your burgeoning career?
KELLY LANG: Well, during my first marriage I gave up performing for many years and focused more on writing so I could stay home with my girls. I wrote a cd called “Lullaby Country” for my oldest daughter Payton, which 15 years later ended up in Cracker Barrel. When I went through my divorce, I tried other career options to help support us, but ultimately music was always in my mind.
JP: So, you may have focused on your daughters, but music never left your soul, correct?
KELLY LANG: I like to say that most people are made up of 96% water, but I’m made up of 100% music. It rules my soul. I’m so thankful both of my daughters Payton and Kennedy share my love of music as well. My favorite quote is “Music is what feelings sound like”. It makes me complete.
JP: That is a great quote. I’m gonna remember that one. Alright, let’s fast forward a bit. In 2004 you released the appropriately titled “It’s About Time”. I say appropriately titled, because surely it was about time you got back into music as a recording artist. Among the tracks on that project is “Goodbye, Darlin'”, your tribute to Conway Twitty, who had passed away in 1993. How important was it for you to pay tribute to him with that song?
KELLY LANG: TG and I both knew and loved Conway. We were having dinner one night talking about how much we missed him. As I was driving home, this song came to me so fast, I pulled over to the side of the road to write it down, but all I could find was a lip liner and a napkin. I scribbled it down. I recorded it the next day and gave it to the family to hear that week. It was like it flowed out of me. I wish he knew how much he influenced me and how loved he was. It’s one of my most requested songs to this day.
JP: Ok, you’re reading my mind. I was about to ask you about TG. So somewhere between raising your girls as a single mom and the second phase of your career getting going, you became reacquainted with TG Sheppard. Similar to another great country love story, that of Connie Smith and Marty Stewart, you were just a young thing when you first met TG, but it was years later that you began dating. How did you two reconnect?
KELLY LANG: Haha. I had been divorced for about six months when I ran into his first wife at a party. She told me TG was single… I thought that was kind of weird, like what is that suppose to mean? He called me a week later. I then found out, she actually fixed us up. The greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten is when she said she thought we would make the perfect pair so she wanted to help us get together. Thanks Diana!
JP: Now see! This is why I love talking to you! I never knew that story. Just last week, you two celebrated your ninth wedding anniversary, right? What’s been the best part of being Mrs. TG Sheppard?
KELLY LANG: Everything!! He’s everything to me. My friend. My supporter, my singing partner, my spiritual leader. I could go on and on but it would get sickening. I’m blessed beyond belief to be his wife
JP: Just for meanness, and because I adore you and TG, what’s the worst part of being Mrs. TG Sheppard?
KELLY LANG: He is A perfectionist and I must be his worst nightmare because I am NOT!
JP: Proving you two are just as hot on stage as off, you frequently perform together and in 2013 you released “Iconic Duets”, on which you and TG put your own spin on some of music’s most classic collaborations. I gotta tell you, I love that you included “I Got You Babe”. Were there other songs that didn’t make the cut that might appear on a Volume 2 someday?
KELLY LANG: “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” and “Storms Never Last”
JP: Ugh. Now I wanna hear those versions. Talking about cover songs, a while ago, you began posting musical Throwback Thursday videos. I have to admit, I love when you do those. What it is about a familiar song that makes up feel so comfortable?
KELLY LANG: I don’t know… But it has really struck a nerve with over a million views of them now. I’m so blown away by the support of fans all over the world.
JP: Perhaps not so coincidentally, your latest album (do people still call them albums?) is titled “Throwback” and features collaborations with Lee Greenwood, Olivia Newton-John and Paul Shaffer. How did this latest project come together?
KELLY LANG: It was recorded over a year period of time. When I couldn’t play a song someone requested for my weekly Throwback songs on Facebook, I would put it on my “to record” with real musicians list. Lol.
JP: As alluded to in the headline of this interview, on Monday, August 29, you take to the stage of 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville. How important as an artist is it for you to continue to do live shows and connect with the audience?
KELLY LANG: It is like breathing to me. I’d die info wasn’t able to perform. I’m so glad people like live performances still. It’s so much fun to connect with a live audience.
JP: You’ve revealed that TG will be your special guest. How much fun is it to flip the switch and have him as your guest instead of the reverse?
KELLY LANG: He and I love working together so much. It’s been funny telling people he’s my uber driver, guitar tech and opening act, but we all know who wears the pants here. Haha
JP: One thing I love about a Kelly Lang show…you just never know who’s gonna join you on stage. Can you reveal any other possible surprises for Monday’s show?
KELLY LANG: Nothing I can talk about yet.
JP: Dang! I thought I’d sneak that one past you. So we’ll just have to come to the show and see, huh? Alright, our time together is almost up…What’s next?
KELLY LANG: Just enjoying life. Lots of upcoming concerts throughout the country, and a possible all original album next year.
Kelly’s “Thowback” cd is available now. Click Here to sample snippets of each track. Click Here to purchase. Kelly, TG and special surprise guests will take to the stage of Nashville’s popular 3rd and Lindsley at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 29. Click Here for tickets. To keep up with the latest concert dates, news, Throwback Thursday musical tributes and just a whole lot of fun, follow Kelly on social media. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and at KellyLang.net.
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