Kelly Tillotson

Kelly Tillotson

We have the pleasure of visiting with Kelly Tillotson. We first got to know Kelly when she was a student at Belmont University and working at The Recording Academy. Born and raised in Maryland, Kelly grew up listening to 90′s country in the car with her grandmother, a native Tennessean herself, and she became hooked to iconic artists like Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Lonestar, Reba, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, and the Dixie Chicks…among many others. She sings and writes music that aims to inspire others and empower them to be themselves, chase their dreams, change the world, laugh, cry, dance, forgive, sing, and dare to love. She’s released her music video “Betting On You” and she will be releasing her first album next month!

Kelly, thanks so much for joining us. We’ve been following your career for a while now, but let’s bring everybody up to speed and and start out by finding out a bit more about you and your background. Tell us how you got into music and some details about the road to your upcoming self-titled album.

KT: Of course, I’m so excited to be able to talk to you guys! Okay, well I have always been musically driven, taking piano lessons, voice lessons, guitar lessons, participating in school choirs, musicals, and things like that, but I didn’t become serious about my music or realize I could make a career out of it until I was a senior in high school. I had a wonderful music teacher and a fabulous voice coach at the time who were both instrumental in encouraging me to chase my dreams. With their support I decided to put aside my plans of going to medical school and pursue my one true passion: music. Figuring I had to go big or go home, I only applied to one college, Belmont University, because I knew I had to be in Nashville, and wanted to study commercial music. Thankfully, I was accepted as a Vocal major and spent the next four years growing as an artist, performing, songwriting, and working in the industry. My senior year, I knew I wanted to put together an EP to officially “launch” myself as an artist and kick start my career. A year and a half of hard work later, I am now preparing to release the album on Valentine’s Day and could not be more excited to share my new music with my friends, family, and fans! All you lovebirds out there, there’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a couple of love songs, right?

Absolutely! So what drew you to music and country music in particular?

KT: Not unlike most people, there was something about music I always connected with. Being able to relate to an emotion through a song is an irreplaceable feeling. Not only that, singing along to my favorite songs has always been an incredibly fun, liberating experience! Much to my sister’s dismay, I would spend hours and hours with a microphone hooked up to our stereo system, belting out every song on the Shania Twain album. After that, I’d whip out my other favorites…Celine Dion, Britney Spears, the Spice Girls, and on and on. My poor family probably regrets the day they purchased that microphone…quiet afternoons or evenings around the house became a distant memory. In regards to my particular love of country music, as I mentioned, my grandmother was always blasting country music in her car, and she would drive us around a good amount, so there must have been something about it that stuck with me. I loved the emotion behind country songs, and I loved the stories. It was as if every song was a three-minute movie, or a brief glimpse into someone else’s life.

In listening to your music, it seems pretty clear that in addition to your love of country, you’re drawn to love songs. For example, you’ve performed “Marry You”, “Your Love Feels Like Home” and your latest single, “Betting On You”. Is there anything in particular that makes you want to sing about love or is love just one of several themes?

KT: That’s definitely true! I’m pretty much your typical girl…in love with love, and not only in a romantic sense. Most things people do or don’t do are from either an overflow or lack of love…it’s such a powerful experience and emotion, so it’s understandable why so many songs in the world are written about love. My songs are usually an outpouring of experiences and emotions in my life, so I can only hope there’s a lot more love songs to come, because that means there will be lots of love in my life! Through my songs, I hope to be able to spread that love around to everyone else. I guess since I have so many love songs, Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to release my EP!

We mentioned that you were drawn to Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Reba and other country greats. When you get right down to it, is there one, or maybe two, of these stars that really captured your spirit and really influenced your career? Is there that special song that you played over-and-over?

KT: That’s a great question. There are too many to count!! There have been so many songs I have played repeatedly over the years that have meant to so much to me. I have always been incredibly inspired by Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack, and Martina McBride. “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack was the first song that I would play and sing over and over. The message of the song was incredible….”and when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance”. Simple, but brilliant! Living my life to the fullest, and encouraging others to do the same is an integral part of who I am as an artist. As much as I love inspirational and empowering songs, I also love songs that are sassy and fun…that make people want to get up and dance! Shania was my go-to for those kinds of songs.

Turning to your current work, you’ve just released a super video for the single “Betting On You”. Give us a little background on the video. How did it come to be? Who worked with you and how do you see the video in partnership with the music?

KT:Yes, I am so excited about it! I worked with an amazingly talented videographer named Thomas Gentry, who went to Belmont with me and is a good friend. He did such a stellar job and deserves absolutely all of the credit for this video. The actual process of shooting the video was relatively short. I organized the band and the extras in the span of a week (while I was on vacation in Minnesota with no cell reception – minor detail!) and we shot the entire video a week later in just one day. It was probably the most thrilling, exhausting day of my life. Although we actually had one big scare…the concert scene was at an outdoor venue and naturally; the weather forecast was predicting a huge storm that night. Fortunately, by the grace of God, the rain held off the entire night until the exact time we started packing up…around 10:30pm, when it started to pour! The video was also really special because everyone in the video is a dear friend of mine. It meant so much to have them all be a part of it, and share in the excitement of seeing the video for the first time.

Great! I thinks it’s time to take a look and listen…”Betting On You”!

Bravo! That’s fantastic…well done! Your self-titled album is coming out in February. Tell us about the release. What’s the story or message you want us to take away?

KT: It is, only a couple days away now…on February 14th, Valentine’s Day! Hooray! The EP will be available on my iTunes, my website(, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, and more! I will also be doing a release show, the night before, on February 13th, at The Listening Room in Nashville…which will be so much fun. I’ve been working on this project for the last year and a half, so I could not be more excited to finally be able to share what I’ve been working on. Not only do I want people to be able to relate to the songs, enjoy them, blast them in their car, be entertained and encouraged, but I also want people to be inspired to chase their dreams, in the same way that I chased mine. When I started this process, I felt like there was no way in the world I could undertake such a huge project, but here I am today my own CD, website, and music video! It took a ton of hard work and faith, as well as a lot of help from family, friends, musicians, designers, and photographers, but it happened! I feel so blessed, and I really hope this can be an encouragement to others to do all those things they thought were never possible!

Do you have one or two favorite tracks?

KT: Probably “Betting On You” and “Coming Home.” It was an awesome experience to have written both of them, because I saw them go from a simple idea to a fully produced song. With the help of a talented producer, engineer and skilled musicians, they changed a lot musically, and turned out better than I could have ever imagined! I’m really excited to get the album out and see what everyone’s favorite songs are.

Okay. Looking out onto the horizon, what’s next for Kelly? Any special projects you’d like to pursue?

KT: I would love to do a bunch of shows outside of Nashville and really begin to connect with, and grow my fan base. I am also really excited about co-writing more and getting ready to record another EP! I also have a couple of side projects that include an online craft show called Kelly’s Krafts (on my YouTube channel), and have actually started singing and performing in a trio with two other guys, which has been a really fun experience. I’m just going to keep working hard, singing, writing, enjoying this amazing journey, and seeing where it takes me!

And my last (and my favorite) question. Do you have any superheros? What’s the story?

KT: My number one superhero would be God; I truly could not embark on this crazy journey without faith and trust in Him. My Mom and Dad are two of my superheroes…my Mom runs a non-profit for homeless youth in Orange County, CA called Build Futures and is a wonderful woman, and my Dad is one of the most loving, patient people I have ever met. I look up to them so much!!
Other super-heroes would probably be…my songwriting heroes Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, and Melissa Pierce. They are all awesome women and unbelievably talented. If you haven’t heard their music, you will want to check it out! I work part time at a music publishing/management company called Creative Nation, run by a woman named Beth Laird and her husband (a songwriter), Luke Laird. They are both brilliant, talented, and some of the kindest, most generous people I know, so they would definitely fall under the category of super-heroes as well!

Thanks very much, Kelly Tillotson. It’s been fabulous visiting with you and we wish you all the best for success. We hope to see you back with HorizonVU Music!

KT: Thank YOU so much!! Thank you for all your support over the last couple months, it has meant so much. Thank you for all you do for independent artists!!

Visit Kelly at and “Like” her Facebook page at
Follower her on Twitter: @KellyTillotson