Music was always Kaitlyn Kohler’s path, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a bit of a bumpy road as she navigated that path. Before earning two top 30 singles in Texas and putting countless shows under her belt, Kohler experienced anxiety that lead her to believe she would turn to a form of science as a career.
Now, she thrives on the stage, and she’s backing up her success on the stage on the charts. Her current single, “Missing You Like This” is currently sitting at number 21 in Texas, which doubled down on the success of her debut single, “Everything’s Here But You,” which peaked at number 27, both coming from her debut EP released about a year ago.
That EP sees Kohler tapping into her love of both classic country music and the diverse influences she grew up with. Country, rock and contemporary blend to make a sound that Kohler calls “me,” and serves as a strong introduction to the country music community.
We chatted with Kaitlyn about overcoming her anxiety, the validation her chart success has given her, the stories behind many of the songs on her EP and what she hopes listeners take away from it, her plans to keep her online presence up while she can’t be on stage and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Kaitlyn Kohler: Growing up, I listened to a lot of classic country because that’s what my parents listen to. I really loved all the females like Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood. I really liked Carrie Underwood because I remember watching her on American Idol when I was little, and I’ve followed her ever since she won the show. As I got older, I started to love classic rock and oldies like Journey, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and The Eagles, and older music like Otis Redding, Louis Armstrong, Ben E. King, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s been a mix of a lot of different things.
PC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
KK: I’ve pretty much done music my whole life, but I realized that it’s what I wanted to do as a career when I got into high school. I’m a very anxious person and, so I didn’t like performing in front of people, so I thought I was going to go into science of some kind. I thought I was going to be a marine biologist or a psychology researcher. My dad really helped convince me to pursue music because I kept feeling like it’s what I was meant to do and what God was pointing me towards. I went to college for music, and I ended up moving out to Atlanta, which is where I met my manager. I’m so glad that it happened that way, because I absolutely love it.
PC: What did you do to combat and overcome that anxiety to get to the point where you were comfortable performing on stage?
KK: Even though it was really uncomfortable, pushing my boundaries and stepping outside of my comfort zone helped a lot. You don’t have to jump and do something that you never thought in a million years that you would do, you just have to take baby steps. My dad helped me out so much by pushing me to do things that made me uncomfortable: like the hair, makeup, the clothes, talking in front of cameras and going on stage and performing in front of people. As I got older, I finally started to perform at my church. I would do a song at my church every once in a while, and then I went to college for music, so I did a couple performances there. As I got more out of my shell and the more I performed, it became less about everybody looking at me and me freaking out and more about connecting with the music and connecting with people through that music. When I step on stage now, it’s like a switch is flipped. All of that goes away while I’m on stage. It comes back as soon as I get off the stage, but for that incredible moment when I’m on the stage, it goes away [laughs].
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your debut EP?
KK: Anxiety [laughs], but also excitement. I had been in the recording studio a couple times, but never to actually record a song that I was singing that I would be putting out and trying to promote. I hadn’t had any experience with that, so everything was new and exciting. The more that I did it, the more I realized that it’s what I want to do. It was very surreal to see my face on an EP cover and to hear myself on a recording.
PC: “Everything’s Here But You” charted at number 27 on Texas’s Red Dirt Radio Chart. Is there a level of validation that comes with having that success on your debut single?
KK: That was absolutely amazing! That was the first single that I put out, so it was surreal to hear myself on the radio and know that other people were listening at the same time and to hear that they were enjoying it. As an artist, that response is what you want. You make music so other people can connect to it and enjoy it, so for people to like that music to the point where they want to keep listening to it, that’s all an artist can ask for. That’s what’s happening with this current single “Missing You Like This” too. It just hit 21 this week. It’s so awesome to know that people are fans of something that I made!
PC: What went into the decision to release “Missing You Like This” as the next single from your EP?
KK: It was all about the timing of when we were releasing it. When “Everything’s Here But You” had run its course and moved off the chart, it was getting to be more into the winter and holiday months, so we thought the message of the song was appropriate for the time. Being that it was the holidays, people may have been missing their families, so we thought it was relatable for what would be going on during that time. We really liked the message and instrumentation of that song. That was one of everybody’s favorites on the EP, so with all of that, we thought it would be a good one to put out next!
PC: “Ain’t Gonna Take It Anymore” was a song released by Faith Hill in the mid-2000s. What went into the decision to include it on your EP?
KK: When we were deciding on songs for the EP, my producer was sending me a bunch of demos to listen to to see if I liked any of them. I was driving from Nashville to Atlanta and listening to them all in the car, and as soon as I heard that one, within two lines, I started ugly sobbing [laughs]. It gave me goosebumps because it was like everything that was in my head was put into a song. I had a relationship with a person that that song kind of talks about, so it was very personal and very emotional, and I felt like I had to record that song. I listened to it three more times, and I cried every single time [laughs]. That one is probably my favorite on the EP!
PC: “Nothing” is one of our favorite songs on your EP. Can you talk about the message of that song?
KK: A lot of people like that one too! It’s a girl power song. It says that “I’ve wasted enough time crying over you and feeling bad about a breakup, so I’m going to go out, have a good time, and enjoy myself. I’m not going to keep crying over you anymore.” It’s an empowering song about saying to yourself to not be held up about a specific person anymore.
PC: Most of your EP deals with love lost or break ups in some way. Was that something that was done intentionally, or something that naturally happened as it came together?
KK: It just kind of came together that way [laughs]. I didn’t personally write any of the songs on this EP, we were more just focused on getting a good collection of songs together to start off with. I have been writing a lot. Now that the EP has been out for a while, we’re working on getting more songs together for a full-length album. We’re probably going to put some of the songs that I’ve written on that album. I don’t know why this EP came out that way, it wasn’t our intention, but I guess it worked [laughs].
PC: You mentioned you have influences that span multiple genres, and throughout your EP, you tap into country, contemporary and rock sounds. How important is it for you to stay in touch with and tap into those influences to create a certain amount of sonic versatility?
KK: I really like doing all of that stuff and I think it’s really important. Growing up with all of that different music, I wanted to incorporate other genres into the music. I especially wanted to bring back that old country feel. I’ve always loved older music, so to be able to mix that classic country sound with other styles of music brings it all together to make something that’s really “me” was very important.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from your EP after listening all the way through?
KK: I hope that people are able to relate to the music in some way. If it helps them because they’re going through something similar, that’d be amazing. If they can connect to it and enjoy it, that’d be amazing too. My goal is to just create something that people will enjoy, so if that happens, that’d be absolutely amazing!
PC: 2020 has thrown the plans of many artists out the window. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
KK: As of right now, we’ve just been doing live streams for radio stations and on my own page. I’m trying to do as much as I can online to keep my presence online and to keep people engaged. It’s important to just be like “Hey, we can’t leave our house, but we’re still here and we’re still doing stuff!” [laughs]. Whenever everything opens up again, I’ll be going out and doing as many live shows as I can to make up for that lost time. I just have the urge; I’m just sitting in the house, I need to be doing something [laughs].
*All images courtesy of Kaitlyn Kohler Facebook Page*
*You can purchase Kaitlyn’s EP on her website!*