Who’s New: Kaylee Rutland

Age: 21
Hometown: Flower Mound, Texas
Lives: Nashville
Single: “Pick Me Up”
Twitter: @KayleeRutland
Website: kayleerutland.com
Influences: Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire


Kaylee Rutland got her musical start in a children’s choir at her local church at the tender age of 8 years old. From that moment, the young singer was hooked. “This is it for me. I’m doing this forever,” she said after stepping in front of the microphone for the first time. While still in high school, Kaylee met singer/songwriter Jamie O’Neal (“There Is No Arizona”), who would later go on to become her co-writer and producer. Kaylee also entered the talent search competition, Nash Next, where she finished in the Top 10 in 2015. Today, the Texas native is a senior at Nashville’s Belmont University—majoring in music business—and is working on her full-time music career. Her current single, “Pick Me Up,” is available now and will be featured on an upcoming EP, due out later this summer.


“I’m the oldest of four kids, and I’ve been singing since I was eight years old. I joined the kids choir for a Christmas musical at my church. In hindsight it’s really shocking that they actually let me have a solo because I was the shyest kid you could possibly imagine. I still get nervous if I have to give a speech in front of my class. It was just shocking that they let me sing in front of people. Then the minute that I was in front of the microphone, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is the best feeling ever. This is it for me. I’m doing this forever.’ By the time I was in high school and I started singing on the worship team at my church as well as the high school choir, it kind of went from the elementary school, ‘I love doing this,’ to the more serious, ‘Not only do I love doing this, but this is something that I could truly make a living at—something that I could feasibly do for the rest of my life.’”


“I remember when I first heard about Nash Next, it just seemed like a pipe dream, like, ‘Oh, that would be really cool to do. Might as well give it a shot.’ When I ended up in the top 100, it was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I was in the top 100. Time to get to work.’ I think my favorite part was just trying to do different creative things with all the challenges that we were given— the music videos, the pictures and the Periscope live challenge. My whole thought throughout was like, ‘I could win or I could not win. But how cool would it be to make it into the top 10 and get to perform with all these other artists?’ It happened, which was kind of a surreal dream. I was so excited about it. I got to meet all these people whose challenges and whose music I had been following for the past six months. Then I got to perform with them, and that was crazy cool.”

NASH Next Competition – Photo by Tyler Andrews/NASH Country Weekly


“I feel like I’ve gotten to learn a lot more about [the music business] since, not only moving to Nashville, but being at Belmont [University]. A lot of my friends were a little suspicious of me going to college while trying to be a full-time musician. They were like, ‘Well, won’t that take away from it?’ I think that’s the beauty of being a music business major—a lot of my professors have or currently work in the music industry. So you get a lot of real-world experience and I get to learn about music publishing or music industry contract law and different sides of the business that I wouldn’t necessarily get to see just as an artist. I love that because I feel like it helps me get a better look over my career as a whole, instead of just being like, ‘Oh, you handle this.’ It’s really like, ‘Yeah, help me to learn about this. How can I do X, Y, and Z for myself as well?'”


“When I first met [Jamie O’Neal], I was 17 years old. I was still in high school. I had heard her songs, and so I was a little bit starstruck. This scrawny high school kid was coming to Nashville to write with her. I’ve never met someone so instantly open and warm, who just took me under her wing as a mentor. A couple months after that, I moved to Nashville, started going to Belmont [University] and started really immersing myself in the music industry. I’ve been working with her ever since then. She’s absolutely incredible. She really knows how to bring the best out of you in the studio. She’s always been a very big proponent of just truly being yourself. In the music industry, a lot of people want to change you into what works best for them. Especially when you’re trying to find your own brand as an artist and you’re writing songs that come from your heart. She’s very encouraging about being you—don’t try to change yourself for other people, and don’t turn from what your values are to try to do what you think other people want out of you, because being genuine is really the best thing you can do for yourself.”


“I got out of class on a Friday afternoon and I drove over to Jamie’s house. She and [her sister] Minnie [Murphy] and I were just venting about what a long week we’d each had and how we were all so happy it was Friday. What started off as a casual conversation about, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s finally Friday,’ turned into, ‘Well, why don’t we write a song about that?’ I would say the song is about having had a really long week and when Friday comes, you are ready to go out with that special someone or your group of girls and just have a good time.”


“I think as a genre in general, it’s definitely more contemporary country. It’s always really important to me to have the traditional elements of country thrown in, whether that’s through the lyrics or maybe through some of the more traditional instruments—a banjo, a steel guitar, a fiddle. Just some of those classically country elements that I really love. As far as what you can look forward to hear? More of that style of music, if you will. Whether it’s a slow song or something upbeat and encouraging, I want it to be either positive or something that people can listen to and think, ‘Oh, I’m not going through this situation alone.’”