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Singer/songwriter Kelsey Waldon  recalls the eye-opening, skin-thickening experience she had when she briefly moved to Nashville at the age of 19. It’s a story that so many other hopeful performers have experienced over the years.
“I worked a minimum-wage job. It was really bad,” she says. “I was just trying to get out of my hometown and wanted to come here. I learned a lot in that year. I probably had some good songs for a 19-year-old, but I still had a lot of growing to do. I think I got my ass kicked in a really good way, for lack of a better word.”
She returned to her native western Kentucky (she grew up in Barlow or the Monkey’s Eyebrow community, depending on who you ask) for school but is now back in Nashville, with an engaging new album, The Gold Mine.
Steeped in the sounds of ’70s country with weeping pedal steel and twangy Telecasters, The Gold Mine showcases Kelsey’s gritty songwriting and pure voice on ballads like “Not the First Time” and up-tempo numbers like “Town Clown.”
“I’ve always tried to not be afraid to go there and not be ashamed of the way I was brought up or the things I’ve seen,” explains Kelsey. “I don’t think people should be ashamed of who they are. This album was kind of [an] embrace of all that and my passion for country music.”
Some of Kelsey’s skills were sharpened as a student in Belmont University’s songwriting curriculum, particularly the ability to source her ideas.
“It was really the creative discipline that was the big thing that taught me a lot, learning different ways to be inspired all the time, learning that there’s inspiration in everything,” she says.
For the album’s haunting title track, Kelsey found inspiration in families that have been torn asunder by the pursuit of wealth. She says she wrote the song in just a few minutes, but even so it squarely nails the way the relentless accumulation of material goods can leave a lot of scars.
“It’s the classic all-that-glitters-is-not-gold kind of story. I’ve known a couple people like that in my life,” she explains. “There’s been plenty of country songs and stories that are all about that—‘Mansion on the Hill,’ ‘Satin Sheets.’ There’s Jerry Reed, ‘She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).’ That imagery to me was really inspiring to me. All the songs on the album were kind of written after that.”
That promise and pursuit of a better life made for a fitting theme for the entire album, whether Kelsey is discussing hard work or hard breakups.
“It just made sense to me that that would be the title track of the record,” she says. “It’s just where I am—this documentation of my life right now—it’s kind of like that. We’re all searching for a gold mine a certain way.”