Over the past seven years, Kelsey Waldon’s life has changed drastically. Since moving to Nashville, she’s found her place in a lush, supportive, and versatile artist community. She’s released two albums, played with some of music’s biggest names, and toured nationally. She made her debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry at the hallowed Ryman Auditorium, and she’s already been bestowed with one of Nashville’s highest honors: playing the historic Station Inn, the go-to spot of the 70’s, where intimate, post-Opry jam sessions were hosted by legends like Jimmy Martin, Bobby Osborne, and Bill Monroe. While most musicians work a lifetime to achieve that status of success, Kelsey Waldon’s talent has earned her way to the top in a matter of years. And even though she traded her small town for the city, she’s making moves in country.
Straddling the junction of the Ohio River and the Mississippi, Waldon was born in Ballard County, Kentucky, and raised in one the county’s even smaller, unincorporated communities, lovingly named Monkey’s Eyebrow. The destination has been spotlighted by NPR and Roadside America, but the Western Kentucky town is about as “rural America” as it gets. Waldon’s family roots in the Bluegrass State date back over ten generations, from tobacco farmers to cattle raisers, and a general cast of real strong-spirited characters. “Farming and planting tobacco were some of the first jobs I had growing up,” she says; but dating back even farther, to some of her very first memories, is her relationship with music. Inspired by ‘a melting pot of influences’, Waldon took notes from a wide variety, spanning from legends like Merle Haggard and Mavis Staples, to bluegrass luminaries Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs, and songwriting greats John Prine, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt. When she picked up the guitar at 13, she never looked back. “I finally felt like I was a part of something when I started playing and writing music. It was something that finally made everything make sense, and it was a very essential and healthy thing for me during my younger years, and still is.”