Three years in the making, Windsor native and one of the hottest young Canadian Country Music artists today, singer/songwriter Kelsi Mayne, just released her debut album, As I Go, on Friday (March 27). While legendary Willie Nelson and other artists have postponed their album releases, Mayne released hers despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, the decision may have actually worked in her favour.
Kelsi took some time to chat with Eyes On Windsor about her career including the album release, the effect coronavirus is having on the music industry, and her exciting experiences lately despite being an “underdog” independent artist.
Her nine second video teaser of the title track, As I Go, went viral generating a lot of buzz after she posted it to Tiktok ahead of the full video and album release. She is one of the few Canadian Country Music artists to go viral on the platform generating more than 2.6 million views so far, with 1.5 million of those within the first 24 hours. “We had just shot the music video so I decided to post a few of the cool shots from it,” explained Kelsi. “I got this crazy immediate response. I’ve never had anything like that before, it was really cool. I had to turn my phone off because of all of the notifications.”
The concept for the video started out with a conversation Kelsi had at a party this past Christmas. One of Kelsi’s friends at the party owns one of the biggest street legal monster trucks in Canada. Mayne says, ”he was a stunt driver and dirt bike rider and mentioned some of the old stunts and tricks that he used to do and how we could replicate that in the video. He just called up some of his buddies. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to film. After we saw what all of his buddies brought we kind of went from there. Just like the line in the song, ‘I’m going to make it up as I go,’ that’s what we did.” Ultimately, the video was shot in a farmer’s field with a ‘Mad Max’ inspired look and included gasoline, trucks, dirt bikes, ATVs, a drone, monster truck, smoke bombs, fireworks, and two scrap cars. The video features a giant bonfire, explosions, the monster truck crushing scrap cars, a caravan of ATVs, dirt bikes, and pick up trucks racing across a field, and some wild shots of Kelsi and her band performing the song about a woman deciding on wicked ways to get revenge on her cheating boyfriend.
As I Go was co-written by Kelsi with Nashville’s Brett Sheroky and Drew Powell at the end of her five month long writing trip to the city. Although drained they had fun coming up with different ways to get revenge to put into the song as lyrics. In fact, when asked if she is the first to coin the phrase “pull a Carrie Underwood,” Kelsi said, “I think so. I’ve never heard anyone else say it. My co-writers and I were trying to think of different things to destroy. So one said ‘maybe I’ll wake up the neighbourhood’ and then I said, ‘pull a Carrie Underwood’, and then the other co-writer said the line following that (‘maybe I’ll paint his yard with tire marks). It was perfect. Writing a cheating song, I felt like it was necessary to pay homage to her.”
What makes this song different from most “cheatin’ hearts” country songs is the woman knows her boyfriend is cheating and with whom, but she has a hard time deciding (much like Kelsi with the lyrics) on what she is going to do about it.
When asked about her song writing process and if songs like As I Go are based on her real life experiences Kelsi said, “Usually I come into write with an idea or a few ideas and then we work out a couple of different takes on the idea with some melodies, then pick our favourite and go with that. A lot of them like As I Go, Takin’ U Home, Woman Waiting, Between Us, and So Good were kind of just inspired by moods.” So many of her songs are inspired by moods or feelings people have. Her music, she explains includes, a lot of “90s Country and Motown R&B kind of undertones.”
Kelsi even does a little rapping on her track ‘Better On You,” saying, “that, I never thought I would see or do.” Part of the rap lyrics are; “We don’t have to go out, don’t spend a dime, just come with me, let’s spend some time, lay it on back real slow, if you want to get hot, if you want to get low, so wake up, stand up, lose the clothes… 1 2 3 4.” Her thirty seconds of rapping is slightly reminiscent of what is heard on the Spice Girls 1996 debut single Wannabe. Making Kelsi Mayne, quite possibly, the original Spice Girl of Country Music.
Kelsi says some other songs, “like Leave and Surrender are more inspired by actual true stories and feelings of mine or friends of mine.” While some songs are based on ideas or concepts. For example, “About Time was something that I wanted to write for a while. It’s a reminder to my audience to take the time that you have, which is the most valuable thing in your life I think, and spend it with the people you love. I have always thought of time like a currency, you can spend it, waste it, or steal it. I always wanted to make that kind of reference. I think we captured that pretty well in the lyrics.”
Some lyrics in ‘About Time’ include, “Baby let’s slow it down, let’s make the most of right now, because what we put in is what we get out.”
Kelsi says she hopes people can relate to this song in these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic and feels it is especially relevant at this time. She also added, “with this album I think there’s a song for every feeling and emotion that everyone is experiencing. There’s some sad songs, angry songs, and happy songs. I hope it brings some comfort to people listening during this time, brings them happiness, or brings them comfort when they listen to a sad song.”
When it comes to the pandemic Kelsi says, “as far as the performing side goes, we’re hurting quite a bit, that’s how we make our living and it’s that human interaction that means the most to us artists, to have that taken away is making it really difficult.”
“But because of this digital age it has enabled us to branch out in other ways, connecting us with people we would normally never get to see or get to talk to. More people than ever are seeing and looking for new music. The response to this album has been overwhelming. The online outreach is far greater than it’s ever been and it’s really heartwarming and overwhelming the incredible support everyone is showing right now. It (choosing to release the album amid the pandemic) might have worked in my favour, I may never know but I feel like it has. It’s been a cool experience from that aspect.”
She also adds, “artists are banding together creating a commoradare with us more than ever, it’s actually really cool.” Kelsi was part of a big online concert this past Friday with 25 artists, hosted by Ontario based Kansas Stone band.
Kelsi says she’s been keeping busy by performing online, streaming live mainly on Instagram so far. “I did one with our fellow Windsor band Buck Twenty on Friday (March 27) because they released their single (All I Can Do) on the same day as my album and it was really fun. They were supposed to play at my album release party at the Bull and Barrel. We made up for it with the live stream.” In addition she is working on planning several more online performances. “I try to be present more online and it’s been an overly cool response,” she says.
Her album release show was originally scheduled for April 4th but will be rescheduled for sometime, hopefully, in the near future. “Yes for sure that’s my number one priority to make that happen,” she explained.
Choosing to perform her debut album release show at downtown Windsor’s Bull and Barrel Urban Saloon is fitting because that’s where she got started as a Country Music performer. “I give them the credit for starting my Country Music Career,” explains Kelsi. “I took that job initially while I was in University just to pay for my education, I was in school for nursing. I also took it because I liked the entertainment aspect of it. I took it to get that out of my system before I entered the real world but that really didn’t happen. I’m really grateful for it. It was rooted in the audience’s response there, having strangers coming up and encouraging me to pursue this as my career.”
Mayne was back at the Bull and Barrel for a shoot of her 2018 video release of ‘Your Jolene’. “I’m wearing my old Bull shirt in that video,” says Kesli. “I also had a few of the dancers that were my coworkers at the time, including the choreographer, so that was a really cool nostalgic special moment for me.” Dancers included Holly Holmes, Amber Dayus, Jaiden Lyons, Sawyer Coulter, Jillian Teskey, and Kristyn Thompson.
“I had a friend tell me I reminded them of the song Jolene (by Dolly Parton),” says Kelsi. She took it as a compliment but wasn’t too sure what the song was about at the time. After looking it up she was partly flattered because it’s about a beautiful redhead but she was unsettled because the woman was trying to steal Dolly Parton’s man. “It just stuck with me so I wanted to make sure I set the record straight. I feel like us redheads get a bad rap from cartoons and promiscuous characters on TV. We’re not all like that.”
While working at the Bull and Barrel and pursuing her Nursing degree, Kelsi was a member of The University of Windsor Lancers track and field team. Her song “Nothing On Us” is about that time and a small town team competing at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships beating out big town University teams.
“It’s about being the underdog and not letting that get the best of you and rising to the moment,” explains Kelsi. “We won four titles in a row, We had the legendary Dennis Fairall as our head coach. That was one of the best experiences of my life, being a part of that team. It really instilled a lot of core values that I think we all need to be successful and contribute to our community. That experience always stuck with me and I always wanted to write a song about that time in my life and pay tribute to that team and my experience there.”
Kelsi was one of the few team members who wasn’t recruited onto the team. Instead, like an underdog, she tried out and had to prove herself. Ultimately, in 2012, her final year, the women Lancers track and field team captured their fourth straight championship and Kelsi placed nationally for the first time taking home the bronze-medal win in the women’s 60-meter hurdles.
“All the hard work and discipline taught me to never take anything for granted and want to earn your way instead of having things handed to you,” explained Kelsi.”That’s definitely a strong thread through my existence.”
In the Canadian Country Music industry Kelsi Mayne may have started out as, and continues to be, an underdog. She has accomplished so much, made a name for herself, and is getting noticed. All despite still being an independent artist. In fact, being independent, she has to work extra hard taking on all roles including booking agent, video producer, video editor, marketing and more.
Kelsi Mayne’s days of being an independent underdog might be limited though. She originally planned to release her debut As I Go album last year but that was pushed back when she became involved with the Sirius XM Top of the Country contest. The contest really helped to get her more noticed in the industry. “I didn’t know I would be selected and become a semi-finalist and then finalist,” exclaimed Kelsi. “It kept on going and lasted from the end of February to early September, pretty much the whole year, so I figured it was best to wait until it was all done to release the album.”
Kelsi also talked about a few other exciting experiences she’s had in the past year or so that have garnered her national attention. “We got to perform on the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour. That was the first time I ever performed with backup dancers, and it was on live national TV, that was a really cool moment. And I had some of the same dancers from the music video (Your Jolene), so that was really special. I got to play Boots and Hearts twice. In 2018 we played the main stage, and in 2019 we got to play on the Sirius XM stage as part of the contest I was in.” Boots and Hearts is the biggest Country Music Festival in Ontario and perhaps all of Canada (when not considering the Calgary Stampede, which is actually more than a music festival and includes a rodeo and more).
Placing in the top three finalists of the Sirius XM Top of The Country Music contest may be the defining moment that will help transform Kelsi from underdog to a household name in North America. “We got to meet with top music executives. To have them know my name now is crazy. Just to grab coffee and sit down with them has been incredible. Also, just being in that contest and being selected top 3 artists in Canada, and being the only completely independent artist out of eight semi finalists was mind blowing as well. I’m super grateful.”
As far as a record label signing her, Kelsi says, “there was a publishing deal that was sent my way and we’re in negotiations. Nothing is signed yet but we’re working that out.”
Would Kelsi do things differently if she could go back in time and start over again? “The thought sometimes crosses my mind. I sometimes wish I would have gone into this career earlier in my life. At the same time I take a step back and realize all of the life experiences that I’ve had… as far as winning track, going to University and getting a degree… having those experiences behind me have helped to build my character. Now being able to sing and write about them, I don’t have any regrets.”
This summer Kelsi says she had some pretty big touring gigs booked. One she was really excited about, but unfortunately looks like it may be canceled due to the pandemic, had to do with, as Kelsi puts it, “a big show in Calgary, wink, wink.” She is also booked for Festival Country de Lotbinière, the biggest Country Music Festival in Quebec. There are also several festivals booked in Ontario. “We don’t know if we’re going to actually be able to do them with all the event cancelations going on,” she explained.
What’s the biggest compliment Kelsi gets? “My biggest compliment, the one I hear quite a bit is, ‘I’m not much of a Country Music fan but I like your music,’ that means the most to me. If non-country music people can like it, then I think then we’re on a good track.”
To keep up with the latest news, online streaming performances, and more follow Kelsi Mayne on her social media accounts and visit https://www.kelsimayne.com