Kaylee Bell is killing it

Holding the reigning title of ‘Most Streamed Female Country Artist for Australasia,’ Kaylee Bell tells Metropol writer Daniella Judge about how she forged an electrifying career in country music.

If you attended any of Ed Sheeran’s Mathematics tour shows in Aotearoa, Kaylee Bell will be no stranger, opening for the much-loved singer songwriter. Known for her electric performances, songwriting skills, and bringing a modern take to country music, Kaylee has made a name for herself, by herself.

Waimate-born Kaylee has been singing since she was four and, alongside her siblings, would compete at country music competitions. Ever on the path of pursuing music, Kaylee completed a Bachelor of Performing Arts at the National Academy (NASDA) in Christchurch, and then at 21, she moved to Australia to seek out further opportunities.

Her career gained traction after her stint on The Voice: Australia, where the audition song she wrote for fellow Kiwi, Keith Urban, sparked the judges’ interest. Reflecting on the experience, Kaylee describes it as “surreal and risky”. “I left New Zealand in December 2021 knowing I was unable to return due to Covid-19. I had no safety net going into the show. The whole thing feels like a dream looking back, but it reminded me I can do scary things, and, after two years of no gigs, how much I loved music.”

Her single titled Keith went viral, and has been streamed on Spotify more than 14 million times. Reminiscing about growing up in Waimate, Kaylee also released the song Small Town Friday Nights in early 2023. The song celebrates the memories she made as a carefree teenager.

In recent years, Kaylee had opened for The Chicks, Brad Paisley, and Six60, before being selected as an opener for Ed Sheeran last year. “Opening for Ed Sheeran, playing stadiums, and getting to sit and have a wine and a laugh with him backstage are memories I will cherish forever.”

She is now preparing for her New Zealand solo tour, Nights Like This, starting in February. Her Christchurch show is set for 6 April at the Christchurch Town Hall. Prepping for a nationwide tour is a mammoth task, especially as Kaylee is doing it without a team. “I have the best booking agent in New Zealand with Brent Eccles and his incredible team, and they do a lot of work behind the scenes with logistics. I also have the best band and crew who work hard and are incredibly loyal.”

Kaylee is an independent, self-managed artist, who’s needed no help to make a career for herself, and 2023 was a skyrocket year. The first female Australasian country artist to be accredited Gold for a single or EP in in 20 years for her EP Red in June, the star also landed another impressive title, this time in America.

Walking the red carpet at the Country Music Awards (CMAs) in the US state of Tennessee, the rising star was presented the Jeff Walker Global Country Artist award. “I feel like it’s been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I decided I was going to try at the age of 18 and have never looked back. That has meant side hustles along the way, but I am now full-time music, which was always my biggest goal,” she says.

Fully immersed in her music career, with an album slated for release this year, Kaylee finds herself living her dream in the vibrant country music hub of Nashville. Her tale illustrates the heights one can achieve through talent, resilience, and an unwavering passion.

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