Have you ever randomly heard a track by an artist you weren’t aware existed that made you think “ wow, I need to investigate further?” That’s exactly what happened to me when I listened to “ Born to Drive” by Angie Keilhauer
and when I checked out her other material I was equally impressed. She has recorded two albums to date, and reading her bio from her website ( angiekeilhauer.com) I was intrigued to find out more so contacted her and asked if she was interested in answering a few questions for Belles and Gals, which thankfully she was happy to do!
Aged just 25, the future is sounding extremely exciting for Angie as you’ll find out in the following interview and I can’t wait to find out more when she is able to spill! Seems like her talent, passion for her craft, dogged determination and hard work is paying off.……happy reading ( and listening!) and let’s hope we get to see her over here very soon…..maybe at a Belles and Gals showcase as she suggests herself, I’ll have to speak to the boss about that!
I gather you spent most of your teenage years living in Georgia, a southern state with a diverse musical history. What type of music or particular artists did you listen to growing up, both there and in El Salvador where you were born, that influenced your musical direction?
Dolly Parton is definitely the first one that comes to mind! My mom was a huge fan and I have so many memories her playing those records, singing along, and telling me stories about my grandma and her upbringing (Coat of Many Colors always triggered a long one). Those songs feel like a piece of my family history as much as any memory I have. People ask me all the time how I ended up a country artist having been born and raised up in El Salvador till I was 11 years old, the answer is definitely Dolly. Her songwriting and storytelling made me fall in love with the genre. She’s so dang good!
How old were you when you started singing and playing, did you take lessons?
I was about 13 years old when I started playing guitar. This local music store was going out of business and I begged and begged my mom for this 75$ acoustic squire they were selling. My parents didn’t have a ton of extra money, but they got it for me, and the rest is history! I never took lessons but thank goodness for youtube. To this day it’s my favorite quick resource to learn my favorite tabs and riffs.
Your passion for writing and performing meant you were regularly travelling fair distances to gig while also a full-time engineering student. So which was the “ back up “ plan, music or engineering?
I think what going to school at Georgia Tech taught me was that I couldn’t NOT do music. I was sacrificing sleep, I never hung out much at parties or got into drinking like my a lot of my friends, just to perform anywhere and everywhere I could. When they were heading off to frat parties, I was hopping into cabs to play at any random open mic (usually a hip-hop style one, they were always so confused when I showed up with my acoustic lol). After I bought my first old car, I would head up to Nashville (about a four hour drive) every weekend with about 60$ in the bank, there were a couple times I had to busk on the street downtown to make the gas money to get back! Sounds crazy, but looking back, those were some of the most fun memories of my life.
And the cruise ship contract you secured which gave you some financial freedom to further pursue your music, how did that come about and what sort of songs did you perform on the ship?
My car had broken down, needed a new water pump, and I was biking to work when it started to rain. It was a pretty miserable ride…but then the idea hit me. “I need to be a singer on a cruise ship!”. I don’t know why I got the idea, I had never even been on a cruise ship before, but I was so absolutely sure it was the answer to everything. I started sending an email every couple of weeks to every agency/ cruise line/ contact I could find via google. Eventually someone wrote back. That next Summer I packed an old duffel and got on a plane to Miami to board my first ship!
Your invitation to audition for The Voice, getting through to the knockout stages and all the incredible feedback you got at a result ( including from Blake Shelton ) …. was that the catalyst for you to take the plunge, risk your life savings and record a full band album ( 2016 “ Wild”) as a follow up to your debut acoustic one? It must have given you confidence hearing those great comments…..
Absolutely, I would not have had the guts to release an album like that without the support Blake showed me on that show. Maxing that credit card, watching my savings fall to zero, that was scary. But the feeling I got the day the album released and it hit #5….I’ll re-live that till the day I die. That was a GREAT freaking day.
The songs on both albums appear to be very personal, about your relationships, dreams and lifestyle. You pour your heart out and don’t seem to hold back!
Do you find songwriting therapeutic?
I do! I think find myself writing in two different ways. Either I feel something so great that everything in me needs to amplify it, immortalize it, and make it bigger, or it’s the type of song that just needs to get out of me any way it can. “Born to Drive” and “Made to Live by the Water”
are examples of the first, where ‘Something Different’ and ‘The Greatest Thing’ are examples of the second. I was told by a few industry heavyweights not to put ‘Something Different’ on the album in fear that the female pronouns would “alienate my target audience”. I really thought about it, but the song is so real to me and so honest I felt like I really just wanted to share something so vulnerable with people. It turns out it one of the most requested songs I get at my live shows. I think people gravitate to real feelings and raw emotion, I’m so grateful for that because I think it gives me permission to not try too hard to be anything else.
I can’t seem to find the writing credits, sorry!! Do you solo write, co-write, or a mixture of both? And is there any writer you’d like to work with?
The last two albums we’re all written by me. I’ve already finished writing the next one too, but with the help of some interested labels I’ve started writing with some incredibly talented songwriters in Nashville. Co-writing still feels new to me, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve been on my own for so long, it’s unbelievably fun to get into the room and be creative with other artists I respect and love. If I had to choose one person to have a dream-write with….it would probably be Eric Church!
It was the single “ Born to Drive” that was my introduction to your music ( 46k views on YouTube, fantastic!) I love your attitude!! Can you tell me more about this one? And the video looks like it was fun to make!
Oh man it was so fun! The best part it that 100% of the people there were all volunteers AND most of them I hadn’t even met before! I actually wrote about the whole story in a blog if you want to hear the whole thing: http://angiekeilhauer.com/blog/ (scroll down to the first and second posts).
You come across as a very determined person, am I correct? And as a female in the tough music industry, are there any other traits you think are helpful/necessary?
You know, I constantly hear about how hard it is for a female to make it in country music. And I know there is some real truth to that… but I also see a lot of girls (especially the younger ones) sell themselves short too soon. If you come visit Nashville and look around at the songwriting rounds, you’re gonna find more women then men. BUT if you weed out the people that have been there 5 years and longer…they’re almost all guys. It takes years to make a dent in the industry with so so many talented people, decades sometimes. I can think on the top of my head of seven all-male bands that are independently touring right now, living off of sliced bread and fast-food. I can only think of one female doing the same. If I came across any young girl that asked my advice…I’d say get in the grind, and stay there. That’s where the winning is done, that’s where you’ll find yourself getting better.
You gig almost constantly stateside it seems, do you have any plans to visit us here in the UK?
I would LOVE to go to the UK! Actually working on a possible Euro Tour in the Spring of 2018, maybe we should make one of the UK stops a Belles and Galls showcase?!
How is the rest of 2017 shaping up for you?
Oh man, it’s definitely been the busiest few months of my career. I’ve been home about two full weeks since the year started, and I love it! I can’t say much right now, but I’m really excited about the people I’ll be working with this year:)
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings