Big things are happening for one of Colusa County’s brightest Starrs, who recently announced she had signed a record deal with Heartland Records, an independent label based in Nashville, TN.
Kaylee Poppinga, 24, whose stage name is Kaylee Starr, had her first single, “Idiot,” hit the radio waves just yesterday. She said last week that she would be heading back to Nashville in July to record the rest of her album, and would be doing a radio tour sometime in July or August.
“I think when I first went to Nashville and recorded, I was on this high,” Poppinga said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ I’m finally recording these songs that have just been sitting on the shelf for so many years. And it’s really a rewarding feeling that somebody is going to hear this. Hopefully, somebody relates – that’s kind of my goal. I can’t possibly be the only person that has felt the things I’m writing about.”
Poppinga’s musical talent is well known in the county, where she cut her teeth as a performer in her teenage years. In 2010, Poppinga – then just 16 years old – auditioned for American Idol, and made it through three rounds to meet the judges – then Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and Randy Jackson – who told her they didn’t believe she was ready yet. She independently recorded her first four-song album “Ten Feet Off the Sand” in 2013, and also auditioned for The Voice. Over time, she has performed across the region with numerous cover bands, often with her dad and fellow musician, Jeff Poppinga.
It was while Poppinga was singing with her 70s cover band in Reno that she got her big break.
“It’s kind of funny, the way this happened,” Poppinga said.
While she was playing the show in Reno, the popular American country and Southern rock band Alabama also happened to be in town for a show. The group stopped in and heard Poppinga sing, and came away impressed.
“The guy who plays guitar for them now (Kimo Forrest) asked me, ‘Hey, do you write your own stuff?’ And I was like, yeah, I do. He said, ‘Look, here’s my email. Come out to Nashville and I will take care of everything else.’”
Poppinga said that she was initially skeptical, but ended up sending the band’s guitarist an email anyway. As it turned out, he wasn’t kidding.
“I emailed him and it was the real deal. I didn’t have to pay for anything – I just went out and recorded, did the EP, and thought, ‘This is an answer to prayers,’” Poppinga said, before quipping, “Who would’ve thought something good would come out of Reno?”
Poppinga said that after she recorded the EP in early 2017, “there was a lot of waiting around for what was going to happen.”
“You’re sitting there, waiting to see what happens next. Emotionally, it can be a little bit draining, not knowing what’s going to happen, and trying to be patient,” Poppinga said. “You want to move quickly, but you also don’t want to make the wrong move.”
She added her family had played a big part in keeping her “level-headed” throughout the process, and added that they also play a big part in her creative process.
“I feel like I’m so lucky,” she said. “My whole family is involved in music, in some way, shape, or form. And it just makes it so fun to be able to write and experiment with my own family, and to have them right there.”
While she waited after recording the EP in Nashville, Poppinga continued playing with cover bands and did some substitute teaching. Her patience and commitment paid off. Now, she will be able to shift her focus toward her own, original music.
“Now, bigger decisions are having to be made, which is exciting… It’s looking like I’m going to be pretty busy just keeping up with gigs,” Poppinga said. “I’m going to try to do some more local acoustic shows, and that way I have the opportunity to do my original music.”
About the single
Poppinga said that she wrote “Idiot” sometime around seven years ago, when she was 17 years old. She shared an early, acoustic version of the song on social media around that time.
“It’s been sitting there for a while,” Poppinga said. “When I went to Nashville, I originally was not going to record that song. But it popped up on Facebook Memories that day – which I feel was totally a Godsend. I thought, maybe I’ll just show them – it’s kind of a funny song – and they were like, ‘Um, let’s do THAT one.’ …So that was the one we ended up cutting that day, thanks to Facebook Memories.”