For many, a career is a choice. For country recording artist Kelsey Hickman, hers was pre-determined. “I was always meant to sing. From day one. I knew it, my parents knew it – everyone knew it.” No doubt those that have seen and heard Hickman perform will agree. Her spunk, passion and all-in approach to life spills over into her vocal and stage performances, which incorporate a mix of soulful heart and infectious dance part anthems. Resonant of her central Illinois upbringing, her style incorporates Hickman’s natural fun and flirty persona, but also draws from the pain of her past. Regardless of the tune, her goal remains the same. “I want to write and perform music that my listeners can connect with. If I’ve done that, I’ve done what I’ve been put on this earth to do.”

With a talent that came seemingly out of nowhere (she is the first in her family to pursue music), Hickman grew up on Disney movies, singing to the parts of Ariel, Jasmine and Cinderella. At six, waltzing through life on her tippy toes and performing for whomever took notice, her mom signed her up for voice and dance lessons, to which Hickman objected, “but I already know how to sing and dance!”

When she was twelve, she wrote her first song – something off-the- cuff composed while her parents were out one night. “When my parents came home, the babysitter was like, ‘you have to hear what Kelsey came up with!’” In high school, Hickman took part in every play and musical her community had to offer, leading her to believe she’d found her life’s work. That changed, though, when Hickman was approached by Illinois-based country group Still Kickn. At just 16, after a garage audition, she was hired on as the lead vocalist and, that June, got the call to open for Lady Antebellum, performing for over 25,000 people. In addition to a tour schedule that included several popular venues, fairs and festivals throughout the Midwest, the band went on to open for Montgomery Gentry, Easton Corbin and Tracy Lawrence… But it wasn’t until Still Kickn played its first arena, opening for Chris Young, that Hickman knew she had a future in the genre. “I remember sitting in the dressing room with my mom after that performance. I looked at her and said, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do with my life.’”

Despite the discovery of her calling, Hickman’s devotion to her craft wasn’t without difficulty. “My parents marriage began to fall apart, and the subject of their fights was often my choice to pursue music. I felt caught in the cross fire, and even contemplated quitting the band.” The effect of her parents divorce, though, also inspired Hickman to use music as an outlet. “ I lost myself in songwriting and performing – which was certainly beneficial. The very thing my parents fought over became my saving grace, my release.” In February 2013, the members of Still Kickn parted ways – and Hickman saw the opportunity to take her career to an entirely new level. That August, she made the move to Nashville, quickly securing a performance spot at the city’s infamous Tootsies Orchid Lounge. Shortly thereafter, she found her way to producer Kent Wells (Dolly Parton), and is finishing up her first, yet-to- be-titled EP. “Kent has done wonders for finding my sound, my style and my voice. I’m really looking forward to listeners hearing my first solo attempt – I think there’s something for everyone on this album.”

With all coming down the pipeline, Hickman continues to grow in songwriting, vocals and performance with the help of friends and fellow artists. “The wealth of talent in this town is overwhelming. I’m so fortunate to grow amongst the creatives I do.”

And when it comes to Hickman’s goals, she’ll reach for nothing short of the moon. “I’d like to take this as far as it can go. Headlining a tour, standing on the Opry stage, whatever… I’m in this for life.”