A singer and songwriter whose music combines a contemporary lyrical outlook with a sound that harks back to country music of the '60s, Kelsey Waldon was born in the rural Kentucky community of Monkey's Eyebrow. She grew up listening to classic country music and absorbed the influences of artists like Loretta Lynn, George Jones, and Merle Haggard, as well as bluegrass icons like Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs and celebrated songwriters like Guy Clark. When Waldon was 13, her parents split up, and she took up the guitar as she turned to music to make sense of the pain of growing up in a broken home. By the time she graduated from high school, Waldon was determined to make a career out of music, and she initially chose to skip college in favor of moving to Nashville. Waldon supported herself with low-paying jobs while playing bar gigs when she could get them, learning to perform by doing.
In time, Waldon decided to gain more book learning about the world of music, and enrolled at Nashville's Belmont University, where she studied songwriting and music business. As Waldon began putting more of her personal experiences in her songs, her following grew, and in 2007 she released a five-song EP, Dirty Hands, Dirty Feet. A full-length album followed in 2010, which she released herself under the alias Anchor in the Valley. Two Kelsey Waldon EPs followed, 2011's Anybody's Darlin' and 2012's Fixin' It Up, but it was her first proper album, 2014's The Goldmine, that proved to be her creative and commercial breakthrough. Produced by Michael Rinne, The Goldmine captured Waldon's tough but emotionally powerful honky tonk sound as well as her personal songwriting, and the album earned rave reviews and an enthusiastic reception from Americana and retro-country fans. In 2016, Waldon returned with another Rinne-produced effort, I've Got a Way.
I've Got A Way turned out to be something of a breakthrough for Waldon, earning her attention from NPR. It also caught the attention of John Prine, who signed her to his label Oh Boy; it was the label's first new signing in 15 years. White Noise/White Lines, her debut for Oh Boy, appeared in October 2019. (Mark Deming, AMG)