By Mike Floyd, Caswell Messenger
She said don’t give me nothing that I can’t use
I got the rhythm and I don’t need the blues
I don’t want to ride no shooting star
Just want to play on the rhythm guitar…Emmy Lou Harris
Kristy Amber Wilkins is trying to make it in the country music business. It’s not an uncommon story but, in her case, it takes on much more meaning. This girl is from right here in town.
“I’m originally from Yanceyville and I moved to Tennessee for a while to Johnson City and went to East Tennessee State University. I picked that area because it was heavily populated with musicians and country music. I also had a scholarship to go there and transferred from Piedmont Community College’s Music Department in Roxboro,” remarked Wilkins by phone last week.
At East Tennessee State, there was a curriculum for musicians called “blue grass, old time country music and Celtic studies.” Wilkins enrolled there specifically to play country music, but got into the Celtic music as well. Country music can trace its roots directly to this traditional music from Ireland and Scotland.
“We studied a lot of music history. I was already a musician before I went there. I started singing and playing the guitar at the age of 14. My family and my cousin, Daniel Sloan, were heavy into music and when I saw Daniel playing guitar, I wanted to learn how to play. My dad, Mike Wilkins, is also a musician, a great song writer, and plays guitar for fun. My mom, Denise, is definitely my biggest fan. It’s very rare that she misses a show even if it’s out of state,” says Wilkins.
With ongoing appearances booked at the Red Oak Brewery in Whitsett, NC, Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., and Crema and Vine in Danville, Wilkins is becoming highly visible and spreading the word and her lyrics in the right clubs and venues. She will be headlining the up-and-coming Community Picnic at the Warren Store in Prospect, NC on October 29th from 12-1:30 p.m.
“Recently. I had been in a duo with Mr. Kyle Moore, called ‘Kyle and Kristy.’ He plays guitar, sings harmony, and writes his own music. But I’m really trying to use this time to focus on my solo career,” adds Wilkins.
Wilkins writes many original songs, but mainly performs recognizable “covers” at her performances. She sings a mixture of “newer and older country,” some top forty hits and does a variety of Fleetwood Mac songs. Wilkins is very interested in expanding her performing spectrum by adding Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain covers with possibly some Emmy Lou Harris. Her version of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man!” is one of her more popular requests.
“I also do some Johnny Cash and Elvis. I loved rockabilly when went to college and I got into Wanda Jackson. I love her song, “Hardheaded Woman”(Elvis cover) and I love how spunky those women singers were back then. You can see it in their videos on YouTube. They were way ahead of their time. That’s why I love Miranda Lambert; she’s spunky, too.”
Wilkins feels like her career is beginning to take off, musically, but certainly covers her own back with three separate other jobs: bartending, a business working with signs and furniture, and as a sponsored competitive shooter (pistol and rifle) for a company called Tandemkross. TK of New Hampshire makes accessories for most of the major rim-fire gun manufacturers like Ruger and Smith and Wesson.
Not a bad resume for a young country artist, male or female!
“I’m starting to get some bookings outside of the area. I’m basically trying to rebrand myself. I haven’t done a solo show, up until now, in three years. Now that I’m doing it, I’d forgotten how much I love it. It’s so much fun!”
On stage, Wilkins can be seen in classic country chic such as dressy floral outfits and funky cowgirl boots. Then, there’s that beautiful long, red hair! Striking is a word that comes to mind.
‘I really want that to be my look. It’s kind of weird to try and brand yourself. I really want to have the BoHo look (Bohemian) and it’s what I’m shooting for. I really like supporting small business so the majority of all the clothing I’m wearing is second-hand. I’m trying to uplift other businesses.”
Wilkins admires people in the music business who are “hustlers” and would like to be one herself although she is very self-critical. Being a perfectionist has held her from some forward progress.
Wilkins has teamed up with Gold Ship Records in Tennessee. She had been friends with them for a very long time, working with the company during college and is “so excited to have them backing me.” The owner’s wife, Katy Sergent, is a talented wedding photographer and produced her promotional photos for the media press kits.
According to Wilkins, it’s nerve-racking to be in a studio making a record. She tries to keep the “rehearsal takes” to a minimum. She prepares thoroughly before going into the studio and, though a perfectionist, has learned to just take things in stride. Nowadays, a recording take doesn’t have to be perfect. She has learned that something is better than nothing just so it is captured on the studio tape. That’s where editing and retakes come in. That’s what a studio engineer and a producer are there for and Wilkins has learned to trust in their skills and professional advice.
“What’s coming up next in my life, career-wise, when it comes to my music, is so personal. I just want people that I love dearly to help me to create my “this.” So, I’ve been reaching out to people I really care about and I can say ‘hey, do you want to help me with my music?’ I just want everything I do to have a special meaning because I have always wanted to come up with my own E.P.(extended play recording, not a single song but several). With Gold Ship records, the dream is within reach.”
The self-realization that her music can be a collaboration with her close friends and other influences along the way finally makes sense. Creative barriers came down once Wilkins determined that certain forms of perfection could be waived in the favor of getting a song right, tweaked some, and not be over-stated.
“I lost my best friend, Frosty, two years ago and that was one thing he asked of me which was to take my music more seriously. So, that’s what I plan to do and that’s what has been driving me now. I want to create something that will make him proud!”
So, this dedicated work-in-progress, Miss Kristy Wilkins, is building her own momentum fueled by talent, dedication, and loving support. She’s got that classic country look and when her Taylor guitar rings out, she’s got a voice that people want to hear what this talented woman has to say.
To stay current with Kristy Wilkins’ gigs and career, she has them posted on her Facebook profile under Kristy Amber Wilkins. A website is coming soon. There are also several YouTube videos to enjoy, but live performances are where Wilkins shines brightest.