A rising country singer/songwriter from Cypress reaches new heights with her iTunes-charting music, performances with Scotty McCreery, and aims for country music stardom
Written by Lorrie Crow Kimble | Photography by Micah Kandros
CY-FAIR, TX (CFM) – Kayla Conn is a busy teenager. Her debut album, Kayla Conn - EP, soared to the Top 40 on iTunes’ country album chart; she writes songs and records in Nashville, has toured with American Idol country sensation Scotty McCreery – all before her 16th birthday.
Kayla’s parents, Carroll and Shannon Conn, realized their daughter was musically talented when she was 3 years old. “We were at an Astros game, and all of a sudden, we hear this little voice singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ in perfect pitch,” says her mother, Shannon. “We were both just blown away.”
Kayla says the music bug hit her about four years ago when she first picked up the guitar and learned how to play. “After that, I took lessons for about two months, and my dad helped me learn the rest. Then I began to write music, and that’s when I knew I wanted to try to go further with music and performing,” she adds.
A Standing Ovation
She wrote her first song at age 13 about her best friends who were moving away. “It wasn’t that great,” she laughs. “But then at summer camp, I wrote ‘There for Me’ for my parents. It was my first song I ever recorded and put on iTunes.”
Since then, thousands of fans have watched Kayla perform at numerous state and national FFA conventions, regional festivals, clubs, and benefits. Brandy Elrod, Kayla’s AgriScience teacher and FFA advisor at Cy Ranch High School, recalls when asking if any student wanted to compete in talent at the District VII FFA convention, Kayla approached her and said that she could sing.
“At that point, I had never heard her sing and said, ‘Sure’, and signed her up,” says Elrod. “During the competition, I heard her sing – she blew me away.”
Kayla won first place in District VII and in area talent competitions, and then qualified for the national talent review where she sang on four different stages, sharing with four other FFA members. “Each time Kayla would get on stage, everyone would remain silent and stop what they were doing to listen to her sing,” says Elrod. “At our state FFA talent competition, she was the only one who got a standing ovation from 15,000 FFA members.”
Keeping up with her music career and school work is definitely a challenge. “My school has been very supportive and willing to help me achieve my goals while I’m still a student,” says Kala. Shannon says she’s amazed at Kayla’s ability to balance her schedule of school and touring. “She takes advanced level classes and makes high grades in them,” says Shannon. “I know she has to work really hard, but she loves bringing her music to her fans, so it is worth it to her.”
Kayla says she appreciates all of the Cy-Fair community support, especially from her school. “Cy Ranch has put a lot of things about me in their school magazines, sent out newsletters, and tweeted about me,” she says.
Fame and Fans
Kayla also gets support from her many fans. “When I saw my first album rising on the iTunes country chart, it made me realize how many fans I have who love me and want to support me,” she says. “We pushed my album really hard on Twitter, Facebook, and Mozes, and the response was just amazing. I would never have charted without the help of my close friends and family.”
Kayla’s parents say they have always supported their kids 100%. “We have a philosophy in our house – no dream is too big,” says Shannon.
Despite Kayla’s numerous followers, her AgriScience teacher believes that Kayla does not realize her fame. “She is so humble and calm about everything,” says Elrod. “While at the national FFA convention in Indianapolis, she had FFA members, parents – even police – stopping her everywhere and asking for her autograph. She would just chitchat with them, and it was always more about them and not her.”Kayla’s mother agrees. “I am amazed at her humbleness, her grace, and her heart,” says Shannon. “She wrote a song for a friend who has cancer. She takes these life stories and creates something beautiful – I can’t explain it.”
For a Cause
Kayla recently had the honor of performing in support of a cause that is very close to her heart, the National Alzheimer’s Association. Her opening set in front of Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, and Larry the Cable Guy, showcased a song she co-wrote with Grammy award-winner Brian White, called “Memory for Two,” which was written to honor her late grandfather whose life was severely impacted by Alzheimer’s. “After watching my grandfather suffer from the disease, Alzheimer’s has become a large part of my life,” explains Kayla.
“It is a very sad disease that affects a lot of people. I think it can be cured. We want to raise awareness for the multitude of caregivers who care for Alzheimer’s patients all over. It is a long, hard, and often very lonely world,” Shannon adds.
Touring with Scotty McCreery
The opportunity to tour with country star Scotty McCreery, is one that Kayla has not taken lightly. “Playing shows with Scotty is always really exciting,” says Kayla, who performs with him at various colleges and theatres, beginning last fall. “Those are definitely the shows I look forward to the most.”
Whenever Kayla plays with McCreery, she says she always gets a couple of fans who stick with her. “I still have quite a few people talking to me from shows last year.” Kayla admires McCreery and his friendly disposition. “He is really nice and one of the only ones who makes an effort to talk to me after the show to tell me that I did a good job,” she laughs.
Kayla says her future agenda includes working hard to market herself to record labels to reach her perfect dream – taking her to where she wants to be.“You always want wonderful things for your children,” says Shannon. “When I watch Kayla come alive on stage, get on her knees for her smallest of fans, and truly love the people and their hearts – I am just in awe of her.”
LORRIE CROW KIMBLE heard “Memory for Two,” and became an instant fan of Kayla Conn.