Kelleigh Bannen

Alumni Profile: Kelleigh Bannen '95

by Kirby Wiley '10
You might hear her singing on the radio, or hosting Apple Music’s first country-focused radio show, “Today’s Country.” Kelleigh Bannen '95 wears many hats in the country music world: singer, songwriter, and podcast and radio show host. 
Bannen’s dream of pursuing a career in the music industry first sparked in high school when she co-wrote a song with Christian music artist, Mark Schultz. But she tucked that dream away as she graduated high school and headed to college to pursue something “more practical” with her education. 
She continued writing songs in her spare time, but it wasn’t until after she graduated college and was studying for the LSAT that she started writing in a more earnest and serious way. It was then that she asked herself the difficult question: do I have what it takes to become a country music artist and to make a career out of this?  “I still don’t know if I have an answer to that question,” Bannen says today, “but I’m just still doing it.”
Bannen wrote a handful of albums that never came out, but she didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dream. While continuing to write and record her songs, Bannen launched a new podcast, “This Nashville Life,” in 2016 to share stories from behind the scenes of Music City’s biggest export and to share with listeners the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it’s like to be an aspiring country music artist. “This Nashville Life” is now in its fourth season.
After ten years of hard work and dedication, Bannen finally released her debut album, Favorite Colors, in October of 2019. Unlike most of today’s country music artists, Bannen helped write each and every one of the 14 songs on the album.  “Even though we are moving away from an album format, it was just important to me to make an album so I could at least say I made an album. Instead of fretting over all the songs being perfect, they just are a snapshot of where I am right now and over the last few years,” Bannen says of her first album. 
On top of all of her commitments and work in the music industry, Bannen still finds time to go to the gym or to exercise three times a week. “I find I’m a lot less cranky and I’m a lot more generous and creative when I’m moving my body,” Bannen admits.
It was her time at Ensworth that Bannen says helped her to have a positive mindset about exercising and living a healthy lifestyle. “I think about that joyful, innocent approach to working out and exercising when it wasn’t about body image; it wasn’t about being skinny; it wasn’t about being anything; it was just about moving and having fun. I think that’s something that, for me, has been a journey to learn to embrace the idea of being strong over being a certain body type and also enjoy being strong and how that makes me feel—how it makes me feel empowered.”
When asked what advice Bannen would give to aspiring artists, Bannen says, “Spend as much time as you can discovering what makes you unique. Instead of trying to become like others, embrace the things that may seem like flaws to the outside world, the things that make you different and focus on developing your own voice. I think the things that win in a big way win because they connect, people feel something, and also because they do something different.” 

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