“I was one of those kids who just knew what they wanted at a very young age,” Kylie Morgan tells American Songwriter. “When I was 12 years old, I told my mom that I wanted to move to Nashville and be a country music artist. Even then, I was serious.”
Now, years and countless experiences later, Morgan’s dreams are coming true. On June 11, she unveiled her debut EP, Love, Kylie, produced by Ben Johnson and country music’s golden boy, Shane McAnally. With infectious arrangements, irresistibly clever lyrics and a vibrant, empowering energy, the EP is a brilliant introduction to Morgan and all of her talents and charms.
Yet, for as bold and exciting as this debut is, Morgan’s been building up to this moment for, well, most of her life. “I learned to play guitar when I was 12,” she said. “I got my very first little pink guitar for Christmas—it was a little Daisy rock guitar. So, I started to learn how to write songs and then got busy doing it. I just knew that it was what I was put on this Earth to do. It was just very, very obvious to me. It brought me so much joy.”
Starting young, Morgan had a work-ethic and a commitment that many full-grown adults couldn’t even match. While her peers were busy engaging in typical “kid stuff,” she was thinking of ways to turn her lofty goals into reality. In a lot of ways, she got this drive from her two biggest early influences: Shirley Temple and Shania Twain.
“I used to watch all of the Shirley Temple videos when I was little—she was so young,” Morgan said. “That gave me the idea of, like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to be grown-up to start this process.’ Then, Shania came along. She made me want to sing and dance and just entertain people. I’ll never forget when she released the Up! CD and it was half-country, half-pop. That was the first time in my life I had heard something like that, so I was like ‘Oh my God, this is the type of music I want to make.’”
With her mind made up and her passion burning brighter than ever, it didn’t take long for Morgan to start to find her own voice. In fact, she took to it so naturally that she quickly outgrew her process. It wasn’t enough to just write songs anymore: she knew she needed to record and share them too… which was a lot harder to do back before the advent of today’s easily-accessible music-making technology. So, Morgan did what a lot of her peers did and started with GarageBand. With that, she would write and record simple songs, just her and her acoustic. But deep in her heart, she knew she needed to share her music, and at the time, the best way to do it was through MySpace. She just had one obstacle in her path (at first): her mother.
“Funnily enough, my mom thought that if your name was on social media at all, you would get kidnapped and die,” Morgan recounted with a laugh. “In middle school, I would just beg my mom to let me make a MySpace. Then, for Christmas one year, she gave me an envelope. Inside of it was a username and password for a MySpace account—that was my Christmas gift, and it was the best one I’ve gotten because it meant that I could show people my music.”
With all the necessary tools in her belt, Morgan was finally in a position to start the work to make her dream come true. All she had left to do was grind—so, she started grinding.
“I started gaining attention from the songs on my first MySpace,” she said. “People liked my songs and started downloading them. Then, that kinda gave me the confidence boost to really take this seriously. So, I ended up touring full time and signed my first indie record deal at 14 years old. I really just got my feet wet, so far as learning how to be on stage, learning what I wanted to say as an artist. I was still a child, you know? So there was a lot of learning to do, but I got a head start and I’m so glad I did. Who would’ve guessed that over a decade later, here we are my debut EP? It’s finally coming out after this 13 year-process.”
There’s some more in-between bits to Morgan’s story—eventually, her first deal led to a series of other deals, which ultimately resulted in her relocating to Nashville. Establishing herself in Music City, she ended up falling in with McAnally’s crew over at SMACKSongs, which led to a deal with Universal Music Group Nashville, the home of Love, Kylie. And between it’s irresistible, up-beat bops, it’s intuitive sense of melody and it’s candid recounting of Morgan’s life, the EP is truly an introduction to her world. Even the name of the EP comes from how she used to sign off all of her emails to publishing reps in her early days. To Morgan, that level of authenticity is first and foremost.
“I feel like artists are always painted as being perfect pictures,” she said. “We have so many Instagram filters, so many things that we can choose to send out to the public. But, we have publicists who choose what people read and listen to—for me, I want people to know that ‘humanity’ is what we should be advertising, not the idea of ‘perfection.’ So, even going into my songs—‘Cheating On You’ was about a low point in my relationship.
“At some point, I felt like I was not with the man that I fell in love with, he felt like a stranger to me… and I felt like a stranger to him,” she continued. “So, that’s why I transitioned from ‘Cheating On You’ to ‘Mad I Need You’—that was my breakthrough. I’ve been such an ‘independent person’ my whole life, but I’ve honestly just been afraid to need somebody. I built up this wall and even though we were in an amazing, beautiful relationship, I was still holding myself back. So, it was a breakthrough for me—especially through quarantine—to be like, ‘You know what? I can be independent and I can still do what I do while having someone by my side.’”
And speaking with American Songwriter on the phone on release day itself—June 11—it’s clear that Morgan is overjoyed at the chance to finally share her authentic self in a big way. “I’m honestly just so happy,” she said. “Like, ‘happy’ is my word for the day. I stayed up til midnight last night waiting for it to come out—I did a livestream on Facebook and Instagram. I just saw all the love that I have been manifesting for this EP. All I want to do is write music. That’s true to me. I prayed that it would resonate for other people—I’m just so excited that people are responding to it in the way that I hoped for. And I’m just ready for the next chapter already!”
Kylie Morgan’s debut EP Love, Kylie is out now and available everywhere. Watch the music video for “Shoulda” below: