How did Kayla McKinney begin to sing? Well, if you had been in Buncombe County on a Sunday morning in the 1990s, you would have heard that little girl’s voice floating down the mountainside from the McKinney home. Ray, a corrections officer, and Nora, a homemaker, hosted a Bible study group full of friends, neighbors, and the couple’s seven children. Their homemade church always included hymns of praise. By three years old, their youngest daughter Kayla was doing her rendition of “The Sun’s Coming Up In The Morning”. Kayla says, “I could barely talk, but I was already starting to get an ear for the flow of the song, the melody of the song.” Those believers in her parents’ living room got her started in music, and in faith. “I am definitely a believer,” Kayla says. “I believe that God works. I believe in Jesus.”
There were hymns in the family home, and there was Dolly Parton, and Patsy Cline, and Carrie Underwood. Cline’s “Crazy” was an early influence, and Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” helped to set Kayla on the long road of country music. “I won so many karaoke contests with just that song! I idolized her so much after that.”
Where do you go, when you’re sixteen years old and the music is busting out of you? You go to every mountain dive bar and honky-tonk with a country karaoke night, where they don’t look at your ID too close because they know you, and they know that a good Christian girl doesn’t drink, and because they can see how much you love that little stage. Soon, Kayla was making her first money when she was paid to lead off karaoke parties.
Today you can find her music at kaylamckinneycountry.com, including her best-selling single, “These Two Barstools”. And you can find Kayla herself on the bus and on the stage all around the Tarheel State, enchanting her growing crowds. The songs kept calling to her, and she had to answer. Kayla says, “I just think that I never got to see the world. My family has never got to see the world. Through me, in many ways, I want to achieve things that they never got to achieve. As a single mom, I will be the only one who got to graduate from college. Music is the one thing that I am good at. That is the one thing where I can accomplish something. At the end of my life, I can say, ‘I did this’.”