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VOL. 37 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 12, 2013

Teens: 18-year-old combines vocal talents, entrepreneurial spirit

By Hollie Deese

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Kiya Lacey

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Kiya Lacey, 18, has her eyes firmly on the music mogul prize.

With strong female industry role models like Beyoncé and Esperanza Spalding as an inspiration, the natural-born singer knows it takes more than a great voice to make it in this industry.

It takes hard work, a diverse profile and a drive to achieve something greater than you ever thought possible.

Lacey certainly has that drive. She is the 2013 recipient of the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Award for a company she started with her mother, Lovely Bands, selling one-of-a-kind head bands with feathers, gems and floral embellishments.

Her mom, Ericka Alexander, is happy to keep that business going online -- they recently closed their Farmers’ Market outpost -- while Lacey pursues her music career full-throttle.

Lacey is an Ella Fitzgerald Foundation Award recipient and recently opened for Grammy-winner Brandy after winning a national contest.

And she just graduated Harpeth Hall in May, where she has been a student since fifth grade.

Her mother says Lacey started young, singing and dancing around the house to every Disney movie and Christina Aguilera song she could.

She was in ballet and African dance and encouraged by Alexander to embrace her creativity.

“I told her, dare to be different,” Alexander says.

Lacey says music and singing was always just for fun when she was a kid. But she got more serious about performing when she was 14.

“I attended Village Church in East Nashville, and we have an open mic session called Voices at the Village,’’ Lacey says.

Fueled by her love of the Adele album 19 as well as the film about Etta James starring Beyoncé, Cadillac Records (“I knew who Etta James was but I knew who Beyoncé was more,” she says), she honed her Motown sound on that community stage.

When she was 15 she tried out for American Idol. And while she only made it to the second round of auditions, the fuel was lit for her to keep fighting for the spotlight.

“It generated a start for me to actually think I could pursue it as a career,” she says.

She did more open mics, sang in her choir at school and at church and sang lead in the all-girl pop/rock group Ye Rooz.

Last summer Lacey landed a spot at Grammy Camp in Los Angeles, where she realized how much of the business side there was yet to learn.

“That was the best thing for me and I credit that a lot for getting me where I am as far as confidence, stage presence, taking criticism, all of that,” Lacey says. “We met professionals in every aspect of the music business. It was not ‘How can I become a famous singer?’ It was, ‘How can I market myself, handle media relations and copyright issues.

“And that is why I am doing entertainment industry studies at Belmont instead of [being a] vocal major because I want to learn the business side of it as well.”

She still plans on attending Belmont in the fall, but this summer things are really picking up steam. Lacey released her self-titled album on July 2, written and produced by Harpeth Hall teachers Joseph Patrick Croker and Michael Scott Myrick. On the album Lacey was able to work with a number of music heavyweights, like John Jackson, who has worked with Bob Dylan; Marco Giovino who has worked with Robert Plant; and Vince Santoro who has worked with Rosanne Cash, naming just a few.

“It is very exciting,” she says. “It is more exciting than it is challenging. I am just working hard and I like it.” Plus, she is already thinking about the next album, something she wants to be more personal with songs that showcase her songwriting skills in genres that go beyond jazz.

But success doesn’t come easy for a teenager looking to relax with friends over the summer either. “Music and school is pretty much it as of now for my time,” she says. “Recently I have been able to see friends too, but it has gotten pretty hectic recently and is getting more geared toward music. But I make time - sometimes. I do make sacrifices.”

“It’s exciting to see someone from such a young age go there when I think about most adults probably who could have been good at something creative had they stuck with it,” Alexander says. “Whenever she does something she puts her stamp on it and masters it. I am in awe of her.”

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