New Jersey isn’t known as a hotbed for country music, but that didn’t stop Kayla Calabrese from falling in love with the genre thanks to her father who owned and operated his own trucking company. As a teenager, Calabrese recalls listening to Garth Brooks and Shania Twain in one moment and then dancing to *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys the next.
“Once I started singing when I was 17 and playing guitar, I just gravitated towards (country music). I blame my dad,” she jokes. “I’m a Jersey girl but I identify as a country music artist.”
With a touch of classic rock and some Americana thrown into the music, Calabrese brings a unique flair to the country music scene. Her topical matter sometimes goes in a different as well—like when she sings about the beach (something she misses now that she’s living in Nashville).
But one of the biggest influences on her songwriting is an intense full-time job as an E.R., nurse, which she ironically provides a welcomed escape from the pressures of being a recording artist.
“I feel like I live two different lives,” Calabrese says. “I come do crazy things like this and I get to write and perform. Then I have three shifts a week and I go in for 12 hours. I see awful things. I see really great things. Nursing is a good outlet to escape from the music world. But then music is definitely an outlet for what I have to see and what I have to do as a nurse.”
Ultimately, Calabrese hopes that her unconventional approach will inspire others to likewise pursue their dreams with reckless abandon.
“You can have a passion and a dream and you can chase it regardless of whatever else is going on in your life,” she says. “I’m a nurse and I’m still making the music thing happen. As long as you’re driven and you put the time in, anything’s possible.”