Rising country star Halle Kearns spent five years in KC before making moves in Nashville

Photo by Kelsey Maggart

Halle Kearns isn’t your typical female country music musician. Like a few famed names before her—see: Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris—the native Missourian, raised in Columbia, is revolutionizing the country music industry. Gone are the days of donning dirty leather boots and singing ballads about tractors and beer. In comes bubblegum pink iridescent pantsuits, pop beats and disco props.

Kearns came to Kansas City in 2015 and built her career by performing gigs at local venues, coffee shops and wineries before making the move to Nashville in 2019. In April, the twenty-four-year-old released her new single, “Plans,” which People described as a “pop-country tune that highlights her ability to fuse relatable storytelling with catchy melodies.” This rising tune comes after a successful release of her EP, Finally, in December, which has 2.7 million streams and counting.

What led you down the path of singer-songwriter?

This is the thing that lit my soul on fire and just made me feel like I had this bigger purpose, so it was something I knew immediately that I wanted to pursue right out of high school. So a lot of it was trial and error, trying to figure out how to go about booking a show. There were a lot of cold emails. I actually used to take my guitar around and walk into music venues and be like, “Hey, hire me,” which is totally not what you’re supposed to do, but it ended up working out because a lot of people were kind enough to explain how it’s done. A lot of it really just snowballed on itself.

Where do you pull inspiration from in writing your songs?

I like writing my own story and my own thoughts and my own perspectives on things, so that’s where I always try to grab from, whether it’s a present-day experience or something I’m reflecting on right now. My family is also a big influence. It’s a win for them, too, because they’ve been through all the ups and downs and heartbreak and success and everything you can imagine with me.

Why country?

It’s what I grew up on. I’ve been listening to it since I was little. My first memories are listening to country music, and the first song I’ve ever sang was If I Fall by The Chicks. It was complete babble, but I’ve loved country music since I was tiny, and it’s what I grew up on and what naturally came out. So I think it’s just the genre I feel most connected to based on my upbringing. I think a lot of it was the environment I was raised in, and I think both Columbia and Kansas City have country roots. That’s just naturally what came out when I started making music, but the love of music and that bug I have inside me that pursues it is more of a God-given thing that would have happened no matter where I was born or raised.

What is your favorite memory in your career so far?

My favorite performing memory was definitely the first time I had played for the Blue Note, which is my hometown venue. And it was really special to get to step on that stage for the first time. It felt really validating and like a nod that I was on the right path. Showing my dad “Shoes to Fill” for the first time was really, really special. He was actually in Nashville, we got in my car, and I just told him it was a mystery song. I hit play and we all started crying.

Kansas City Favorites

Power & Light District: “I went to a ton of P&L concerts during my time in KC, and the atmosphere was unbeatable every time.”

River Market: “River Market is one of my very favorite places to go with my family, and anytime someone came to visit over a weekend, I brought them here.”

Gates BBQ: “For obvious reasons…”

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