Contributing Editor Andrea Knapp
To say Kendal Conrad has amassed an extensive list of career highlights would be an understatement. She’s a singer, actress, and award-winning songwriter. She won the title of International Miss Talent with her original song, “Girlstrong.” Her acting experience includes playing an extra in Silver Linings Playbook and Holly Golightly in a post-Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She sang the National Anthem for Harvard Men’s Basketball in Boston and for the Philadelphia Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Florida. Her first EP was recorded in Reba McEntire’s Nashville studio, and she has opened for many country artists, such as Blake Shelton, Charlie Daniels Band, Hunter Hayes, Sara Evans, and Diamond Rio.
Of all her talents, she says singing came first, and she has always loved it. As a member of her church and school choirs, her first solo came in the fourth grade, a major achievement because she had been chosen over all the fifth graders. Among her more recent acomplishments, she cites her biggest career milestone as singing with Keith Urban at Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “The fact that his team trusted me to sing with him live onstage was a huge honor. That night was magical,” she says. It was even listed on Urban’s website as one of his favorite moments from his “Raise ‘Em Up” tour.
Though she has already made quite a name for herself, Conrad, who hails from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, is trying to bring something new to country music. When asked how she would describe her sound, she says, “My sound is twangy on top, thumping on the bottom. I love to couple mandolin, banjo, fiddle with a really big bass. [I’m] really trying to do my own thing.” Her own thing involves using samples and using pop beats in her country songs instead of real drums. She explains, “I’m real. I’m me. I don’t try to fit in. It’s not how country music is traditionally done, but it’s my kind of country.”
Her sound may not compare to anyone else’s, but she does draw inspiration from some big names in music. She lists Whitney Houston and Taylor Swift as her two biggest influences. “Whitney is an incredible vocalist, and Taylor is an incredible songwriter,” she says. “So they’ve both inspired me in different ways.” But, she admits, her influences are currently “all over the place” and include the new Sam Hunt album and Ariana Grande.
This blend of pop and country inspiration and sound comes through in her latest single, “Leader of the Pack,” which Conrad calls her personal anthem. “I trusted people in my life who wound up kicking me while I was down, which was not only shocking but painful, too. That’s what this song is about – getting back up and coming back stronger than ever in the face of adversity,” she says. And she continues that momentum with the upcoming release of her brand new single on May 22, which she is very excited about. The song was produced by platinum producer Matt McVaney, who has worked with Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina, among other pop and country artists.
This gives Conrad something to look forward to as she waits out the remaining weeks of stay-at-home quarantine as the result of the current Covid-19 pandemic. She admits that when everything initially went into lockdown and the realization of indefinite unemployment hit, she had a meltdown. She says, “While I am a romantic and a lover of fireworks and sunsets and all things magical, I am not always glass-half-full. I’m an idealist, but I’m also a realist.” Like so many others across the country, the pandemic has derailed many of her plans, and staying positive has not always been easy for her. But she adds, “At the same time, it is comforting to know that I’m not alone. Everyone in the music industry is dealing with this. We really are all in this together. I’m continuing the hustle at home until I can get back out and grind. The world will still be there.”
In the meantime, she has been doing a lot of Facebook Live shows, something she enjoys because “everyone can watch and comment in real time. It’s been fun to ‘see’ my friends and fans a few times a week – even if it is virtually!” She has also been using the time to do some things her busy schedule normally wouldn’t allow. She’s baked, read, and “finally started playing Kingdom Hearts 3.” She also collaborated with JJ Ratigan Brewing Company in her hometown, performing a livestream concert from their brewery. The show helped raise over $650 for local healthcare workers, an effort that faciliated the delivery of 500 lunches to Pottstown Hospital.
Still she looks forward to the days when she can return to the things she is passionate about: music, travel, and food. As a self-proclaimed “colossal foodie,” she says, “I’ve been dying to go out to eat. Anywhere with good food and good ambience.” She also hopes to travel more. “My friend Megan and I LOVE New York, so we had been taking little trips to see concerts, comedy shows, and taste-test NYC donuts and cakes. I still intend to travel this year and eat all the desserts. Maine has been on my list forever!”
She also has high hopes for her career and would love to open for Florida-Georgia Line. “I saw their show in Vegas, and they were a lot of fun! They also seem like really nice guys,” she says. A duet with Michael Bolton, who is one of her favorite male voices, is also on her bucket list. And she adds, “I think I would sound pretty good on a Chainsmokers track, too.” Going on tour is also high on her list of career aspirations because of her love of music and travel. In the next five years, she hopes to be touring the country, whether as a headliner or as a support act.
For now, Conrad looks forward to the release of her new single and is grateful to anyone who has supported her thus far. To all those in her corner, she extends this message of gratitude: “Thank you so much to anyone who has ever watched my videos, streamed my music, listened to my podcasts, or read my interviews. I love you for supporting me.”