Born in El Salvador, Angie K offers a bit of Spanish flair to her on-stage presence as a Country music artist. During her performance at the Windy City Smokeout in Chicago, IL, she showed off her Latin dance moves and switched things up with a cover of ‘Despacito’, singing the Spanish verse of the bilingual pop song fluently as she commanded the stage.
With every intention of connecting with her fans from the stage, Angie even joined them in the rain for a song. As it came down, she continued to sing her heart out, feeding off the energy of those watching her so intently, as they tried to pick up on the lyrics and sing along with her. Before ending with her more whimsical, unreleased tune, ‘Coconut Country’, Angie played her most recent release, ‘Sunsets’. This catchy single received wide smiles from the crowd as she painted the picture of a beautiful sky during a gloomy day.
Off the stage, Angie has a heart of gold and talent that will take her far in this industry. She understands the importance of being raw and undeniably herself in her music. She intertwines her family roots into her music and wants to spread the message that Country music isn't just directed towards those living in the southern states, but for anyone in the world who feels they can connect with and relate to it. From her experiences traveling the world, meeting new people and playing her music, she has discovered that “There’s country living everywhere.”
Following her high-spirited performance, we stepped backstage to learn about Angie K’s career thus far. From competing on The Voice, and performing on cruise ships, to singing during the fireworks at Walt Disney World and touring around the world, Angie K has had her fair share of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Welcome back to Chicago! How did it feel to be performing on stage at the Windy City Smokeout today?
It just felt unreal. I’ve played a lot of festivals before, but that wall of people, it just goes back so far. I was just saying I've seen pictures of others singing in front of that sea of people; my drummer took a quick photo and sent it to me afterwards and I was like “oh my god, I just did that.” It’s still settling in, it’s unlike any other festival I’ve ever played. It’s really cool.
Watching your performance today, you played a few unreleased songs that have never been heard live before. How did it feel to perform those for the first time and see people get so excited about them?
It was great! Me and my band laugh because we rehearse, but they know that when I get to the stage sometimes, I just want to do something different. I choose people that are really good at their instruments and don't sweat that stuff. So, when they hear me say that, they get a little nervous, but I know they’re gonna do it. It keeps them on their toes, keeps me on my toes and sometimes it’s a train wreck, but it'll be entertaining. Today, they nailed it.
You have a unique background being born in El Salvador and raised in Georgia. Tell me how your upbringing led you to want to be a Country music artist.
it’s interesting to me. I’m very international; I speak fluent Spanish and I tour in Central America and, I’ll tell you, I have friends that are fishermen in El Salvador that have more in common with some country boy in Alabama than they do with anyone in New York. There’s country living everywhere. I was just in the UK, where I met some people that were just outside the city. They have some land out there and I’m like “these are my people too”. There are cowboys in Germany, so I love hearing stories of people saying, “I’m so grateful that you’re playing a song in my language,” when I translate songs in Spanish. It’s been really cool, because I didn’t realize there was so much of a market for it until I started traveling and people asked me to play in Mexico and El Salvador. There are country people everywhere, there really is.
At what stage in your life did you know you wanted to be a country music artist? Was it something you had always planned to do or did that dream come later in life?
My mom used to always spin Dolly Parton records when I was a kid and she would tell me all these stories about her mom, or my grandmother, who I didn't know that well. She grew up very poor in New Mexico and she would tell me all these stories about my grandma and all the things she's done, with ‘Coat of Many Colors’ playing in the background. I just remember interweaving so much of my family history into those songs - I felt like there wasn't any other genre that you could just plug into and really feel it. For me, whether it’s a silly song or a really deep one, the one filter I have in making sure I want to release a song out or not is, “do I feel like I’m putting out something real?” If it does, then I’m going to put it out. I think it’s true about any Country music that’s gone to No.1; someone’s felt deeply about it.
Tell me about your experience as a contestant on The Voice, working with Blake Shelton as your mentor. How did that time on the show affect your career?
I had been touring full time before that, just around bars really. The audition process was a year long, I didn’t have a mortgage or kids, so if you tell me, “we have your hotel room paid for, can you live here for three months?” I was like sure. It was the time of my life. I remember Blake gave me the best advice one day. My manager knows this, I can be a little type A; I always want a list of things to do and I was sitting there, rehearsing my song for one of the episodes and Blake’s sitting there; I’m scribbling and scribbling away, and he walks over to me. All of a sudden, he’s right in front of me, “what are you doing?” he asks and I’m like, “I’m getting ready for the show, I’m writing down all my bullets.” He takes my notepad away from me and he says, “there’s nothing else you can do to that song, you sound amazing. You go have fun tonight.” I remember thinking, “that’s kind of annoying, your career isn’t on the line night and day.” But Blake was just an amazing guy. He gave me the best advice I could have had and that night I stayed up until three in the morning singing harmonies in a hotel room, getting calls telling us to shut up.
The people I met on the show are still some of my best friends. It was just people that wanted so badly to play music. It’s one of the few times you’re on the same level as everybody else and there was no competition. When I came off the show and someone else moved forward, I can say honestly I was just as happy for them as I was sad for me.
After your time on The Voice ended, you recorded ‘Happily Ever After’, a Disney duet with Jordan Fisher. How did you get the opportunity to record a song for the most magical place on earth?
It’s pure chance, man. You keep throwing yourself out there, someday someone’s going to open a door and that’s what happened. I was just in the middle of a tour and I remember being so frickin’ tired. I was driving for hours at a time. I remember one day I was crying in my car I was so tired, but I had to make it to this other bar show four hours away. Suddenly, I get this call from the guy who hired me from carnival cruise lines, one of my first full-time musician gigs. He said, “I’m working for Disney now, can you play this quick demo?” I drove another six hours to go see him and played the demo on my day off. He calls me back a few weeks later and he goes, “hey so you’re gonna be the new singer with Jordan Fisher for the fireworks show at Walt Disney World.” I’m a huge Disney fan, so it was so special. We might actually be working on something new with Disney soon, waiting to see. I’ll possibly announce it next year.
Also, Jordan’s the nicest guy man. You first meet him and you’re like, “what’s the catch bro?”. The second I showed up to Capital Records, I parked my 2009 Prius between a Lamborghini and whatever else and I went and recorded this song. Next thing I know, we’re in front of 65,000 people at the Disney castle singing this song during one of the best fireworks shows in the country. It blows my mind to even say that.
Especially as a Disney fan, that had to have been such a surreal, once in a lifetime kind of moment for you.
I’ll tell you the best part is Disney knows how to do it. They just treated me as well as they did Jordan, even though he’s way bigger. They let me and my whole family come as VIP guests to the park, and I have a Hispanic family and they are rowdy, there was like seven of us. So, we got to skip every line and we went to Pandora before it was even open, we were just taking advantage of everything. Of all of the amazing memories I’ve had, I think that was the coolest because Disney made it a point to include my family. There’s also something amazing about hitting a goal and seeing the people around you get even more excited too.
It must be such an amazing feeling to have all those people supporting you and your career. Did your family get to see you perform here today?
Tonight, I had my dad and two of my sisters here with me. I have four sisters, and one of them, she has special needs and she’s taught me more about life than I think anyone else has. Just seeing her pure joy, I don't think she put down her phone once, she was videoing me the whole time. I was like “Noel, you're okay, you can just enjoy the show.” She was like, “no Ang, you might need this.” She’s so funny, she’s jumping up and down as she’s taking them too. Whenever you see family out in the crowd and you just see them losing their minds, there’s nothing like that. If you have people around you that get excited like that, that’s what life’s about.
What went through your head when you first heard one of your more recent releases, ‘Real Talk’, which was co-written by Thomas Rhett?
It’s amazing that I got to record that song. We wrote this one with Thomas Rhett, Nicolle Gay and Jesse Frazier - they’re fantastic writers. Jesse is the producer on it too, he does a lot of Thomas Rhett stuff. One thing I love about Country music is you come to a festival like this, you see these big names and everybody’s just hanging out. You don’t see that in pop music as much. So, the fact that I was an unsigned artist, we didn’t have a big budget and Jesse was like “you like the song, you sound great on it, come in I’ll record it for you”. He just did it for me; there are so many good people with good souls that just want the world to hear good music. It really is that amazing and sure, there’s always the hard sides of the business, but there are way more good people than there are bad.
Following ‘Real Talk’, you just released your song ‘Sunsets’. Can you explain what this song means to you and how Jake Owen became a mentor of sorts during the recording process?
I really love that song - I remember sending it to Jake as just an acoustic recording. He calls me and says that he played it for his little girl Pearl; “she just loves it, she remembered all the words”. I remember being worried about it, because I questioned how people were going to catch onto such a wordy song? So Pearl deserves some credit too, because if a seven-year-old can remember these lyrics, I think we’ll be alright.
When you’re with someone like Jake, he doesn’t do anything less than the best. He puts me in the room with the best players, we record the song and he says “Keith (Jake’s manager) said my intuition was right, this is great”. So, we put it out about a month ago and it’s been on (Sirius XM) The Highway, it’s on six curated playlists, it’s unreal.
Angie K's new single 'Sunsets' is out now via GCE Records. Watch the video for the brand new track below.
Angie K is the featured artist this week on Holler's Introducing Country playlist! Subscribe and listen below for all the best new country artists.
Photography by Elisabeth Neely / Holler.