Kelly Parkes, formerly Sowatsky, is the new name in country music Daughter of Lititz dentist joins Lonestar at Fallfest
ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
This should be a banner weekend for country singer Kelly Parkes.
The 26-year-old Manheim Township grad will not only be singing the National Anthem at her alma mater’s Homecoming game Friday night, but she’ll also be performing at the 22nd annual I-105/Turkey Hill Fallfest at Overlook Community Campus on Sunday.
Headliner for Fallfest will be country music superstar group Lonestar. Other performers include Joe Nichols, who has a new single entitled "Sunny and 75," Frankie Ballard and I-105’s Showdown at Shady Maple winner Mountain Road Band. Fallfest kicks off at noon, and Kelly takes the stage at 12:45 to do seven songs.
"I’m really stoked to be part of the lineup with Lonestar and Joe Nichols; it’s a bit surreal. I’ll have the opportunity to interact with them," she said. "This is a huge deal for me, especially at this level of my career. I’m thrilled to be performing at an event that’s so big. The fact that it’s in my hometown is a real plus. When I first learned about Fallfest, I hoped that someday I’d be performing at the event. And I have a connection to Overlook … I grew up playing in the park and swimming at the pool."
Kelly Parkes is the stage name that Kelly Sowatsky adopted when she made a demo a few years ago. Her parents are children’s author Jackie Sowatsky and Brian Sowatsky, DDS, who practices at Family Dentistry of Lititz.
"I’ve always been a ‘ham.’ I love being on stage. At this point I’m comfortable with what I do so I won’t really be nervous. I just want to go out there and give a great show for my fans and the people in the audience," Parkes said.
Her mom, Jackie, said that although Kelly’s always been a ‘ham,’ it wasn’t until she was half-way through college at Ball State University that the idea of being a country music performer took hold.
"Kelly was selected to represent her sorority at Diversity Week. We showed up to surprise her and watch her performance. We were just blown away by her performance. It was that good," she said.
When Kelly came home for a break, her parents arranged a recording session at Right Coast Recording, Columbia, whose clients include R.E.M., Billy Joel and local favorites including Amy Banks and Hybrid Ice.
"They were really impressed with Kelly’s talent and suggested that she send a demo to someone working with Martina McBride. When we didn’t hear back from them, she posted a song on Myspace, which was big at the time," Jackie explained.
The Myspace posting caught the attention of someone with Taylor Swift, who suggested that she should move to Nashville. In 2008 she moved there to pursue her career. She took a job as a waitress, and during her off hours, she worked on her singing and songwriting and started to build connections in the Nashville community. It was during that time she met Mike Borchetta and his wife, Martha. They immediately liked Kelly and within 24 hours of their meeting, she had signed her first record deal with Edge Records/Lofton Creek Records.
Her first song, "Nothing," went to #42 on the Billboard Country Indicator Chart, and "Don’t Make Me" was #1 on the NMW (New Music Weekly) Country Main Chart and #1 on the NMW Country Top 30 Indie Chart, reached #30 on Music Row Chart, and #44 on the Billboard Indicator.
Kelly was also nominated for New Music Weekly’s 2012 Female Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Breakthrough Artist of the Year. She received the award for Breakthrough Artist. In May 2012, Kelly shot her first music video for her new single, "All Cried Out."
This year Kelly was again nominated in two of New Music Weekly’s award categories – Breakthrough Artist of the Year and Female Artist of the Year. She was again victorious in bringing home the Breakthrough Artist award.
Kelly’s also been touring the country doing various performances and radio appearances, and she performed the National Anthem in July 2010 at a NASCAR Truck series race at O’Reily Raceway Park; the race was broadcast on the SPEED Channel.
"I love to sing the National Anthem. It’s such a powerful song," she said.
She’s excited to be performing it again this Friday at her homecoming.
"It’s really cool. I know that a lot of my former teachers and siblings of my friends may be there. Last time I was on that football field was for my graduation," she said.
Homecoming and the Fallfest aren’t the only big events in Kelly’s life these days. Her Christmas single, "I Believe," will be available on iTunes Nov. 1. Both Kelly and her mom had a hand in the new single. The authors on the song are Kelly Parkes, lyrics and music; Jackie Sowatsky, lyrics; Jason Hoffheins, lyrics; and Bobby Gentilo, lyrics and music.
The song’s lyrics are also being used in a children’s book by the same name, published by edge1 Publishing. It’s available with a free download of the song beginning on Oct. 15.
Jackie, who is the author of the Miss Maddie Mae series of children’s books, says the lyrics are a perfect fit for a children’s book.
"My mom is such a creative person; her ideas are phenomenal. Working with her on the book was a lot of fun. The book is so whimsical. I hope it becomes a Christmas classic," Kelly said.
Jackie plans to do a number of local book appearances. To date, she’s scheduled to appear at Ladies Night from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 21 at Bomberger’s Store in Lititz.
More KELLY PARKES, page A18