"When I got to my write that day, I was like, 'It'd be really cool to figure out 'how do we go from bad to good' instead of 'how did we go from good to bad?'" she tells PEOPLE

By Tricia Despres
July 15, 2021 04:00 PM
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From the moment she wrote her first song at the age of 15 years old, viral sensation Alexandra Kay has always known she wanted to live a life immersed in music.

"I started writing music so I could deal with everything that I had going on in my life at the time," explains the now 29-year-old during an interview with PEOPLE. "As a teenager, I was trying to figure out who I was and where I belonged and how I should deal with things like love and heartbreak. And all of the intensity surrounding all of those things went into my songs."

Soon, the big-time talent for the small town in Illinois started checking off all the traditional 'road to stardom' boxes, from starring in theatre to doing voiceovers to filming commercials to even taking a shot at American Idol. And in 2012, the competitive softball player with the insane voice was officially discovered. She began working with Nelly and Huey Alexandra, scoring an independent record deal with Nettwork Entertainment in 2013 and soon after released her first chart-topping single "No More."

But it never quite felt right. That is, until she found country music.

"I had this realization, as I was cutting these R&B songs, that I was really writing country songs that were being produced in a way that essentially put me in different genres," explains Kay, who began to get a slew of attention from country music fans via her cover of the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene," which has now been viewed well over 60 million times. "It created a bunch of creative differences between us, and I ended up leaving the label and kind of forging my own path. To be honest, I feel like I was supposed to be in the country music genre all along. So. I'm glad I found my way back here."

alexandra kay
Alexandra Kay
| Credit: Curt Simshauser 

Indeed, Kay's refreshing brand of storytelling seems somewhat custom-made for the country music genre and shines brightly on her current single "How Do We Go," a song that originally made waves with her two million followers on TikTok this past spring.

"I feel like with every relationship, you can feel the initial tugging in opposite directions and, all of a sudden, you are trying to hold on for dear life," explains Kay of the intriguing song she wrote alongside songwriters Lizzie Cates and Matt Wynn. "When I got to my write that day, I turned to Matt and was like, 'It'd be really cool to figure out 'how do we go from bad to good' instead of 'how did we go from good to bad?'"

And so, they went and did just that, utilizing a fresh-feeling form of storytelling from an artist that has now found a permanent home in Nashville.

"You hear people say all the time that 'you gotta be here, you got to be here,'" says Kay, who expanded on her thriving brand with her starring role on the unscripted Netflix series Westside. "I was always like, 'Yeah, whatever,' but now I truly believe it. You have to shake the hands. You have to meet the people. You gotta get into every write. You have to take every opportunity that you can. And once I started doing that and really threw myself into the community that is Nashville, I started to see my career improve. I started to see myself as a person and as an artist improve."

It's this new and improved artist that is now performing for her growing fandom on the In Real Life Tour, which has Kay hitting the road with fellow TikTok sensation Cooper Alan and special guest Thomas Mac.

"We've all really built up this crazy following over quarantine and even after, it's continuing to grow," says Kay. "Social media has just really given us the opportunity to do what we want to do on our own terms. So, we were just like, let's stop sitting around and let's go out and meet these people. And so that's why we called it the In Real Life Tour, because it's the first time that we're getting to show these people what we can do, not over a phone screen. We get to really hug them and thank them for everything they've given us. I mean, they turned our lives around, and it's just been incredible."

alexandra kay
Alexandra Kay
| Credit: Curt Simshauser 

And in the middle of all this professional success is also a quite sublime personal life, with Kay currently preparing to marry her longtime love Indiana Touchette come September.

"We met in high school actually," says Kay of her now fiancé, who works as a union laborer. "I was infatuated with him. He was adorable, but unfortunately, he was not into me in high school. But still, we talked a little bit after high school and started dating and then we split up and dated other people. And then, three years later, we ran into each other again."

And they have been together ever since.

"It'll be nine years in like two weeks," she says in somewhat disbelief. "I feel like I'm coming into this new time in my life where I'm getting married and I'm getting older and I'm starting to think about having a family and settling down. And I'm starting to see that in my songwriting. I'm writing less and less sad songs."

But not for long.

"The sad songs will eventually come back, because I love writing them."