Kari Nelson and Billy Arnold (collectively referred to as Kari & Billy) are a couple bound by love and marriage, as well as their talents for music. Kari has toured with John Rich and Big & Rich, and has also played with artists such as Gretchen Wilson, Steel Magnolia, Trace Adkins, and Joanna Smith. Billy has played shows with Craig Morgan, Tracy Byrd, Daryle Singletary, Rhett Atkins, Mark Wills, Vern Gosdin, Aaron Tippin, Confederate Railroad, Chad Brock, David Kersh and more. Despite their successful pasts and distinct backgrounds, the two crossed paths and decided to travel down one road, hand-in-hand, and take the journey through music as a pair.
Kari, who came from a musical family, began performing when she was a child. The family would travel to church and community functions, as well as festivals, to share their talents with others. During high school, thanks to the constant support of her loving family, Kari became involved in country music and started playing with a band. As soon as Kari graduated, she headed off to Nashville to pursue her dreams of becoming a country music artist. On the other hand, Billy is quite the anomaly in music, as he did not grow up playing. In fact, Billy struggled with a bout of stage fright. At the age of twenty-two, Billy was essentially “discovered” by a friend who overheard him singing in the shower at a time Billy did not anticipate having an audience. Thanks to peer pressure, Billy began exploring his musical talents, attempted karaoke, and quickly joined a touring band. Billy then moved to Nashville and became a full-time singer/songwriter.
With Kari and Billy both being in Nashville, they were destined to meet, right? Billy likened their relationship to that in the movie Pretty Woman (to which Kari immediately responded “no, nothing like that!”). Kari and Billy occasionally graced the stage together, playing instruments and serving as background vocals for other artists. However, the idea of forming a musical partnership was not discussed until roughly four to five years after they met, as the two began dating at that point. Kari described the collaboration as “a no-brainer.”
While Kari and Billy individually enjoyed the traveling aspect of their jobs, they realized that touring with one another would be much more enjoyable. Billy explained, “It’s so much more fulfilling, to me, every time we accomplish something that’s a big deal. Not only is it personal satisfaction to be doing something bigger, something to be proud of; to see Kari be proud of it, it’s kind of like … twice as good. And the road can either be a fun place or a lonely place, and that’s the truth of it. You’ve never felt alone and far away from everything until you’re half way across the country around only strangers, and then looking at an amazing sunset or something in the middle of the desert or way up in the mountains somewhere, it’s as beautiful of God’s country as you can ever see, but when you’re alone and away from your loved ones, it’s the most lonely feeling ever. But, when you’re together, like we are, everything feels like a milestone; everything feels like an achievement together.”
Not only does this couple travel together, but they create their own music together, with Billy writing music which encapsulates and represents both Kari and himself. In order to ensure that Kari & Billy music is representative of Kari and Billy, Billy remains focused on Kari, her likes and dislikes, and how he can best exemplify the person Kari is when he is putting pen to paper. When Billy sits down to write, he also waits until a moment when he is feeling creative, rather than trying to force the process. Once the lyrics and melody are written, the team discusses how to incorporate instrumentation and background vocals in order to fully develop the song.
The duo’s first single, “Play Me a Fiddle Song,” was picked up by radio stations in 2013. Kari and Billy recalled being in Dubuque, Iowa the first time they heard their song come through the radio. The two were in a car when they heard it and explained that they had heard it through stereo speakers before on a disc, but hearing it in a car from the radio was a completely different feeling. A feeling so special that they had to just stop and focus on what was happening in that moment.
Speaking of that moment, Kari and Billy agree that the release of their single to radio was the landmark moment of their career — so far. “That was just a giant step in the right direction, and it really kind of solidifies you as an upcoming artist. Radio is kind of like a final frontier. Once you get there, at least you’re able to play ball.” Kari also pointed out that an incredibly special moment for her was sharing the Grand Ole Opry stage with Billy. “Even though it wasn’t for an official Grand Ole Opry evening, we got a chance to play on the stage for private events, and just being able to play that stage together with Billy was a pretty neat experience for both of us, honestly. We hope to be back someday playing for the actual Grand Ole Opry. So, being able to grace that stage and having that moment together was a pretty neat point in our career together.”
Moving forward, Kari & Billy are looking forward to releasing their second single (which should be out some time this month). Kari stated that their next single “is a really neat song that people will be able to relate to.” They are anticipating a third release in May 2014. Additionally, Kari & Billy will be heading out on tour, making several stops at state fairs, festivals, and rodeos. The duo is especially excited to make stops in their respective hometowns.
Kari & Billy are an extremely humble and appreciative duo who coin themselves as “thankful and blessed. We thank anybody who takes the time to check us out and listen to our music. There’s so much music out there, so many artists, so many things to keep you entertained, and we just appreciate anybody that goes out of their way to take a moment for us.”
We encourage you to check out Kari & Billy’s website and social media, listed below, in order to stay up-to-date on this sweet, kind, and talented up and coming duo. And, continue to visit Keepin’ It Country for current information on these two amazing artists and people!