The People's Tribune

Hustle and Faith, an Interview with Josie Video of the Year Award Winner, Kathryn Shipley

Picture courtesy of Kathryn Shipley

“I got really serious and told my best friend that I want to do this,” Shipley told The People’s Tribune. “I kept thinking I am too old, and she said, ‘you are never too old.’” Her friend’s advice struck a chord.  

“You know what, you’re right,” she remembered responding to her friend. “Maybe this can push people that gave up on a dream to get back at it or start one.” 

When should a person give up on their dreams? Most might answer ‘never,’ but how many follow through with that idea? How many have reached a point where they feel the opportunity has passed?  

For some, a better question is: how hard will I have to hustle to obtain my goal? 

Louisiana native, Kathryn Washington Shipley, is one such person who wasn’t ready to give up on her dreams or let age hold her back. That dogged determination is paying off. 

Her award-winning music video, “This Will Always Be My Town” made the rounds via social media amongst many Louisiana and Pike County residents.  

The video depicts scenes of Shipley along with musician and the song’s writer Ronnie Stoops revisiting childhood places around Louisiana. Recently, it won Video of the Year at the 6th annual Josie Awards.  

But this isn’t Kathryn’s first brush with success and it’s not likely to be her last.  

In a recent interview with Kathryn – now living in St Charles, Mo – The Tribune was able to learn more about the singer’s career (so far), faith, and her journey to the 2020 Josie Awards. 

 Kathryn grew up in Louisiana and graduated in 1983. “Growing up, it was me and my brother Jerome,” she reminisced. “We were both adopted coming from two different families.” 

Later, after turning 31, she found her biological family and discovered she was the youngest of 12. And as it turns out, her biological mother was also a singer. 

However, that connection is only one of many aspects of Kathryn’s musical success. Another comes from her willingness to work hard and take on side-jobs (hustles) – a trait she learned from her adopted parents.  

Pictured are the two 2020 Josie Awards Kathryn won along with her dress and neckless she wore at the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Shipley

I have always been a hustler. Even when I was a kid, I just always wanted people to laugh/smile,” she noted explaining how she was a class clown from her days at Louisiana Elementary to now. “I love trying to inspire and help people. My adopted parents were older. My father passed away when I was 5-years old, and my memory of him was when he took me to the bank as he was the janitor. I would walk around with a rag in my back pocket like him.” 

Ironically enough, she followed in her adopted father’s footsteps while in college and earned extra money cleaning homes. Later, after divorcing, she cleaned restaurants and houses to give her youngest son extra money while he attended college. 

But those side hustles went further than just extra spending cash. They also helped her musical career by paying for travel and recording expenses. 

“I really took pride in doing those jobs because my father did,” she explained. “He provided for us with his side hustle. I wish they both could’ve seen what their hard work instilled in me. I guess now they do have a front-row seat in heaven.” 

Kathryn began her journey in 2007 when she found a calling to help people in the music industry.  

“I was reading all these articles about people trying to catch a break but couldn’t, so I sat out on a path to figure out how to help people.” At the time, she was married and living in St. Charles. “I remember my ex-husband would just shake his head at me.”   

But people sought her out and sent their music to her as she worked to get their voices heard.  

Later in 2012 after helping several, she was compelled to join a church choir. “I was led by some crazy events to start singing at church. God had not totally grabbed me yet, but his presence was making a difference in my mindset.” 

That step into faith and gospel singing led her to consider a singing career at the age of 50 when others might have already given up on their dreams.  

“I got really serious and told my best friend that I want to do this,” she told the Tribune. “I kept thinking I am too old, and she said, ‘you are never too old.’” Her friend’s advice struck a chord.  

“You know what, you’re right,” she remembered responding to her friend. “Maybe this can push people that gave up on a dream to get back at it or start one.” 

She told the Tribune that one of her biggest influences has been Jesus. “He saw this broken person trying to get through life, and then my best friend nudging me to pick up the Bible. I felt like over these last few years it’s been a bible school of learning about God more and more about “Him”. I never push God off on anyone, but people definitely know that I am not using him for show. I am using him for people to grow in faith.” 

Hard work and faith eventually led her to the Josie Music Awards. The music awards show was created by Josie Passantino -Boone and her mother Tinamarie Passantino. Josie now in her mid-twenties,  started in radio at the age of 14.

The Josie Music Awards is an all-genre music award show ceremony.  

According to the show’s website, winners are selected on their talent, skill, material, and professionalism. Nominee suggestions go through a lengthy review process by a team of industry panel leaders and the official nomination list is created from their final decisions. 

Since its inaugural celebration in 2015, the Josie Music Awards remains the largest independent artist award show globally. Thousands of people within the music industry attend the event annually.    

In 2019, The Josie Music Awards staff needed a “unique guitar player” to play the national anthem to kick off the show.  

“I got your guy,” she told their staff. That guy was Ronnie Stoops. Kathryn was in the same graduating class as his wife, Stacey. “After the awards show, we happened to be in the same hotel and as we stood at the bottom of the steps Stacey said; ‘you need to write a song about our hometown.’” 

After Ronnie wrote the song, they went to Nashville and recorded it. Their creation took them both to this year’s awards show. 

So far for Kathryn, the journey has been “Magical.”  

“I have had a short window of a career,” she said when accepting the Josie Award. “But it has been so full. God has fed me well not just with the awards but also the people I have met – the people that say I inspire them, I think each time, ‘Wow, I am touching someone’s life’. This country girl is helping someone get through something.” 

But the road hasn’t been without obstacles. No worthwhile journey ever is. For the confessed country bumpkin, there are still hurdles to overcome.   

“I always keep my motivation because of my nephew TJ Washington who was tragically killed in a vehicle/bicycle accident when he was 12 he would be in his 30s now,” Kathryn stated. “I miss him dearly.”

“You don’t hear many people speaking of Black, female country singers, but there are many,” she told the Tribune. “As many know, it is hard in the country industry being a female. When you add being of color to it, I hate to say it because I don’t want to put negative energy on it, but it’s just a known fact.” 

She wants to prove that listeners and others should look beyond her race. “Instead look at my face, at who I am, and get to know me as a person – not the color of my skin.” 

She’s succeeding at that goal too as if throwing her career into four-wheel drive. The beautifully produced video, “Your Love is Enough,” faces the hardships and turbulent times our country faces head-on. It’s currently spreading the message of enduring faith debuted in July on CMT. 

“I am a country bumpkin all day long,” she continued. “From standing around a barrel fire on a gravel road to driving up and down Georgia Street on a Friday night after a football game. Small town living was the best.” 

Kathryn was first nominated for a Josie Award in 2017 before she knew anything about the show. She’s also won Josie’s Artist of the Year (Gospel/Inspirations) twice, Christian Artist of the year in the Nashville Universe Awards, a finalist for the ICMA’s Best New Artist, and more.   

“Each year when nomination time comes around, I get this crazy feeling in the pit of my stomach like a little kid,” she commented. “Will they pick me this year?” 

This year, she received seven nominations and took home two wins: Video of the Year (female artist), and her song “Your Love is Enough” won Song of the Year.  

 “I am elated that we won for Video of The Year,” she noted. “It’s huge for our hometown because it was their award too. I’m so glad that Ronnie wrote a song that captured not only our town but any small town. Then to win Song of the Year – I was floored.” 

One might think the excitement of winning would become old news after so many, but not for Kathryn.  

“Each time, I let out a huge scream and thanked Jesus,” she said. “I’m just so grateful. Grateful that I can keep this going. Again, it is not just about winning. It’s about inspiring and driving these younger artists to support one another even when someone does not get a nomination or a win. Keep pushing through. For me, a win is a challenge because you have to keep it going for the next time – keep the fire going to get back in the studio and just bring it.” 

“That is where my fire is. You got to keep walking up to the doors that you think won’t open. I have had a lot shut in my face, but I never gave up.” 

For anyone inspired to follow her success, Kathryn quotes the biblical verse Peter 5:5 “God is Opposed to the Proud but gives Grace to the humble. That is what I live by. Be humble in every part of your life.” 

She also recommends researching, networking, and volunteerism while forgoing ambitions of wealth.  

“Do your research before venturing out with companies and make sure [your music] is a ‘fit.’ Network with other artists. If they don’t have the answer, they will help you find it. If you’re in it to be rich, do something else. Music is a passion. It’s a healer on all levels. Embrace the gift you have of being able to provide music to another.” 

Her passion shows in an upcoming project that might be a perfect fit for the country/gospel singer. She is currently finishing work on a future Christmas song and music video.  

“Oh, What A King,” written by multi award-winning Nashville songwriter Corey Lee Barker and Tery Wayne. It’s slated for a Nov. 2 release. 

For 2021, Kathryn already has two songs in the mix and is waiting to hear back on other big projects.  

Despite her success, she’s not finished reaching for greater heights. “One of my dreams is to go on tour or even be a background singer for a band, or even better, open for a headliner. KShip, has a lot of dreams.” 

“I would not have it any other way,” she finished by talking about growing up in a small town. “It gave me so much more of a heartbeat to just keep doing for others and growing personally and professionally.” 

To keep up with Kathryn, visit her website https://www.kshipmusic.com/ or follow her on Facebook and Twitter under KshipMusic, and @therealkship on Instagram. 

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