The summer after graduating from Olivet Nazarene University with a degree in music education, Kelsey Sowards ’12 fulfilled her lifelong dream by signing a record deal with Provident Label Group’s 1 Girl Nation. With their first single hitting the radio waves this summer and a tour coming up this fall, the future looks bright for Kelsey and her bandmates.
A life of preparation
A native of Chatham, Ill., Kelsey was born into a “musically inclined family.” Her father, Gregg, served as the worship pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Springfield, Ill., for many years. Her mother, Tammy (Bagley) ’86, plays piano and both of her siblings — Tyler ’14 and Chad — are musicians. Because of their talents, it was not unusual for the Sowards to lead worship as a family.
“On any given Sunday most of us were up on stage leading worship,” Kelsey says. “Getting to be a part of a worship team as a family is pretty unique and special. I’ve always been grateful and wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
With a passion for sharing God’s Word through music, Kelsey came to Olivet to study music education. As a student, she could be found performing, whether it be in the Ollies Follies Variety Show or as a member of the ministry team Before Tomorrow. Being a part of the music ministry taught Kelsey lessons that she utilizes today, such as knowing how to live on the road, understanding sacrifice and the importance of serving others.
1 Girl Nation
Shortly after graduation, a local radio station contacted Kelsey about auditions being held by Patton House Entertainment for young female talent to form a new Christian band. She sent her application, performance video and pictures, and a week later she, along with 14 other girls out of about 120 applicants, was chosen to continue the audition process in Nashville. After a week of dancing, singing and praying, her dream came true and she was chosen as one of the five 1 Girl Nation members; the others chosen were Kayli Robinson, Carmen Justice, Lindsey Ciresi and Lauryn Taylor Bachofer.
The band name best describes who they are — five girls from all over the nation that came together for one message: to bring people to Christ. Each girl has a heart for telling fans about Jesus through music with songs such as 1GN’s first single “While We’re Young,” encouraging young people to live for Jesus and make good decisions. The upbeat pop group recently had their first concert — opening for TobyMac in front of 15,000 people.
“We’ve all been fans [of TobyMac],” Kelsey says, “and it was such an honor to get to share a stage with him and meet him. It was a surreal moment that when I woke up the next morning, I didn’t think that it had actually happened to me! It was definitely one of the highest moments of my life so far!”
Looking to the future
Their self-titled debut album comes out August 20. The group co-wrote more than half of the album and worked alongside noted songwriters like Jason Ingram, Kipp Williams, Tony Wood and others. Days later, 1 Girl Nation will begin their first tour with Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl Crazy Hair Tour. In the event, Dannah talks about modesty, true beauty and healthy friendships to girls 8-12 and their mothers and features a fashion show, fun Bible teaching, crazy game shows, and mom and daughter time.
The Secret Keeper Girl tour will be at College Church-North Campus in Bourbonnais, Ill., on September 28 at 6:30 p.m. Shine.FM is sponsoring the event and tickets will be available through iTickets.com.
“This tour is very hands-on for us,” Kelsey says. “We won’t just be performing, but we’re going to invest in the girls on a personal level. We’ll be very busy, but it’ll be the ride of our lives. We can’t wait to get started. I’m also very excited to come back to my stomping grounds, [Olivet], for the tour!”