With the world now her oyster, local-woman-turned-globalsinger Kaylee Bell was the star of the Caroline Bay Soundshell at this year’s Caroline Bay Carnival.
Last Thursday, thousands of people poured into the venue hours before the Waimate-born country music star even took the stage, rivalling the numbers for when Stan Walker performed in 2015.
Bell said coming home to headline the carnival and seeing the support from the region she grew up in meant a lot to her.
‘‘It was very full circle, a venue that big that was so iconic to my childhood.
‘‘I could have never expected the turnout and support we received and I hope we can come back again in the future bigger and better.
‘‘The best thing was seeing a Facebook memory pop-up that said 10 years ago I was there watching Stan Walker and dreamed of playing to that many people one day and 10 years later we did.’’
Coming off of a career defining 2023, it was the moments that took place at home that were some of the biggest highlights.
‘‘Opening for Ed Sheeran would be a lifetime highlight.
‘‘Playing a stadium for the first time was surreal but also getting time to hang with Ed and talk and learn from him.
‘‘Winning a CMA Award having just moved to Nashville was also a massive moment.
‘‘Being presented it by Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line on the red carpet was so special and something I’ll never forget.
‘‘This year has been full of highlights and one thing that meant the most was touring New Zealand for the first time and meeting so many Kiwis through the country.
‘‘It was one of the coolest things to see and we can’t wait to come back through the country this year on tour with Navvy in March and April.’’
After becoming only the second New Zealand-born artist to win the Australian Toyota Star Maker award in 2013, Bell’s stardom shot to new heights after becoming a fan favourite on singing competition The Voice Australia in 2022.
On the show she performed her original song Keith to the man who had inspired it, Keith Urban — a judge on the competition and the only other New Zealand-born winner of the Toyota Star Maker Award.
Despite the hopes of many, he had not played a part in her career after the show, Bell said.
‘‘I don’t expect him to.
‘‘I set out to have a career in country music a long time ago and if he chooses to support me in future with a collab or anything that would be awesome, but I’m going to make a career for myself either way.’’
The song became a global hit, reaching more than 60 million TikTok plays and more than 20 million Spotify plays.
It hit the United States Billboard Charts at No 12 and spent five weeks at the top spot on the Australia Country Radio official chart.
It was still taking time to get used to the amount of recognition she now received, she said.
‘‘People just come up to me now in the supermarket and in the shops and I’ll never not be a little taken aback by that.
‘‘But I am just grateful my music means something to someone else.’’
For those who missed out on the carnival concert, Bell will be performing two shows at the Regent Theatre in Waimate on March 30 and 31 as part of her upcoming Nights Like This tour.