Kata Hay began singing at about the age she learned to walk. She kicked off her music career as a child and her talents have earned her more than her share of accolades, including five international yodeling championships. However, it is her savvy Internet and social media marketing that is quickly making Hay a sensation.
Since 2008, the Oklahoma born performer has been promoting her music on the Internet and has amassed more than 1.8 million views on YouTube. Hay’s musical career is one that many aspiring musicians would envy. As a child she traveled the nation opening concerts and working with musicians including LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts, Exile, Jim Ed Brown, Ray Price, Mickey Gilley and Barbara Mandrell.
Hay was the youngest person to ever win Ed McMahon’s Star Search where, at the age of five, she beat out another up-and-coming star, Justin Timberlake. At the age of 10 she appeared in the independent film “Oklahoma Faded Love” in which she played the lead character as a child. She sang the timeless Patsy Cline ballad “Crazy.”
“Country music and western swing was part of my childhood,” said Hay. “I grew up listening to western swing and it strongly influenced my music.”
Hay has recorded three western CDs, one of which, “Cowboys, Guitars and a Li’l bit of Swing” made it to the coveted No. 1 spot on the western charts. The success of her CD prompted her to kick off a tour of the Land Down Under. She toured Australia in 2004 and 2005 and later that year she made the move to Pigeon Forge where she went to work as a performer at the Tennessee Shindig. It was there that she met the man she would soon marry, Robbie Helton.
A year later, Hay and Helton decided to leave the Shindig and form a band, Kata and the Blaze. They began writing their own music for a debut album “Reckless,” which was released in 2007 on iTunes. The album sold thousands of copies across Europe and the United States.
In 2007, Hay and Helton founded the band The Grassabillies and released their debut album “Here Come The Grassabillies” on iTunes in early 2009. Later that year, they both became featured entertainers at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in 2008.
Hay has successfully used the Internet to promote her music. She began posting videos on YouTube in 2008. Her performance of Taylor Swift’s “Hey Stephen” caught the attention of the country music star who featured it on her own web site. The video quickly attracted worldwide attention. Within weeks Hay’s subscribers jumped from 300 to 3,000.
In late 2009, Hay and Helton decided to quit their steady gig at the Dixie Stampede and take a risk at making a living playing their own music full-time. By the end of the year, Hay’s YouTube subscriber base reached 6000 and video views reached 1,000,000 as she continued to post videos of her original and cover songs.
Hay’s song “Western Way”, off her album “Cowboys, Guitars, and a Lil Bit of Swing” was featured in the 2010 romantic comedy, Coyote County Loser in the opening scene.
The same month Hay and Helton began performing at the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner show in Pigeon Forge, where the two perform two to three shows a night six nights a week.
Earlier this year Hay and Helton decided to take a vacation to England. They arranged one performance in an effort to get their music more exposure on the British Isles. The response was more than they could have imagined.
“We were well accepted in England,” said Hay. “We planned on one show and the next thing you know we were booked to do ten shows. What started out as a single show became a tour. They called me the ‘red-headed Dolly Parton.’”