Since the launch of PLAYING ATLANTA, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some incredible bands, most of whom I’ve known for a while. Every now and then, though, a new local act comes onto my radar, and it’s always a pleasant surprise.

Andi Kezh, however, is something else entirely.

A pleasant surprise, yes. But there’s a refreshing wisdom and sensibility in the high school senior that caught me off guard. Her voice and lyricism are even more unexpected; she can belt with the best of them as she pens songs about weighty topics like self-doubt and inequality.

After listening to her latest single, “New Me,” exactly once, my mind was made up; I sent her an excited message and got an equally enthusiastic response. Read on for all the deets on the Atlanta music scene, Amy Winehouse’s lasting influence, and the state of the music industry through the eyes of a young woman who’s determined to make her mark on it.

AF: How long have you been writing and performing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do, or did you grow into it? 

AK: I’ve been performing since I was four years old. My sister went to a performing arts high school, so I was constantly around music and performance from a young age. I’ve been in countless musicals and choirs, and have had a passion for singing my whole life. I picked up the guitar at age 13, and pretty much knew immediately I loved it.

AF: What’s your writing process like? How has it evolved since you started writing?

AK: When I first started writing songs as I began learning guitar chords, they were pretty terrible. But the process has always felt the same. Melodies and lyrics tend to fall right out of me when I sit down for a few hours and focus. I usually start with a melody, and find corresponding chords to go with it. Lyrics come slower but are the most important element I try to put into each song I write. This process is very personal and raw for me. 

AF: Who do you consider your greatest inspirations? Do they differ from the music you listen to when you’re just hanging out?

AK: My musical inspirations are Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Lorde, Joni Mitchell, and Fleetwood Mac. I think all these artists have inspired a part of my music in someway. Joni and Lorde’s lyricism is unmatched. Fleetwood Mac and Nirvana’s guitar and rhythm chops are authentic and incredible. And Amy Winehouse’s vocal strength is astoundingly present. 

AF: You recently released a single, “New Me,” and it’s incredible! Such a banger. What inspired the song? How did you conceptualize it to capture the strength and assurance it conveys?

AK: I wrote this song in a time in my life when I was starting to really take responsibility for my music as an artist. I was tired of people underestimating me because of my age and gender. The amount of times people have condescendingly told me how to soundcheck, or how to write a song “the right way” was staggering. I wrote my newest single “New Me” about turning my cheek to words and my own inhibitions, and no longer apologizing for what I want to do, no hesitation. 

AF: How do you combat self-doubt, both in the industry and in your own life, and stay true to yourself?

AK: “New Me” is a call to myself to combat my self-doubt and those little voices in the back of my mind. Being an artist is a selfish act, but can bring so many people together. Staying true to myself is a duty that comes with a music career. I work at this in many ways (staying off social media when it pulls me too deep, playing songs for joy and not because I have to) and will continue even though I’m far from perfect. 

AF: We’re living in a time where inequality is finally getting the attention it deserves. Can you talk some about your experience as a woman in the music industry? Have you ever found yourself having to prove yourself or work harder to be taken seriously, even though music itself should really be the great equalizer?

AK: I constantly have to prove as a woman I know what I’m doing when I walk into places like Guitar Center, an Open Mic, or even my own headlining shows. Even at a young age it’s easy to see the stark inequality in the music industry for girls and women,  at every level. Mansplaining at open mics, studios, and public spaces is normalcy in this career. 

AF: How has the Atlanta scene surrounded you and supported you, both as a woman and a music industry professional?

AK: I am lucky to have lived in Atlanta all my life. I’ve had the opportunity to get my start in this welcoming music scene to now playing shows at Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta City Winery, Eddie’s Attic, the Decatur Book Festival, Tin Roof Cantina, and more. The ATL scene has also given me the chance to meet so many incredible musicians, and understand the importance of connections. Meeting local artists like The Pussywillows, Indee Killed the Popstar, Chelsea Shag, and Pony League have inspired me and helped me widen my performance openings. 

AF: If you had to give any advice to your younger self, what would it be?

AK: Pick up the guitar sooner and start writing terrible lyrics to get to the good stuff! 

AF: What’s your desert island record?

AK: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

AF: You recently put on a benefit concert for The Decatur Education Foundation. Why is it so important to you to give back to the community and support education — and music/arts education/resources — for students in the area?

AK: Giving back to the community is extremely important to me. I wanted to organize a benefit concert for the Decatur Education Foundation because they give incredible arts grants to students, and nothing is more influential than music and arts education. That is how I found my initial interest in the arts, and I believe it’s essential to the future musicians of our industry. Two local musicians performed, as well as my band, and we successfully raised more than $1000.

Keep up with Andi on Facebook, and stream “New Me” on Spotify now.