Lily Nelsen Uses Adversity
to Her Advantage
Meet Lily Nelsen, fighter.
At only 17, the aspiring country music singer has already seen more than her fair share of adversity. As a young child she was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, which is the leading cause of heart disease in children. “I’m blessed to be here today,” she said.
Then at age 12, she found out she had Type 1 diabetes.
How did she handle it?
“Of course, it’s a shock when you get diagnosed with something like that, so (music) was pretty much my way of getting my emotions out. I started songwriting after I got diagnosed,” she recently told us. “It was my way of coping with the entire situation. And I decided that I wanted to start really pursuing my career after I got into songwriting.”
One of the first songs she penned, “Better Me,” was an upshot from the diagnosis. “I think it kind of came from that place of being upset about having diabetes — because I felt like a lot of people didn’t understand a lot about the disease.” She explained, “I felt different from my friends, and stuff like that, so it really, really helped me to deal with the situation.”
Since then, Lily has put her musical talents to good use from a philanthropic standpoint. She has performed to help various organizations, including Make-A-Wish and the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I also contacted the Kawasaki Disease Foundation,” she explained, “and we decided to put together a compilation CD with a bunch of different songs from different artists. It should be released soon. It’s a cause that I’m really passionate about.”
Lily was bitten by the country music bug at a young age. “My mom (Jayne Nelsen) used to be a singer-songwriter. She had a CD out, and she was doing the recording thing, too. And she decided that she didn’t like being away from my sister and me,” she said. “Actually before she decided she wanted to stop doing it, we moved to Nashville, and we just fell in love with the whole music scene in Nashville. Mom stuck with the songwriting side of everything. And she’s really a great songwriter. I’ve learned a lot from her. She was probably my first influence when it came to music.
“My parents encouraged me to take guitar lessons from a young age. I started taking guitar lessons when I was 7, and I also took some drum lessons,” Lily said. “I was into acting and I was the lead in two musicals in middle school, which was really fun. So I just fell in love with being on stage and being in front of people.”
Lily started home schooling this year to make time for her career. “I was so busy with writing appointments and performing out, I decided it would be the best route for me to take at that point,” she said. “I do about one to three co-writes a week. I love the songwriting side of everything, and I love performing on stage.”
Lily said she has co-written seven songs with Amanda Williams. “She’s kind of mentored me. Amanda is an amazing person to have on my team in the business.”
Four tunes Lily has co-written are featured on her Web site. She wrote “The Life I Left Behind” with 14-year-old Dallas Remington. Sal Oliveri produced the songs, she noted.
“And also I just did a video with Carl Diebold and that should be coming out pretty soon. It’s for my song ‘Growing Up’ which I haven’t released yet.”
Lily has spent much of 2014 writing. “I’ve been writing every week if possible, and that’s been great. I’ve found a lot of new co-writers recently, and I’m excited about working with them in the future. I just want to play out as often as possible and keep honing the songwriting craft.”
When she isn’t writing, Lily is performing somewhere. About her show, she said, “It’s very acoustic. It’s just me and my guitar usually. Sometimes I’ll bring on a Cajon player.” Lily has played most of Nashville’s notable venues, including the Bluebird Café, Hard Rock Café and BB King’s.
With good reason, Lily is excited to see what the future holds for her. “Five years from now I want to have one, or two or three albums out. I would love to have an album out by the end of this year; that would be amazing,” she said. “And I just want to keep working with the people I’m working with. I’ve built an awesome team around me; they’re so awesome and encouraging. And I just want to leave it up to God to where it goes from here.”