Best Bets: Country singer Hill to brighten Smyrna at Night

Nashville-based singer/songwriter Kayley Hill will perform as part of the Smyrna at Night online concert lineup Saturday. (Submitted photo)

Longtime local musician Craig Stonesifer knew he had encountered something and someone special when he and his brother, Todd, stepped into The Listening Room in Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of years ago.

“It’s a place that often hosts singer/songwriter events and, lo and behold, that was happening right as we entered,” he recalled this week.

“Kayley Hill was one of four featured artists that day. Both my brother and I could not stop commenting on how Kayley’s voice was world-class over the other artists in the room and even over other artists we had already seen in Nashville thus far; such that it caused goosebumps all over.”

They struck up a conversation with her afterward to find out her schedule in Nashville, so they could bring friends back to see her.

“My wife, Lisa, and I stopped to see her the following day and, after a lengthy conversation, decided to pursue bringing her to Delaware for everyone to experience.”

That led to her playing locally, both solo and with her trio The Honey Roots, including last year’s OktDoverFest in downtown Dover and also a benefit for the Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with Sol Knopf and Jesse Terry.

“It has been my belief all along that she has the talent to be front and center on the main stage at any event,” Mr. Stonesifer said.

Ms. Hill, who was featured on NBC’s “The Voice” competition in 2018 and is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, will make another Delaware stop, although virtually, this weekend when she performs during an online version of Smyrna at Night.

The annual music and beer festival moved online due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The event, which will run Saturday from 6-8:10 p.m., will stream via Gable Music Ventures’ YouTube page or via the Smyrna at Night Facebook page, which will be sharing the YouTube live link.

Ms. Hill will perform at 6:35.

She is grateful to Mr. Stonesifer for introducing her to a Delaware audience.

“They had come down to Nashville in the fall of 2018, and I met them, and we hit it off.

“They were really just wanting to go into what I was doing artistically, and Craig is a musician, as well, and his brother, Todd,” Ms. Hill said by phone Tuesday from Denmark, where she is writing new music and performing in a string of singer/songwriter shows.

“We just really connected. I think it brought him a lot of joy to kind of cultivate some sort of footprint for me and The Honey Roots, that’s what the trio is called. I honestly cannot thank him enough really. They don’t have kids, and so they pour their heart out to other people, and it’s
really beautiful.”

Born in Bristol, Tennessee, and later moving to Florida with her family, her parents introduced her to the southern rock sounds of The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but also instilled groups such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band into her mind.

Always having a love for music, she says a songwriting teacher in college told her that she didn’t choose music, it chose her.

“It just makes so much sense, because I’ve always felt like music has been a calling all my life. And it wasn’t something that I could have picked, even though I actively choose to work my gifts and to work towards increasing them every day. That’s the choice I make, but the choice of being in this field and having the gift that I have, I could never choose, because I feel like I was chosen by it,” she said.

“There are a lot of people that have talent. But it’s not one of those things where if they live without it, they can’t get by or they can’t survive. For me, I don’t know another way of living.
“It’s just part of my DNA.”

Although she didn’t go on to win her season, she said her appearance on “The Voice” reaffirmed her uniqueness as a singer.

“If anything, it solidified that I was in my own lane vocally. The response that I got was, ‘Oh, we haven’t heard someone like this before. Or you sound like this person, this person and this person combined but not like any of them individually.’ And that is what I want to hear as an artist. I don’t want to sound like anyone else. I want to lean into the authenticity,” she said.

For her audition, she sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.” Country star Blake Shelton was the only one of the four judges to turn around and take her on — although Kelly Clarkson was close to doing so.

“I kept going, ‘Is she a Fleetwood Mac or is she like a country (singer)?’” Ms. Clarkson asked herself after the performance.

“If you couldn’t hear the Dolly (Parton) in her voice, what’s the matter with you?” Mr. Shelton said.

Although her career is definitely on the country music path, Ms. Hill went to the Boston Conservatory to study musical theater, learning more jazz standards and Broadway show tunes.

“I just wanted to sing, and the way to sing was to get on stage, be in a show. I just wanted to be able to perform, and those were my outlets. And then, it kind of snowballed into this theater degree, and then when I was in college my senior year, I had a songwriting emphasis,” she said.

“And it was me and four other students, and the five of us would write songs and learn how to write songs. And it was then that I decided, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to be a character on stage. I want to be myself on stage. I want to share my stuff on stage.’ And that was a pivotal moment. I distinctly remember that moment, having that thought. And then, from that moment on, it was a no-brainer of ‘OK, well, you’re not going to New York City. You’re gonna make your way to Nashville.’”

She had a four-month stint on a cruise ship, where she sang in a Top 40 band but moved to Nashville in 2013, where she has remained, performing and writing songs.

For more information on her and her music, visit

Her performance at Smyrna at Night joins a list that includes artists Swing That Cat, Tyler Greene, Willow Hill and Hoochi Coochi.

Sinatra show in Milton

For music of a different sort, Tony Sands presents “Sinatra: The Musical” at the Milton Theatre on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

The multimedia show starts with Mr. Sinatra’s early days with Tommy Dorsey in the bright lights of New York City and brings it to his comeback at Madison Square Garden.

Tony Sands will bring his Sinatra: The Musical show to the Milton Theatre Sunday.

Mr. Sands has performed at many Manhattan restaurants, the Zanzibar Blue jazz club in Philadelphia, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia, the Harvard Club in New York City and The Breakers Hotel.

Tickets are $23-$25. Purchase them online at, via phone by calling 684-3038 or at the box office at 11 Union St. All events are still limited to 30% capacity for social distancing.

Chorale season canceled

Like all choral organizations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the gathering ability and performance of the Southern Delaware Chorale.

The chorale suspended activities in March, canceling all spring rehearsals and the concert, “Sounds of Silver Screen & Stage,” slated for May 3. As the group has many singers who are senior citizens and many with preexisting conditions, the board of directors and artistic staff have concluded that conditions remain unsafe for gathering in large numbers for rehearsals.

They also have decided to cancel their 2020 holiday season concert.

“We are basing all decisions on science and facts to protect all involved. At this time, we anticipate rehearsals starting up in January 2021, if it is deemed safe to do so by medical experts,” according to a prepared statement.

January’s rehearsals will help prepare for the next performance of “Sounds of Silver Screen & Stage” in May 2021. Visit for updates on that and all other events.

Drive-in movies at museum

In a continuing effort to connect people to the arts during COVID-19, the Delaware Art Museum has partnered with DelArt Cinema to offer biweekly drive-in movies on the museum’s grounds in the Copeland Sculpture Garden in Wilmington.

Film buffs can enjoy socially distant classics in genres ranging from noir to spy to comedy to vintage horror. The movies, which take place every other Thursday (with subsequent Friday evenings dedicated to rain dates), are scheduled through Oct. 29, weather permitting.

Admission is $19 per person and includes food and beverage, with a discount extended to museum members; admission is by advanced purchase only.

The September selections are “Pulp Fiction” and “The Maltese Falcon,” and the movies begin at approximately 8:45 p.m.

October selections are “The Birdcage,” “North by Northwest” and “Frankenstein” and begin at approximately 8:30 p.m.

After check-in, guests select food and drinks, which are handed to them in their vehicles. Moviegoers are asked to arrive no later than 20 minutes before showtime; late arrivals will be parked at the museum’s discretion.

Gates open at 7:45 for all shows. FM radio transmission is required to hear the movies, and masks are necessary for interaction with staff and restroom visits.

“With so much of the world in disarray, it makes the current day feel morbid. We wanted to offer a selection of films that allows our guests to break out of that head space. We tried to pick stories that are strong enough to make the world around them melt away, if only for an hour or two,” said Marion Jackson, director of operations for DelArt Cinema.

“We have gotten some great feedback from our guests. A couple that came to see ‘Some Like It Hot’ gleefully remarked that, in their younger years, their first date was a drive-in. We’ve had parents, excited to relive a piece of their childhood, introducing their own kids to drive-in films for the first time. Evoking those kinds of feelings and bringing some light into these dark times was exactly what we hoped for when we chose our films.”

Every paid ticket entitles the guest to a popcorn and a soda or water. Ticket upgrades include other snacks, such as chocolate bars, gummies, pretzels, nuts, cookies, crackers or chips, as well as beer or wine.

For more information, visit

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the long-awaited thriller “Tenet.”