Kelly Lang has written hundreds of songs since weaving together her first set of lyrics at the age of six.
She laughs about it now.
“I remember I was taking a bath and it was about the time the song ‘Delta Dawn’ came out. I sat in the tub gazing at the name on the faucet and wrote my own song about Delta faucets.”
But while it was the first song Lang wrote, it was by no means the last.
In the mid-1970’s Lang’s family moved from Oklahoma to Hendersonville where her father Velton Lang worked as Conway Twitty’s road manager.
Since then, Lang has spent decades in the country music business – both as a songwriter and an entertainer. Her Liz-Taylor looks and powerful voice have garnered her appearances on national television shows like Music City Tonight, Nashville Now and Star Search.
She’s performed on the Grand Ole Opry and hundreds of other stages – both with and without collaborators like Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and her famous husband, singer-songwriter T. G. Sheppard.
Her songs – she estimates she’s penned around 300 complete ones over the years – have been recorded by the likes of Sheppard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lorrie Morgan, Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs and the Oak Ridge Boys, to name a few.
But it’s a song that Lang wrote 16 years ago that has given her renewed recognition - and purpose.
Although the tune isn’t being played on the radio, chances are you may have heard it recently.
Ascension Saint Thomas first launched its commercial that pays homage to caregivers on Super Bowl Sunday featuring Lang’s song, “I’m Not Going Anywhere.” The commercial will air for three years across Tennessee. Lang, who owns the publishing rights to all of her songs, is in negotiations for the song to run in other markets as well.
With the power of social media, Lang has heard from people all over the world who have been touched by her words.
“Yesterday I got an email from someone in England,” she said. “I’ve heard from someone in the Netherlands and someone in Scotland – and from people all over the U.S.”
Lang wrote the song in 2004 after watching the wife of a friend who became ill,m struggle to care for him.
“I was watching a friend of mine - watching his wife more so than him, be super stressed about taking care of him. And I kept thinking what can we do to help support her along?”
Lang didn’t know that just a few months later she would gain a whole new appreciation for the role caregivers would play in her own life.
The song took on a whole new meaning following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005.
Lang still remembers a particularly poignant moment when the words she had written months earlier came to full fruition.
She had been undergoing chemotherapy and felt the full weight of her battle one day after dropping her two daughters off at school.
“I was bald and green and looked like a monster,” she said. “And I just started screaming… like wailing. It was the first time I let my emotions out.”
Unbeknownst to her, Sheppard - who she was dating at the time - had let himself into her apartment.
“He wrapped me up in this terry cloth towel and pulled me down and started rocking me,” she recalled. “I had completely let my guard down. I had no hair, no make-up, no eyelashes, no eyebrows.”
Lang told Sheppard that it was time for him to find another partner – that she likely wouldn’t survive the disease.
“And he said, ‘Kelly I’m never going to leave you. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m right by your side,’” Lang recalled. “And he’s been true to his word.” The two married in 2007.
Sheppard and Crystal Gale subsequently recorded “I’m Not Going Anywhere.” Lang also performed it on the soundtrack of the 2007 movie “Deal” starring Burt Reynolds.
Lang thought the song had run its course until about four years ago when former broadcaster Nick Paranjape interviewed her for a video for Saint Thomas hospital where she had undergone her cancer treatments.
“He came out and filmed my breast cancer story for a short, uplifting video to be played for those going through similar experiences like mine,” she said. “And he said, can you play something inspirational for me? So, I just started singing that song.”
Lang said someone affiliated with the hospital recently saw the video playing in one of the hospital’s waiting rooms, and asked her to perform it in the recent campaign that’s honoring care givers.
“So, it’s been a quick thing and a long thing at the same time,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
Lang says she wants the song to encourage those who selflessly care for others, as well as those struggling with cancer. But she also wants it to inspire other song writers as well.
“I thought the song was written and had a bow tied around it and it’s already seen what it’s going to see,” she said. “I want to encourage people that if they created something and it doesn’t seem to be going their way, just give it a minute because nothing is created in vain… that if God gave you something and pressed on you to write it, it’s not on your time.”
Lang admits having cancer didn’t inspire her to write the song, but it did give her the courage to share it with others.
“When you delve into the writing side of an artist, that’s truly their heart,” she said. “They might not want you to see all that. It’s kind of a vulnerable place to be but I think the cancer diagnosis really allowed me to be more vulnerable.”
She shared the song with her friend Lorrie Morgan who encouraged her to pen more songs like it.
“I want people to know that for me having cancer was not a death sentence. To me it was a life sentence,” said Lang. “It allowed me to live bolder and be more confident with what I had to say. One thing cancer has given me - it’s taken away my fear.”
Lang hopes her rediscovered song sheds light on those who care for others.
“It obviously is touching heartstrings,” she added. “I’m just grateful that I’m a small part of it, quite honestly.”