Speaking to Fox News Digital this week about her newest projects, singer-songwriter Kelly Lang, based in Nashville, talked about her inspirations, her personal battles against cancer — and why faith is central to her life.
"My dad was Conway Twitty's road manager," said Lang, "so obviously I had country music playing in the house. But my mom was always blaring Frankie Valli or Elvis, of course — but mostly Gladys Knight."
Said Lang about Knight, "I just adore her. She's the greatest vocalist, in my opinion, of anybody I've ever heard."
Lang has just released a new cover of the great Gladys Knight & the Pips song, "Midnight Train To Georgia" — premiering here on Fox News Digital at the top of this article — plus her autobiography came out recently. The book takes readers and fans into her very human battle against breast cancer, her musical journeys and much more.
"I could never even attempt to be as good," she said, referring to Gladys Knight. "But just to honor her is really important to me."
"I want the newer generation, those coming up after me, to be able to know what great songs are. That's why I have such a passion for great songs — I don't want people to forget where they came from. It might spark some conversation."
Lang mentioned that she's seen Knight perform in Mississippi and elsewhere over the years, though she's not yet been able to meet her face to face.
"I just adore her — everything about her I just think is fascinating."
So what made Lang choose to record this song?
"We did this album called ‘Old Soul’ in 2020, and I was super reluctant to release it," said Lang.
It was the time of the coronavirus pandemic, of course — "and nobody really knew what was going on and everybody was depressed," said Lang about 2020. "But then I thought, The music that I recorded on that album brought us back to a happier time, when you could remember, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s when I was in high school,' or ‘Oh, yeah, that’s when I met my love.'"
"It brings you back … These are songs that you hear in the grocery store now," she said, or "when you're getting your nails done."
They're still popular — they're still loved, and gaining new fans every day.
"So I just found my greatest collection of those great songs," and one of them was a Gladys Knight song, she said.
"It did so well," said Lang, that she considered doing a new round of recordings of great songs.
"I'd steered clear away from ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ at first because I didn't think I could do it justice," said Lang.
"And then I thought, Well, if it comes out bad, I don't have to put it on the album! (laughs) And I just had such fun performing it — and everybody knows that song. And everybody appreciates it," she said.
So she couldn't resist doing it after all.
Lang talked honestly about the challenges of going through breast cancer — and said, "You would not believe how much I've learned" from the experience, she said.
"I wouldn't take anything for the experience," she said. "I know that sounds crazy — I wouldn't want to go back through it again, don't get me wrong."
But "I learned how to appreciate things," she said. "I learned how to look at things more openly, like, The sky is bluer, the grass is greener."
"I was diagnosed at 36 years old," she said. "And at the time, I was just doing my best to get through life. I wasn't paying attention to what really mattered. Or people who really mattered."
"Now, I pause — and I see more clearly who needs things, who needs help," she said.
And "I promised God, If you would just allow me to get through this, I would try my hardest to be a bright light to others, to be a ray of hope for somebody."
Said Lang, "And here I am, 17 years out, and I'm just humbled, truly humbled, to still be here, and to be talking to you right now, and to be sharing my story with other people."
Lang said it is a joy for her to be able to "encourage somebody else and tell others, ‘You can get through this,'" whatever it may be.
She said, "Yes, I'm stronger now, because nothing really scares you more than when you hear, ‘Cancer,’ but it's a difficult chore to get through, and I encourage people to follow their instincts" in getting through it, she said.
She also said, "Some people consider cancer a death sentence. But I like to say I consider it my life sentence. It was like a reset button for me to be able to live more abundantly and appreciatively."
She said she wrote a song called "Life Sentence" — which is due out in October of this year.
"And it doesn't end there," she said. "When you see somebody who's survived breast cancer, then they go to reconstruction, or radiation has caused some damage to other parts of the body — it is not an easy road," she added.
"For the rest of your life, it's always of concern in your brain."
What else keeps her going?
"He is everything," she said, referring to God and her deep faith.
She said she frequently prays and talks to God.
"I never feel alone. I'm not afraid of anything because I know the ending. I'm only passing through," she added, "so I don't have to worry about what's going on. It's temporary."
She also credited her husband, T.G. Sheppard, for being by her side and constantly encouraging her.
"We have so much in common. I learn from him. He's had such success in his music career — and it's wonderful to be able to bounce things off him and get advice, and I know I'm being protected by someone who's been through it before me," she said.
How do the two of them juggle everything — their schedules, their commitments, their work, their home life?
"We do really well! We have no competition between us," she said. "We have 1,000% support for each other."
The couple has been married since 2007. She called T.G. her rock of support — and said she's learned so much from him and the success he's worked so hard to achieve over the years.
Lang has two daughters. "I am so grateful to God for allowing me to be your mother," she wrote to her girls in the dedication of her book, "I'm Not Going Anywhere."
As a singer as well as a songwriter, Lang has enjoyed great success — her songs have been recorded by artists such as Ricky Skaggs, Lorrie Morgan, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, George Jones, B.J. Thomas, Jimmy Fortune, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Lee, to name a few.
"Kelly has always been one of the great voices of our time," said B.J. Thomas of her when "Old Soul," one of her most recent albums, came out.