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The City Journals

Utah’s talent in national song contest represented by Sandy native

May 02, 2022 08:12PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Savannah Keyes, who grew up in Sandy, performs live in the “American Song Contest” representing Utah on April 11. (Trae Patton/NBC)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Let’s start with the outfit, because Sandy native Savannah Keyes loved performing in it.

The stylists at NBC came up with a pink tailored jacket. It had a flattering V-neck and jeweled lapels that caught the stage lights.  

Her matching pink mini skirt had a ruffled, translucent chiffon skirt attached to it that went from around the back of her waist down to the floor. The shoes? Silver cowboy boots. They were a perfect match for the live performance of her country song “Sad Girl.”

“The stylists did an incredible job. When you’re creative, you have a way you want to present yourself, and this was perfect,” Keyes said.

For Keyes (rhymes with “eyes” and “rise”), the presentation matched both the depth of her dream—being a singer and songwriter, and the scale of the opportunity—performing live on television on April 11.

 “Being a singer and songwriter is all I’ve ever wanted to do. There is no plan B. The ‘American Song Contest’ was another step on my road to living that dream,” Keyes said.

To pursue that dream, Keyes moved from Sandy to Nashville. As a 21 year old she was on the reality competition show, “Real Country.” This year she was chosen to represent Utah in the “American Song Contest.”

The live show features 56 songwriter/singers from U.S. states and territories. Each sings an original song and hopes fan votes will advance them to the next round of competition.    

Keyes’s mom Jennifer Keyes and her grandma both went to L.A. to watch her perform. “My family is still in Sandy and I’m back here a lot. We’re a very tight-knit family. They are my biggest support,” Keyes said.

Her song “Sad Girl” is available for download, and the video of her performance is online. She wrote the song in January with a couple other people over Zoom.

“It only took two hours. It started with a title in my head. The idea is that you can be an extrovert, the fun girl, the life of the party. I’m the armchair therapist for all my friends and family. But sometimes it’s just my turn to feel sad,” Keyes said.

Keyes didn’t think it would be her song for the contest, but once she was chosen things happened fast.  

“I’ve always wanted to be the kind of artist who writes her own songs. I’m truthful to myself. Sometimes I’ll be sleeping or on an airplane and a melody strikes, and I just have to get it down as soon as I can.”

Keyes gets a gut feeling when a song is right. “The melody, the concept, and the lyrics—it all comes together, and it’s such a good feeling,” Keyes said.

When Keyes found out on April 18 that she hadn’t advanced to the semifinals (she’s in good company—neither did Jewel or Macy Gray), she also learned there was a chance for a comeback as a fan favorite.

“This competition has given my song a life it wouldn’t have had. It’s out there available for download. I know I can rest easy regardless of the outcome because so many of my friends and family have already shown their support,” Keyes said.

Some of that support comes in the form of hearing herself on a radio station she listened to while she was growing up.

On April 12, Keyes posted a response to Utah radio station 97.1 ZHT on her social media.

“Hey @971zht My uncle just heard you guys do a shout out on the radio about me on #AmericanSongContest. I am dying! I listened to this station all the time growing up in Utah. This is a dream.”

Keyes knows that whatever the future holds, for her it will be filled with her music. That knowledge gives her a sense of peace when she performs and the ability to keep chasing her dream.

“When I performed live on the show, I wasn’t nervous. Whatever’s meant to be is going to happen. What I can control is what I do on stage, how I feel and what I take away from it,” Keyes said. “Through this experience, I’ve met incredible people, I got to record and release a song and I wore the coolest outfit ever. I look at it as though I’ve already won.”