Here’s how this emerging country artist is paying tribute to her late bandmate Photo by Dan Ewart
Kaitlyn Baker with Thomas Estep, at The Tin Pan in Richmond, Virginia, last November. Estep died in a head-on collision a few weeks later. (Photo by Dan Ewart)

Some moments can change your life forever. Just ask Kaitlyn Baker.

The 22-year-old emerging country singer from Virginia lost her guitarist and friend, Thomas Estep, earlier this year after a drunk driver struck his car head-on.

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She is now recalling the heartbreaking incident that shook her world in an interview with Rare Country.

?It was New Year?s Eve, and I had actually planned on going with Thomas to a brewery they have in Abingdon, [Virginia],? Kaitlyn said of the hours before the Jan. 1 accident. ?My mom wasn?t feeling well, and she asked me to stay with her. So I called Thomas and told him that I wasn?t able to go.

?He texted me, ‘Happy New Year’ around two o’clock that morning. And we were talking about some shows we had coming up. He told me how great it was that he got to play music for a living,? she continued. ?I guess it was about 2:15 a.m. that I texted him again, and I didn?t hear anything from him after that. The next morning I got up and I heard my mom and dad talking about somebody being killed in a car accident.?

That somebody was Thomas.

?I immediately lost it. I felt like I was sick, like everything around me had just crumbled because I had just talked to him,” she said. “He was hit by a drunk driver. It just shook my world completely. It was very, very devastating to me.?

In the months following the accident, Kaitlyn contemplated whether or not to quit music, because she had gotten so used to sharing the stage with Thomas.


?I?d have to walk offstage because I couldn?t even control my emotions,? she explained of those early shows without him. ?I would just start crying. A lot people probably thought I was an emotional roller-coaster, because I really was.?

Despite her grief and sadness, Kaitlyn found new reasons to continue with her passion for music. Not only has she recently teamed with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, but she?s also dedicating her upcoming EP, ?Blackbird,? to Thomas? memory.

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?I wanted to make the album as positive as I could to show somebody that, even through a really dark time, they can always find some kind of light at the end of the tunnel,? Kaitlyn said of the forthcoming project. ?There?s no timeline on somebody?s grief. Everybody?s different, but music has always been a healing process for me. So, I think this EP has really helped heal the wound I?ve had in my heart.?

Kaitlyn hopes to release her new EP in January, 2018. In the meantime, you can check her out performing her song, ?To Pieces,? alongside Thomas in the You Tube video above.

Nashville-based writer and Rare Country contributor Melinda Lorge has always been passionate about country music. Follow her @MelindaLorge and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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