High Notes with Savannah McKinley: Catching Up with the 'Listen to Your Heart' Star
It’s been just over a year since the inaugural season of “The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart” finished airing on ABC.
The spin-off followed single singers and songwriters hoping to find love with each other through a shared passion for music. As viewers will recall, contestants performed well-known songs together — while also exploring their relationships with the help of “Bachelor”-style dates that focused on music. A handful of notable artists came in to act as guest judges throughout the series, such as Kesha, Jason Mraz, Toni Braxton, Ashlee Simpson, and Jewel.
But it was the gifted cast members who continuously stole the show with powerful vocals and, of course, major drama. So, what have they been up to since the competition concluded and cameras went down?
BachelorNation.com is progressively checking in with the cast, who are sharing love life updates, favorite memories from filming, musical milestones, and more.
Below, we’re catching up with Savannah McKinley, whose sparkling personality and undeniable talent commanded attention.
While the pop songstress’ relationship with Brandon Mills lost tempo, her career in entertainment — which includes thrilling forays into hosting and modeling — has continued to flourish. Read on for Savannah’s high notes!
What did you learn about yourself from competing on “Listen to Your Heart”?
I learned more through my time on the show than I ever thought possible. Personally, I realized that I have a love for entertainment in the arenas of speaking and hosting through my time on the show. Through our ITM interviews and filmed conversations, I learned how to speak clearly and articulately, forming opinions and conclusions confidently while under pressure. I also learned how to work through emotions in high-pressure situations with authenticity and grace.
My time on the show jump-started one of the most intense growing seasons of my life, personally and professionally. After the show, I released music, signed a modeling contract, spoke at events, and on podcasts. I am currently working on opportunities that would not be available to me had I not said yes to the show or spent the time afterwards to grow as an individual. I am very thankful to ABC and the “Listen to Your Heart” crew for the life change that began on set in 2020!
How did the show help you grow as an artist?
Surprisingly enough, the show helped me grow more as a creator and entertainer than it did as a musical artist this year! None of us could have imagined what 2020 had in store, and as a musical artist, that progress was certainly paused. However, my progress didn’t stop there! During 2020 and now in 2021, I’ve begun developing as a speaker, host, a writer, and a commercial fashion model. I signed with Elite Management in Miami this spring and have been given the opportunity to work with incredible commercial brands all over the country!
I am also pursuing songwriting locally in my home of Nashville, Tennessee, am hosting a women’s retreat this summer, and I’m writing a book! I am still pursuing music as an artist and have a sincere desire to release music and play shows in the future, but these other doors of opportunity have opened for me, and I am thrilled to pursue them at this time! Several of my dreams are coming true and I’m beyond thankful.
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What is your favorite memory from filming?
My favorite memory from filming was the day of the first-round performances. I remember waking up that morning, praying for a blissful day where I could feel absolutely myself and fully enjoy the present moment. That day was sunny, and I remember everything feeling absolutely perfect. I have a memory of Brandon playing his guitar and singing for me on the patio at the house and me dancing in the sunlight without a care in the world. I wasn’t worried about being on camera, I was comfortable in my own skin, and I was truly thankful to be exactly where I was at that moment. That night, I watched some of my very best friends perform in front of celebrity judges and absolutely nail their performances. I saw love and friendship in a new light that day and I hold those memories very close to my heart.
If you have any regrets from your time on the show, what would you have done differently?
After I left filming, I called my mom and said to her, “I have absolutely no regrets from my time on ‘Listen to Your Heart.’ I was 100 percent ‘me’ through and through and there’s nothing more or less I could have done with my time on the show.” I considered and still consider my time on ABC as a great honor and a privilege — it was a dream come true for me! Platform and influence is a high honor and something that shouldn’t be carried lightly. One of my greatest motivators while on “LTYH” was to set a good example for younger girls watching me on the show while still having fun and enjoying the ride. I pushed myself mentally and emotionally more than I ever had before, and I left feeling very proud of myself for that.
What was your proudest moment on the show?
My proudest moment on the show was the night I walked out. I remember so badly wanting to stay and perform again, I wanted to fight for love, and I wanted to come out on the other side, but I had an overwhelming sense that it was my time to go. I am a confident, deep, and very strong woman who knows what she is looking for and that she is worthy of a man’s confidence in her. I remember sitting in front of a man who needed to make a choice between myself and another woman — and I was put in a position where I was required to prove my worth in exchange for his commitment to me.
I know that many men and women have experienced this in some capacity, where they have felt like they had to prove themselves to be worthy of another person’s love. It was through that conversation I learned that if a man — who has spent time getting to know me — has been a recipient of my vulnerability and honesty, has been given a taste of the love and depth I have to offer, and still isn’t going to choose me, it’s OK to walk away. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And indifference in a relationship is a no for me.
There was a strength that was produced when I made a choice to stand up, speak up, and walk away. That was my proudest moment on the show not only for myself but because I wanted other men and women watching to know that if they’re walking through something similar, they, too, don’t have to settle for someone’s indifference! There is a beauty and a strength that is developed once you know your value and you’re willing to wait until the right person chooses you confidently and fearlessly, no matter his or her other options may be.
What has been your biggest musical accomplishment since doing the show?
I released a single [titled "Inside Out"] in April 2020 and since have written and recorded with various different artists and writers across the country.
How did the show impact your outlook on love?
The show was so good for me because I am typically a slow mover and, in this setting, that was not an option! When you’re in a situation where you’re positioned to fall in love with a complete stranger without the support or opinions of your loved ones, it’s a totally new ball game! I learned that I am far more trustworthy of my own heart than I ever realized, and I am capable of making initial emotional decisions without the help of people around me. I learned that sometimes you have to look at the facts over feelings and make decisions based on that. Other times, it’s OK to feel something and lean into it. I gained clarity and confidence through the show, and I’ve taken that with me into my dating life since.
If you could only sing with two other “LTYH” contestants for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
I would hands-down sing with Sheridan [Reed] and Bri [Stauss]! Sheridan and I had the best time on set of “LTYH” singing mashups together and our voices blend like I’ve never heard before. I would also love to sing with Bri, as her tone is just angelic and we had the best time on set playing piano and harmonizing together. We bring two different styles to the table and it’s a unique sound we loved playing with while on set!
How would you describe your strongest friendship on the show and who was it with?
My strongest friendships on the show were with Bekah [Purifoy] and Bri. We connected genuinely from night one and they became my rocks during filming and afterwards, too! They also were my two bunkmates and they managed to somehow stay my friends after my sleepwalking and sleep-talking episodes in the middle of the night.
It’s hard to know who to trust when you haven’t known anyone for any length of time and these two allowed me to be myself, processed intently when I needed ears to hear, and had my back when drama began to stir. They are two women who pass no judgment, are confident and comfortable in their own skin, and consistently welcome everyone just as they are. They were real with me from the start, and we laughed hard together, cried — a lot! — together and they’ve become two of my best friends since. I love you B&B!
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Would you ever date a musician again?
I absolutely would date a musician again, yes! I think there’s a level of creativity and vulnerability that comes with a man who is able to express himself through music and I am still certainly drawn to that. From being in tune with his emotions enough to write authentic lyrics to the confidence it takes to work a live audience and handle the platform and pressure that comes with being an entertainer, there are a lot of qualities musicians have that I’d love the man in my life to have, too.
How would you describe your love life today?
How do I say this casually? I am single and ready for love! I have spent my time since the show really focusing inwardly, looking at areas in need of growth in my life and taking an intentional season to get back to “me.” I have grown more than I ever thought possible this last year and I feel that I am genuinely the best Savannah I’ve ever been! I have the most incredible community of friends in Nashville and am truly living out my professional dreams — but I am more than ready for love when love is ready for me!
What are you looking forward to in the rest of 2021?
I am looking forward to seeing all of the things I’ve worked and prayed hard over in 2020 come to life in 2021! I will be traveling frequently between Nashville and Miami for modeling, I have plans to travel for fun — a lot — the rest of this year, and am staying busy hosting events, facilitating conversations with online and live audiences, writing, teaching yoga, songwriting, and just enjoying life! I would love to be on television again for any of these reasons and I’m just working hard and have high expectations for the future. It’s a new season and I truly believe the best is yet to come this year!