Loder wrote her first song at age 16 about a cousin who had died in a traffic accident. She was studying nursing at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland when she released The Way in August 2009. Also that year, she won a talent-search contest hosted by YC Newfoundland, a Christian youth conference, and, as part of the award, was given time with music professionals who helped her with Imperfections & Directions, which was released at the 2010 YC Newfoundland. Loder's nursing studies hampered her ability to showcase Imperfections & Directions by touring. Loder was nominated as Female Artist of the Year at the 2010 MusicNL awards, and then as Gospel Artist of the Year in 2011. Imperfections & Directions was nominated as Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year at the 2012 Juno Awards.
Kellie Loder was born to Christina and Bob Loder in 1988, and was raised in Badger, a town in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. She considers her first introduction to music to have taken place before she was born; her mother frequently played Michael W. Smith songs to her through headphones while she was still in the womb. Loder claims to have "natural rhythm" and that she began emulating the drummer at her Pentecostal church by beating on a pew with pencils at the age of two. At age 10, Loder was placed in her church's drumming ensemble.
Loder's younger brother taught her three guitar chords when she was 14, and she received her first guitar later that year. She began writing songs at age 16. Her first song, which was about a cousin who had died in a traffic accident, used lyrics from a poem by one of their mutual friends. With encouragement from her family, Loder concentrated on her singing and songwriting and performed this in addition to another she subsequently wrote for a friend's graduation.
Loder was raised as a Christian by her parents, and considers herself to have become serious about her faith in 2007, when she "started to accept gifts for what they were... and just assumed it was God." After this experience, she began playing piano, and credited God with teaching her how to play. Loder favours the piano, considering it the most beautiful of the instruments she plays. The first song she wrote after beginning the piano was "Giants", also for a graduating class; the song uses the story of Goliath as its theme, generalizing the story to apply to each individual's internal struggles. "Giants" eventually appeared on both of her albums: The Way and Imperfections & Directions.
In 2008, while studying nursing at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland through the Western Regional School of Nursing, Loder met Devin Robinson, a record producer. The meeting led to him producing her first album, an independent release called The Way, which was recorded at Sweet Music Studios. Loder wrote all 11 songs on the album, which was released in August 2009. The initial run of the album sold out, and she subsequently went door-to-door in small Newfoundland communities selling a second run of the album. On her most lucrative day selling albums in this manner, she made $1000. Loder later said that this manner of selling her album proved to be a good way to develop a fanbase; people invited her into their homes for meals, prayer, and discussions. Also that year, she won a talent-search contest hosted by YC Newfoundland, a Christian youth conference, where she performed "Giants".