Kristen Kelly ticks off a few of her major influences: Merle Haggard, Susan Tedeschi, Ray Charles . . . Adele. It’s a diverse list and probably one of the reasons Kelly’s self-titled EP sounds so fresh.
Her first single, “Ex-Old Man,” hit No. 30 on the Billboard US Country chart, but even more impressive is her song “He Loves To Make Me Cry.” On that song, Kelly’s soulful, bluesy voice gets a chance to shine. Even more impressive, the vocal track used was her demo tape version.
“I think there’s an essence of more of a live feel,” she said. “If you listen closely the song is not always in time in all places. It’s just fun. I’m a big country music fan and somewhere along the way I fell in love with the blues and I feel that side of me comes out in that song.”
Country fans will get a chance to see all sides of Kelly tonight at Bourbon Jack’s in Kent as she plays an acoustic set. It’s a change of pace for Kelly, who as been all over the country touring the past year and a half. She joined Brad Paisley for his 2012 Virtual Reality World Tour and has shared the stage with Rascal Flatts, the Band Perry, Gary Allen and Sheryl Crow in recent months.
“One of the most humbling things, first and foremost as a writer, is having somebody come up and say, ‘Thanks for writing this song because you are writing about my life,'” Kelly said. “Another thing that’s really humbling is to have see everyone singing along. There’s been towns where I’ve been able to stop singing.”
It’s a good sign of things to come for Kelly, who has been working hard for her big break for years. She put out an album, “Placekeeper,” in 2010 as the frontwoman of the band the Modern Day Drifters. It’s pretty good but it’s not to the same level as her recent EP and feels just like what the title says: a place-keeper.
Now Kelly is working to get her debut solo album together and she’s taking her time despite the fact that fans are clamoring for new material.
“I’m eager for it, too,” she said. “There’s always been a bit more grease than polish in my music. Things don’t need to be perfect. When I’m in the studio recording, I’ll sing a song six to ten times and I think at that point, that’s what you’re going to get. I try to make music that’s real and I definitely try to sing songs that I have either lived or am close to.”
Now Kelly just has to find some time to get back into the studio. Until then, there’s always another town, another state. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 at Bourbon Jack’s, 510 Washington Ave N Kent, WA ; $10 (253-236-4304)