Georgia-born US singer-songwriter Kelley Swindall has caught the attention of global listeners through her characteristically drawing vocals & engaging lyrical storytelling.
Drawing from her Southern roots, her style is a blend of soulful & bluesy folk coupled with a witty, gritty, classic country sensibility, inspired by the outlaw tradition, and deeply rooted in story songs and talking blues, driven by strong female characters who tell it like it is!! With a rafter reaching voice and crazily charismatic stage presence, she’s equally at home in a Biker Bar or under a Proscenium Arch.
Not long ago, Kelley ventured on the next stage of her musical journey by unveiling the bonus version of “Alright, All Right” & embarking on a UK & Ireland tour that runs from June 21st to July 17th.
Kelley has kindly taken the time to speak with Fierce & Fabulous Revolution regarding her latest musical ventures, along with getting to know more from the artist behind the music.
Hey Kelley, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Could you start by telling the readers a little bit about yourself?
Kelley: I was born in Georgia. I’m the oldest of 7 kids, and id write plays and put on shows and have my siblings act in them when I was growing up. I always wanted to be a performer. I moved to New York City nearly 17 years ago to pursue a career in theatre, but music ended up finding me . I love stories of all kinds and I love songs with stories, which tends to be the type of songs I write (story songs) I love travelling and seeing new lands and people, so being a touring singer-songwriter is a natural fit. I’m really into the mystical and that which cant be seen, and I feel like the artist is the bridge between the worlds (the seen and unseen, the physical and spiritual), so I aim to bring a bit of that into my music, while still being grounded and raw and real and of the here and now.
When did you first discover your passion for music?
Kelley: Hmmmmm I always had a passion for music I would say (like from before I could talk), BUT I didn’t always know I could PLAY it. I took dance from the time I was three years old for years and years and I naturally felt a connection to and love for music through that. My passion for CREATING music literally just happened. I was in my early 20s and really depressed and down about a breakup, and I woke up one morning (probably early afternoon actually lol) with the thought that I WOULD WRITE A SONG TO THIS PERSON WHO HAD BROKEN MY HEART. That’s it. I got my brother’s guitar (he was living with me at the time) and looked up some chords online (G C and D) and fumbled through and wrote and wrote all afternoon. I was living on the first floor of a tenement apartment on the lower east side and it was the middle of a heat wave in August. It was minimum mid-90s and sooo hot and stuffy, but I sat there all afternoon, writing and rewriting it was THE BIGGEST HIGH. The act of writing and singing along to it (and the heat, I’m sure ) literally got me high. I finished the song (it was like an 8-minute song…way too long) and I was hooked.
Have you always wanted to pursue a career within the music industry?
Kelley: Never in a million years. I wanted to be a stage actress and movie star when I was little, but I didn’t think I could sing at all… in fact, the act of singing absolutely terrified me. I was forced, as a requirement in the curriculum, to take a singing for actors class at my theatre conservatory when I was 18 or 19. when I had to get up to sing for the first time, I literally started crying. My eyes started tearing up and I thought I would throw up. I bring that up to drive home the fact that I WAS NOT A SINGER (until I was lol…).
How would you describe your musical style to someone unfamiliar with your music?
Kelley: Earthy, Gritty, Authentic, Southern Folk Country Blues.
You have recently embarked on your UK & Ireland tour. How did the idea for this tour come together?
Kelley: I’ve had my eyes set on touring the UK and Ireland since just before covid actually…nothing happened specifically to plant the seed in my mind, it was more of an attraction and a feeling that that’s where I should focus my time and energy in terms of live shows, for the time being. So much of the type of music I play owes a great debt to these isles. It’s a very deep source, and I felt I owed it to myself to come over here to explore and play.
The second I was able to finally book a proper little tour here. I was going to release my album in April of 2020 and come over here to tour that fall.. that was the plan…then…covid of course happened. …
Once restrictions eased up, I contacted my booker, Dana, and she got me set up with two weeks of shows in October of 2021… Near the end of that tour, I told her I wanted to get back here right after the new year to build off of what we had started… I came back in February of 2022, and on the heels of that tour, my good friend JESSE MALIN, who is an AMAZING singer/songwriter based here in NYC, asked me if I wanted to open for him on a two-week UK tour. I jumped at the chance, of course, and I called Dana up to then book me on my own two-week solo tour, directly on the heels of that one.
Things really got cookin, after that, though, cuz Billy Bragg’s team hit Dana up, to ask if I’d be into playing his Round UP on the Left Field stage at Glastonbury, and of course, I said yes. So I am figuratively on cloud 9 now.
Long story short, this month-long summer tour is the natural progression after getting those first two tours under my belt.
What can audiences expect to see during one of your shows?
Kelley: Alot of sass, a lot of humour, a lot of pathos, and just the right amount of cheeky subversiveness.
What are some of the things you are most looking forward to about touring the UK & Ireland?
Kelley: I’m of course very VERY much looking forward to not only attending Glastonbury but also playing in it. That’s a bucket list show for sure.
I’m also very much looking forward to visiting Ireland for the first time. Like a typical American mutt, I have a fair amount of Irish blood in me, and I’m looking forward to visiting in the flesh and making that connection to the land and people and culture. I have a good amount of English and Scottish blood as well, which is why I think I felt such a strong draw to all land and people, from the start of my first tour.
Will we hear any future releases performed throughout the tour?
Kelley: YES! absolutely. It’s going to be a really solid mix of songs from the record as well as unrecorded songs, that are depart from the album for sure. The new ones are less romantic relationship-focused and more mystically or relationship with the cosmos oriented (in a totally grounded way 🙂
What are some of the things you enjoy outside of music?
Kelley: I love live theatre and going to the cinema. I love travelling, especially to port cities, coastal towns, historic sites, and the southern low country. I especially love visiting old cemeteries when I’m in a new town. I’m a proud taphophile.
What three words best describe you?
Kelley: Funny. curious. observant. (I went for the positive end of the spectrum)
If you could perform a duet with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Kelley: Bob Dylan. Tom Petty if he were still alive.
What is one song you never take off your playlist?
Kelley: “Brandy” by Looking Glass. It’s the perfect playlist song. makes me happy when I’m sad. keeps me happy when I’m happy. it’s not the most profound or mind-blowing song, just a classic 70s groovy feel-good tune that makes you feel things and transports you to a happy place.
What is one item you could not live without?
Kelley: A guitar. The second would be a laptop.
If you could possess any superpower, what would it be & why?
Kelley: Probably the ability to speak/read/understand any language. Soooo much gets lost in translation (and over time). it would be incredible (and world-changing) to be able to read and truly understand so many of the ancient religious and non-religious texts in context and in the way they were meant to be understood/read PLUS just the practical aspect of it …being able to communicate in the language, and its nuances, with any person/culture you come in contact with. It’s the ultimate superpower.
What advice would you offer to someone who was looking to pursue a career within the music industry?
Kelley: If it’s as an artist it would be to figure out what it is you want to say and make sure everything else is in service to that. If you don’t know, that’s ok, figuring out who you are and what you have to say I a part of the process for any artist. let your songwriting be about discovering what that is, so you have a purpose outside of the vague notion of “making art” because you will need this purpose to drive you. If you start letting the industry drive you, you’re not only screwed, no one will care what you have to say, but you’ll lose yourself and forget why you’re doing this in the first place.
Finally, is there a message that you would like to share with the readers of Fierce & Fabulous Revolution?
Kelley: SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MONETARILY.
Go search out and support local live music. Buy a ticket. See a show. Buy merch. literally, spend money on music from independent artists. And not just independent signed artists but LOCAL and low-level TOURING artists. Search for new artists online. Check out their music. BUY THEIR MUSIC, even though you can listen for practically free on streaming. The world is changing and so is the industry…and the fate of the soul of music relies on humans continuing to create it from their heart on real instruments, rather than machines and an industry is driven by money. the small venues (like coffee shops, mom and pop bars) that host lives music are where the real artists are getting their start and cutting their teeth. We have to keep these spots alive, and it’s getting harder and harder for them to stay afloat. If they disappear that’s going to be very bad for the future of music. For all the wonders of the internet, there will never be a substitute for sitting in a room with a real person playing a real instrument and singing a real song birthed from their unique soul, experience, and perspective.
You can check out Kelley’s latest release “Alright, All Right” on Spotify below & details about Kelley’s tour dates here.