Brigid Kaelin
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Brigid Kaelin

Louisville, KY | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF

Louisville, KY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2005
Solo Americana Bluegrass




"Exploring Louisville’s fascinating connection to a small Switzerland town with musician Brigid Kaelin"

‘Einsiedeln Elsewhere’: Exploring Louisville’s fascinating connection to a small Switzerland town with musician Brigid Kaelin
By SARA HAVENS | July 26, 2018 5:45 am
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Brigid Kaelin traces her family’s roots to Einsiedeln, Switzerland. | Courtesy of Brigid Kaelin
Sometimes, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Just ask Louisville musician Brigid Kaelin about her upcoming trip to Switzerland to play at a music festival, and the story unravels like a Sunday afternoon novel you can’t put down.

But to start this story, we have to travel all the way back to the 1800s, when more than 3,000 people from a small Switzerland town called Einsiedeln, just outside of Zurich, emigrated to the United States — most of them landing in Louisville.

Johann Martin and Katerina Kaelin, Brigid Kaelin’s great-great grandparents who came from Einsiedeln to Louisville | Courtesy of Anthony Kaelin Jr.
The names of these families are plentiful and familiar here — the Kaelins, the Ehlers, the Bisigs, the Oeschlis, the Zehnders, the Ullrichs.

Some of the spellings were changed as the men and women entered the United States — for example, Kälin became Kaelin — but Louisville boasts a large amount of these Einsiedeln-specific names.

Brigid Kaelin, who grew up in Louisville, knew she had some Swiss roots ever since she worked on a family tree project in the first grade. She recalls her paternal grandfather telling her how his grandparents had come from a small town in Switzerland, but she never investigated much beyond that.

“My dad grew up in Germantown, and as a kid I spent Sundays at Swiss Park with family. But that’s about as Swiss as I ever got,” Kaelin tells Insider. “I remember looking up ‘Kaelin’ in hotel phone books whenever I traveled, and even in New York City, there were only ever one or two Kaelins. This was strange, because there were hundreds in the Louisville phone book at the time.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, Kaelin and her parents had planned a trip to Europe, which was to include a stop in Einsiedeln, but they made it as far as Newark, N.J., before that day’s tragic events unfolded.

Brigid Kaelin, age 1, with paternal grandparents Anthony Kaelin Sr. and Abigail Kaelin | Courtesy of Brigid Kaelin
After a 36-hour Greyhound trip back home and a break from flying, the Kaelins finally made it to Europe in 2002, but their itinerary did not include Switzerland.

Kaelin knew she’d get there eventually — she’s a huge “Sound of Music” fan, and there’s actually a tour based on the movie in Salzburg — and her husband made it his mission to get her there by the time she turned 40.

Kaelin turned 40 on Wednesday, July 25, and she’s flying out five days later. The trip includes performing at the Einsiedler Musikfest on Aug. 3, a gig that resulted from another uncanny twist in this story.

Airbnb Serendipity

Susann Bosshard-Kälin | Courtesy
In March of 2015, Swiss author and journalist Susann Bosshard-Kälin was looking to plan a second research trip to Louisville.

She was working on a book about the Einsiedeln-Louisville connection, titled “Einsiedeln Elsewhere,” and had already talked with Louisvillian Vicky Ullrich, who co-wrote “Germans in Louisville: A History.”

She needed an entire house she could rent for her team for two weeks, and she stumbled upon an entry on Airbnb that was located in the Highlands, her neighborhood of choice, that read: “Brigid and David in the Highlands.”

“I saw a lot of houses for rent. I saw a house in the Highlands, which I liked very much,” Bosshard-Kälin tells Insider. “So I wrote to this person, who I only knew as Brigid. I wrote her that I’m an author from Switzerland and that I was coming to do research, and at the end, I wrote, Susann Kälin.”

Back then, Kaelin and her husband would rent out their primary house for big events like Derby as a way to make some extra money. They didn’t do it often, and definitely not for more than three days at a time, but as soon as she read Bosshard-Kälin’s note about why she was coming to town, she thought it was too much of a coincidence to deny.

“Susann didn’t know my last name, because that’s not how Airbnb works,” says Kaelin. “I ended up helping her arrange a meeting for anyone interested in her research. I think she was expecting 10­ to 20 people, and over 100 showed up —­­ many of whom had stacks of genealogy papers with them.”

Not only did the two become fast friends, but Kaelin ended up becoming a chapter in Bosshard-Kälin’s book.

“That was the beginning our friendship,” the author says. “I couldn’t believe it, because I had no idea this Brigid was a Kaelin.”

“Einsiedeln Elsewhere” features 25 portraits among its 280 pages. | Courtesy
Since then, Kaelin and Bosshard-Kälin have kept in touch, and Kaelin has always expressed her desire to bring Kentucky music to Switzerland. And just last year, organizers of an annual music festival in Einsiedeln got wind of Kentucky musician Brigid Kaelin and invited her to play at the 2018 Einsiedler Musikfest.

Kaelin quickly rearranged her already-planned Switzerland vacation, and now she’s bringing along bandmate Dennis Ledford for the occasion. She says she’s hoping to borrow a drummer from another band playing at the fest, which is somewhat common for a traveling musician.

Kaelin will play at the Einsiedeln Music Fest on Aug. 3. | Courtesy
“I’ve played many festivals in Europe, but I’ve focused mostly on playing the United Kingdom,” says Kaelin. “My music has always done well on the BBC stations, so I tour where my fans are.”

Bosshard-Kälin and her team, which includes Einsiedeln Mayor Fran Pirker, are in Louisville this week to promote the book and also celebrate Swiss Day at the German American Club on Sunday, July 29.

The author says she’ll be bringing copies of “Einsiedeln Elsewhere” for both Kaelin and Mayor Greg Fischer, and Kaelin will be performing at the private event.

After that, both Kaelin and Bosshard-Kälin head to Switzerland.

Experiencing Einsiedeln

Kaelin is looking forward to bringing Kentucky music to Switzerland. | Courtesy of Brigid Kaelin
Kaelin is looking forward to the trip, she says, mostly to explore the old buildings and streets where her ancestors once roamed.

“People have told me to visit the cemeteries in Einsiedeln because, apparently, there are just hundreds and hundreds of Kälins,” she adds. “I’d love to see where my great­-great-­great-­grandparents lived — Susann said she can show me — and it would be amazing to find some fourth or fifth cousins. I also am excited to yodel in the Alps.”

She also wants to possibly create a cultural exchange with Einsiedeln, perhaps forging new relationships for future music tours. If she could bring a new Louisville musician with her on every return trip, she can perhaps help others discover their roots, too.

At the moment, it’s unknown if Kaelin and Bosshard-Kälin are related — although Bosshard-Kälin tells us she has great news to share with the musician — but Kaelin does believe their chance meeting was much more than mere coincidence.

“I love stories that make the world smaller. I love history and Kentucky stories,” says Kaelin. “Like many Americans, I’ve always been curious about where my ancestors came from. I had not considered that someone in Switzerland might have been wondering where her relatives immigrated to.” - Insider Louisville, 2018

"7 Questions With … Louisville musician Brigid Kaelin"

It’s been some time since Louisville native Brigid Kaelin released a full-length album — nine years to be exact. During her time away, she moved to Scotland, had two children, moved back to Louisville and rekindled her love for music and songwriting.

The departure from her hometown was necessary, and as with many who move away, it allows you to appreciate the city even more. Hence the title of the new album, “Those Who Drift Away,” which is a line from her song called “Louisville.”

“This city has a magnetic pull. You can try to move away, but it seems like when you’re gone, you realize just how great a place it is,” Kaelin tells Insider. “‘Those Who Drift Away’ as a title also refers to how I’ve seemingly taken a little absence from the Louisville music community, with a break from album-making to have kids and live abroad. But it’s hard to stay away from something (or some place) that you love.”

“Those Who Drift Away” is Kaelin’s third studio album.
The 12-song album features a handful of Louisville musicians like Steve Cooley, Aaron Bibelhauser, Michael Cleveland and Cathy Wilde, and Kaelin herself plays piano, accordion and even a musical saw — which you really have to see to believe.

Kaelin — who has her own blog called The Red Accordion Diaries — says it’s a country album, which is ironic as she’s been trying to avoid that genre classification for much of her career.

“I think I’ve spent far too much of my music career trying not to make a country record, that it was pretty freeing to just admit I’m drawn to writing Americana folk songs,” she explains. “I studied jazz piano for so long, but I grew up listening to John Prine. So in a lot of ways, this record is a homecoming — both to Kentucky and also to a genre.”

“Those Who Drift Away” was engineered on producer Steve Cooley’s houseboat on the Ohio River, a studio Kaelin describes as cozy — except when her morning sickness became intensified by choppy waters. Most of the album was recorded while Kaelin was pregnant with her second child. In fact, she recorded her last vocal session one day before giving birth.

“My belly was huge, which affects your breath control — and breathing is everything in singing,” she recalls. “I had to sing things very differently than I’m used to singing them, but it comes across as a sort of more sultry lounge-singer vibe than my usual belter.”

She says that last recording session was a tough one because she had been in and out of labor for a week and was having contractions all afternoon. But she remembers Cooley being calm, cool and collected.

Kaelin plays everything from an accordion to a musical saw. | Courtesy of Brigid Kaelin
“I think I must have peed 15 times and groaned and wobbled and snacked constantly,” says Kaelin. “Then, 24 hours later, I had a baby in my dining room and played a gig with Steve three days later. Baby came with me. It was a weird week.”

Since Kaelin spent some time in Scotland and can now once again enjoy an adult beverage or two, we had to ask which she now prefers — scotch or bourbon. It wasn’t easy to get her to answer.

“I swear, I have been a bourbon person since I turned 21 in New York City and was completely homesick, but when I started touring in Scotland in 2008, I began the slow move to single malts,” she admits. “I’ll still order a bourbon and ginger sometimes, or try out a rare sipping bourbon, but if there is an Islay scotch at the bar, that’s my preference. I like dirty, smoky, tastes-like-kerosene single-malts from Islay. Don’t hate me. I mean, bourbon was developed by Scottish settlers, right?”

We’ll let it slide — this time.

What ultimately brought her home was her desire to be near her family, especially since she’s an only child and had her parents’ only grandchild 4,000 miles away.

“I’m glad we are back because they’ve been able to spend so much time with my boys,” she says. “My mom has cancer now, so I’m very glad to live half a mile away and be able to see her every day.”

Kaelin has decided to donate 5 percent of each album’s sale to the American Cancer Society in honor of her mother, who was diagnosed last year with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Kaelin and her band are gearing up for the album’s release party on Friday, July 28, at Headliners Music Hall. She’ll share the bill with Alex Wright, who also is releasing a new album, as well as Sweet G & The Shine. That show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10. She’ll also be performing on Friday’s WFPK Live Lunch at noon, so tune in to 91.9FM.

Before Kaelin dusts off her saw and curls her red locks, she answered some very important questions …

What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?

The hills are alive …
I want to go to Austria specifically for “The Sound of Music” tour. I am crazy for musicals, and I’ve known every line and every note to “The Sound of Music” as long as I can remember. I’m definitely going to spin at the top of that mountain and try out some proper yodeling.

What poster was on your wall in junior high?

I painted murals all over my walls in seventh grade — pretty sure I didn’t ask permission (sorry, Mom and Dad). The most ridiculous one was where I used a brick of charcoal to draw a floor-to-ceiling image of the cloaked figure from “Led Zeppelin IV.”

If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?

WFPK’s Laura Shine
(WFPK DJ) Laura Shine. Does she already have a key to the city? She should. I’m a fangirl of hers and love her curated radio playlists. She’s a huge supporter of the arts in Louisville and is great at connecting people. She’s also introduced me to some of my biggest heroes, so I feel like I owe her more than a key to the city.

What are your preferred pizza toppings?

Pineapple and mushroom.

If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?

My 4-year-old is never stressed out and constantly updates his life to note that, “Today is the greatest day of my life!” So being 4 seems pretty great.

What famous person do people say you resemble the most?

Creepy Pippi doll
I never get that, honestly. But as a kid, or whenever I put my hair in braids, I get called Pippi Longstocking. Or Anne of Green Gables. Or any fictional character with red hair.

Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?

Sappy answer, but my husband. I don’t see him enough these days, as he travels a lot for work. He’s my favorite person in the world, and I’d absolutely love to be stuck in an elevator with him. Also, he’s super handy and could probably fix the elevator when we got hungry. -

"Elvis Costello Show Sparkles at the Palace"

Elvis Costello’s solo tours in recent years have been constructed around themes that change from night to night, depending on the singer’s mood. His options are legion, given the 30 albums from which he has to draw inspiration.

But there are certain ideas that have consistently surfaced over those albums, and they all have to do with the havoc that can be wrought when two hearts and lives collide. Costello has a gift for illuminating those dark corners.

Tuesday night at the Louisville Palace, his theme was “A Life in Exile,” which proved to have a couple of meanings. It was occasionally meant literally, a reflection of the life imposed upon a traveling musician, but far more often it had to do with hearts in exile.

That was made clear early with a stunning version of “Either Side of the Same Town,” from 2004’s “The Delivery Man.” The song, a pure Southern soul lament that Costello sung with an unhinged passion, explores the worst kind of exile: one where you’re not alone, but instead doomed to coexist with a person who no longer cares.

Costello explored a different kind of lovelorn exile with “Veronica,” a deceptively peppy song about a woman whose life was frozen in time after the man she loved died in battle. And on early songs such as “Watching the Detectives” and “Little Triggers,” frustrated partners fume as their lovers’ attention wanders.

Given that Costello was alone on stage the night’s theme had added resonance, but it was tempered by his warm, funny stage presence. He also proved a gracious guest by bringing out a pair of Louisville musicians in Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, and Brigid Kaelin.

Costello first teamed with Kaelin a few years ago at the Palace, and she again played accordion on a few selections, including “A Slow Drag With Josephine.” James met Costello earlier this year when they partnered with Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens and Taylor Goldsmith to put music to previously unheard Bob Dylan songs (“Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” will be released later this year).

After Costello and James dueted on the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home to Me,” all three ripped through a rollicking version of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” with Kaelin dropping a fine musical saw solo.

Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at (502) 582-4160, and on Twitter, @JLeePuckett. - Courier Journal


(United Kingdom)
This flame-haired jazz pianist and accordion player is a force to be reckoned with

This hugely talented woman delicately mixes Americana and country with a dash of pop and an infusion of jazz on this her latest album. It offers something for everyone and takes the listener on a pleasant journey through all the musical senses. The album starts off with a lovely track titled I Did Something Bad. Kaelin’s vocals at the start are haunting and have a dreamlike quality about them, but as the song progresses Brigid steps up a gear and changes her vocal style to a sound very reminiscent of Natalie Merchant—an artist she is often compared to. It is a nice opening track that really sets the mood for the rest of the album. This is not an album for people who like traditional country/Americana music, this is an album for those people who like—something a little bit special and with edge.

Watch Out! has some really catchy lyrics and with the accordion making an appearance, a new dimension is given to this jolly track. It is clear throughout the album that Kaelin likes to have fun with music. Waiting For The Day is another great track with highly poignant lyrics making it one of the stand out tracks on her album. You Make Me Wanna Go To Church is a lively song that is reminiscent of the early work of kd lang. Throughout the album Brigid has a fresh voice that sounds organic and natural giving her songs a vibrant energy. As the album progresses, the songs just seem to get better and better. Featuring Shannon Lawson on vocals, One More Last Kiss is a more traditional country song which oozes passion and emotion. Fans of old style duets will love this delicately crafted love song. WEST 28TH STREET is an interesting album packed full of little surprises. A delightful combination of lively songs infused with a selection of old style country songs that will resonate with the listener’s emotions. This is an album that really packs a punch. --Sara Hunt


You know something? This reviewing thing is sometimes a very enjoyable occupation. In amongst the mediocrity, you will always find a gem. A gem that restores your faith in music. It is with considerable pleasure that Bluesbunny introduces you to the talented Brigid Kaelin with her album "West 28th Street". She's from Louisville, Kentucky and, with this album, she establishes her credentials as a songwriter and performer of note.

So what's to look forward to in this album? Well, she snarls in best bitchy tradition in "Catty Woman Blues" as she berates - it's the best description that I, as a man, could think of - her ex boyfriend's new girlfriend with " … you must give me the name of your hairdresser … 'cos your roots barely show at all". There's sentimentality aplenty in "Sunday Afternoon" and in the classic country styled "One More Last Kiss". It might sound conventional but you can feel the suppressed lust involved in "You Make We Wanna Go to Church". Underneath it all is an emotional fragility aligned with, of all things, determination and this unusual combination gives these songs their depth, making them accessible to everybody with a mind of their own (or to those who wish they had a mind of their own).

We like feisty women here at Bluesbunny Towers and Brigid Kaelin is one such woman. She shows intelligence, wry humour and compassion in her songs and in her performance making this is an album that will entertain and entrance you. Suffice to say that this album will take up a long term residence in the Bluesbunny CD player.


Everything is coming up Brigid Kaelin: Fresh off her guest turn with hero Elvis Costello last week at the Palace, Kaelin’s excellent new album, West 28th Street, hit Louisville in limited release this week. Her fun, quirky personality shines throughout, starting off with the naughty-yet-vulnerable “I Did Something Bad,” in which she confesses that her good-girl image might not be 100-percent accurate.

The entire album is filled with such emotional honesty and glimpses into a left-of-center view of the world that is refreshing and endearing, all delivered in a stripped-down, Americana-meets-pop (with an occasional dash of jazz) style. There’s not a bad track in the bunch, but one highlight is “Sunday Afternoon,” a sparkling proclamation that life should be fun and should be lived for the day. It includes the hilarious and telling line, “I’ll be your June Carter, if you’ll be my one-night stand.”

Kaelin, perhaps best known for her guest spots playing accordion and musical saw with numerous other performers, proves in fine form on West 28th Street, sounding every bit a confident person and performer — good girl, bad girl or otherwise. Great things lie ahead for this one. —Kevin Gibson - Maverick Magazine, Bluesbunny, LEO Weekly

"Nashville Star's in their eyes"

Staff Writer

While the country music industry prepared for its biggest week of the year, aspiring artists prepared for a shot at the country music industry.

"It's a dream to play and sing original music for a living," said Brigid Kaelin, 28, of Louisville, Ky. On Wednesday night, Kaelin sang and played accordion and keyboards at The Stage on Lower Broadway during a tryout for USA Network television show "Nashville Star." She was among the final 59 contestants for that show, the longest-running musically competitive show on cable television.

Kaelin was among finalists in a talent competition that has filtered down from 20,000 competitors across the nation. Hoping for a shot on the fifth edition of "Nashville Star,' she is not a typical aspiring country artist: The accordion is a dead give-away, as is her allegiance to singer-songwriter John Prine, a critics' favorite who exists outside mainstream. But, while the Music Row-based industry gets set for the Nov. 6 Country Music Association Awards show on Monday, Kaelin is hardly alone in her ardor for entry into the business.

"We have a lot of people who try out who say, 'I just got into country in the last year,' " said Jeff Boggs, an executive producer of "Nashville Star," a show that will be hosted this year by pop success Jewel and co-hosted by self-proclaimed "hick-hop" artist Cowboy Troy.

While the popular music industry has experienced a "down" year in sales in 2006, the country genre is up.

The 40th annual Country Music Association Awards, set to take place on Monday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, will be a celebration of current country kingpins and of the genre's commercial health.

The week before it in Nashville includes numerous official and unofficial showcases for country, including tonight's Dixie Chicks debut of documentary "Shut Up & Sing," Saturday night's BMI Music Awards, Sunday's SESAC Awards and Monday's CMA Awards.

The "Nashville Star" finals are taking place over three straight nights at The Stage, a venue just doors away from numerous other honky-tonks that feature more-than-viable country entertainment.

While Kaelin played, the Don Kelley Band — a combo that can justifiably assert itself as, arguably, Nashville's finest country group — held court a couple of doors down at Robert's Western World.

The Kelley Band includes a bass player who performed for years with Johnny Cash and a lead guitarist who has starred with Patty Loveless, yet Kelley and the guys are still playing for tips, a situation that the "Nashville Star" hopefuls want to leapfrog.

"Nashville Star" alumni Buddy Jewell and Miranda Lambert have scored hits, while Brad Cotter has been less successful and Chris Young is seeking his own place in the industry.

"I thought, 'They're not gonna want me,' " said Kaelin, who often performs in Louisville with "You Can Feel Bad" co-writer Tim Krekel. "But I'm hopeful. I'm here 'til Saturday, and I'm one of the people who aren't cookie cutters that are left in the running." - The Tennessean (Nashville)

"Elvis Costello & Brigid Kaelin"

Elvis Costello has always had a gift for finding the perfect collaborators, from Nick Lowe to George Jones to Burt Bacharach. But he had to come to Louisville to find a flaming redhead prodigious on both the accordion and musical saw.

That would be Brigid Kaelin, who managed to steal at least a little of Costello's show Wednesday at the Louisville Palace -- if not a little of his heart. Diana Krall might want to watch her back. Kaelin left a mash note for Costello at WFPK's studios Wednesday afternoon, where he was doing an interview, and that typically sassy move led to an invitation to play accordion on the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." And that led to a saw solo -- that's right, a saw solo -- on "Mr. Feathers" and an accordion-keyboard duel with Steve Nieve on "Pump It Up." Costello even included her in the band introductions, always a nice addition to a musician's resume.

It was all a charming exclamation point to an already stellar show that saw an energized Costello lead his band, The Imposters, on a tour through his storied catalog. No one there needed a reminder that Costello is one of his generation's finest songwriters, but it never hurts to hear 2½ hours of solid proof. This was a rock 'n' roll show, and Costello's powerful voice and guitar were the focus while The Imposters were his ideal complement. The rhythm section of Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher never wavered, while Nieve whipped up all kinds of strange magic.

The main set had a couple of lulls, but "Radio Radio," Costello's famous diatribe against the music industry's infrastructure, wasn't one of them. Costello delivered it with nearly the same gusto as he did 30 years ago and, sadly, for good reason; he still can't get played on anything other than public radio.

All three encores were superb, highlighted by a gorgeous solo acoustic version of "Alison," an elegantly subtle "Man Out of Time," a blazing "Pump It Up" and a celebratory "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" that ended the night on an adrenaline rush. - Courier Journal

"Brigid Kaelin: Won't be a secret long"

by Paul Moffett, Editor

When you meet a musician early in his or her career the urge to brag can sometimes be overwhelming; other times the urge can be never to admit you saw that person. As it happens, I was in the Air Devils Inn, chatting with Brigid Kaelin's folks when her husband came in with the first copies of his wife's first CD, one of which I promptly `liberated' as a media type. I should note that while I've known Brigid for two or three years or so and worked with her on some television (she's a videographer, too), I had actually only heard her play keyboards a couple of times, in a less-than-splendid circumstance, and sing maybe once, somewhere, so I grabbed the CD as a friend in a bar getting a `local' recording. The cynical side of me murmured inaudibly off in a corner of my brain: I've listened to a lot of locally produced recordings and some 10,000 demos from songwriters (really). To paraphrase the late SF writer Ted Sturgeon, 98 percent of everything is crap and knowing that, so I waited a little before tossing the disc on the player, because, frankly, I was afraid I'd be disappointed and I like Brigid too much for that.

I am not disappointed. Not only can she play the piano splendidly (lots of lessons plus talent) as well as play the accordion and sing in a most current angelic way, the woman can write songs. Ten songs, actually, on this disc and they span a range of styles, musically and lyrically, including a stand-out little swing tune, "Future Mr. Used-to-Be."

As this month's LMN cover story notes, Kaelin rounded up a significant chunk of the Louisville songwriter and A-list players to play on this recording, including Tim Krekel, danny flanigan, Jimmy Brown, Nick Reifsteck, John Mann, Ben Andrews, Peter Searcy and more. With a range of players like, it as only natural that there would be any number of interesting musical quotes, which adds another layer to listening to this disc. Nate Thumas produced.

Most of songs are riffs on love in the twenties, naturally from the point of view of an intelligent and free-spirited woman, including , "I Want You All, "a tune that evokes another one from Joan Osborne.

"Whiskey in the Faucet" is a play on a couple of Irish folk titles, "Whiskey Before Breakfast" and "Whiskey in the Jar," only this is one about awakening to find Maker's Mark on tap in the bathroom. Mick Sullivan handles the banjo duties.

The title tune (actually named "Secrets") is a wise piece of advice to a lover: "you just keep your secrets, I'll hold on to mine."

My only complaints: I'd liked to have had the lyrics, plus track-by-track musician credits, which I suspect was a just financial decision: four-color printing is costly. Also, I would liked to have the vocal a little more upfront in the mix but that's just my preference.

I'm sure I'll have more comments after I listen longer but one thing I can surely say: this one is a definite winner, sure to get airplay on WFPK, plus, we would hope lots of other AAA stations. I'd suggest you go out and hear her somewhere, so you, too, can say "I knew her when." - Louisville Music News

"Brigid Kaelin: Angst-Free since 2002"

by Jeffrey Lee Puckett

Brigid Kaelin is a happy songwriter. She can also play the accordion, which is no coincidence, as accordions are perhaps the happiest of all instruments.

But a happy songwriter? That's real close to an oxymoron.

"It's silly, but for a long time I figured I couldn't be a songwriter because I wasn't sad or angst-ridden," Kaelin said. "But you don't have to be depressed to write good music, and, likewise, good music doesn't have to be depressing."

None of this is news to you if you've hung out at Air Devils Inn on a Sunday or Gerstle's Place on a Friday. Kaelin has spent a lot of time onstage at both, singing her nearly angst-free songs and building a following of people enamored with her graceful style and warm, engaging presence.

Tomorrow she kicks things up a few notches with the release of her debut album, "Keep Your Secrets," and a show opening for Garrison Starr at the Phoenix Hill Tavern, 644 Baxter Ave. (8 p.m., $10 advance, $12 at the door).

That's a big step considering Kaelin, a Louisville native, didn't play her first local gig until 2002, didn't write her first song until after the first gig, and never planned on a career in music.

Despite a good resume as a musician -- she performed with children's entertainer Karen Dean as a kid, studied jazz piano at NYU and played with an Irish band in New York -- Kaelin's first career was producing documentaries for CBS News Productions. She turned out programs for A&E's "Biography," the History Channel, Discovery Channel, TLC and VH1's "Behind the Music."

"My first show was a 'Biography' of George Hamilton," she said. The advice he left her: "He told me to wear sunscreen."

Kaelin was an associate producer by age 21, but she came home in 2002 to be with her mother during treatment for cancer (she's doing fine). "As soon as she finished chemotherapy, I quit my job and moved closer to home," Kaelin said. "I figured New York would always be there, but my mom might not."

Kaelin has found a few fans among local musicians. The album's credits read like a who's who, including danny flanigan, Tim Krekel, Jimmy Brown, Peter Searcy, Nick Reifsteck, Joe Burchett and Mick Sullivan. Her band tomorrow is Reifsteck, Nate Thumas and Sean Hopkins.

She didn't luck into a cast like that.

"I like to make things happen because I know you can't just sit around and wait for someone to offer you an amazing opportunity. I think NYC taught me that," she said. "I hate it when people complain about their lives but refuse to do anything to make a change. I'm also very lucky." - Courier-Journal 06/24/05

"Sidewoman by choice, Frontwoman by demand"

By Tim Roberts

The Far Side cartoonist Garry Larson could cram more humor into a single panel than you can find in an entire recent season of "Saturday Night Live." He did it with bizarre situations involving common and uncommon subjects: cows and anthropomorphic insects, dogs and cats, nitwits and scientists, nerds and celebrities, angels and devils, God and game show hosts. And musicians. A decade later after its final appearance (but still living on in gift calendars and omnibus collections), Larson's single-panel gags remain stapled or taped to many bulletin boards or cubicle walls or refrigerator doors, yellowed and brittle from time, but still damned funny. In one of them the panel is split horizontally. At the top, an angel greets a line of new entrants into Heaven by saying, "Welcome to Heaven. Here's your harp." At the bottom, a demon surrounded by flames greets his with "Welcome to Hell. Here's your accordion."

The young woman sitting on a porch swing cradling an accordion in her lap might just shake her head at that. The instrument's mother-of-pearl finish is the color of a wild cherry lollipop. It glimmers warmly in the light from the early evening Sunday On its left hand side, small, colored sequins spell out BIG RED on the panel of the bass buttons. The fingers of her right hand press a set of square switches over the keyboard. "Those are the reeds," she explains. "They produce the different tones." She presses the white center reed button and squeezes both sides together while holding down two keys on one side and pressing a button on the other. The sound the instrument makes is low, almost rumbling, like an old dusty pump organ in a storefront church. But the harmony made by the two keys she presses is as exact as anything a boy band could produce (and it doesn't require jars of hair jel).

The street where the young woman lives is in the Schnitzelberg neighborhood, an extension of the part of Louisville called Germantown, located east of the city's center and south of Downtown. Once a nexus of small manufacturing plants, Germantown/Schnitzelberg was and still is, full of working-class people living in shotgun and bungalow-style houses placed close to each other, with small front yards and on-street parking, which means they don't have much grass to cut and neighbors are less than three steps away. And even though the factories have gone, their buildings crumbling or demolished or renovated into something else, Germantown is still splayed out in their shadows. The woman's street dead-ends at a rusty chain-link fence that encloses the back yard of one of the old factory buildings, which is now a mall for antique dealers. The building's smokestack, the last one left from the area's manufacturing base, stands like a lone sentinel over Germantown.

Laura Roberts

The accordion is considered to be an instrument of working-class people, like those who had settled and built Germantown. And it is often the butt of cruel and snobbish comments. But in the correct pair of hands, an accordion does not sound as if it is the favored instrument of the Netherworld, nor does it create sounds to be scorned. Placed appropriately in a song's instrumentation, an accordion can create a tonal substrate, a mossy bedding, if you will, that lets the other instruments have their own space so that they don't all grow into each other. Its sound can growl like a panther or warble like a chickadee. It can be as subtle as an autumn drizzle or as obvious as a freight train parked in a church.

The young woman gently coaxing the tones from her accordion is Brigid Kaelin, pianist, vocalist, songwriter, music teacher, saw-player and accordionist, who has worked with other Louisville musicians for the past four years adding that mossy bedding (or freight train in a church) to their songs, or helping out with a needed vocal harmony. The list of performers on whose recordings she has performed, or with whom she's shared a stage, represents the best-known of the city's singer-songwriter community: Tim Krekel, danny flanigan, Dan Gediman, Heidi Howe and Bryan Hurst.

Now it is her turn with her own debut CD. And it features some guest stars who are returning the favor.

Laura Roberts

"I've played with so many people over the years," Kaelin said in the living room of the Germantown home she shares with her husband Nate Thumas, former member of Hundred Acre Wood member, part of the city's cadre of singer-songwriters and producer of her CD. "The people who played on it were mostly the people who were really instrumental in encouraging me to make it."

On the coffee table in front of us is the mock-up of the packaging for Kaelin's deubt release Keep Your Secrets. The pictures of her in it mirror the musical contents it contains. On the cover, she's seated behind a baby grand piano, giving her gleaming smile and tilting her head, the look of a siren temptress: sweet but with a sting. In a picture inside, she's dressed in black leather and splayed across a Harley. In the photograph that spans the center of the liner notes, she's surrounded by trees as Gaelic green as if they had been grown by St. Patrick himself.

Which doesn't mean that Keep Your Secrets will contain jazz standards, biker anthems and knock-offs of Enya songs. It means that the music she makes brushes against a few select genres, ones that fit the richness and clarity of her voice and the toffee-smooth way she uses it.

Laura Roberts

And it also has room for an accordion.

"My influences are all over the place," she said. "That's something we tried to do when we made this record, was to make sure it fit together. I know that the genres change from one song to the other, but the instrumentation is pretty similar."

Twenty-six years old with long wavy hair the color of baked ginger and skin covered with a galaxy of freckles, Kaelin has played piano since she was six. She's the granddaughter of trumpeter Joe Speevak, who was one of the regular performers in the Wednesday Night Band rehearsal group, which met at the VFW hall on Bardstown Road to play old big band standards. After graduating from New York University when she was 20, she went to work as an associate producer for the documentary division of CBS, which, because of its extensive film and video archive, had been contracted by the A&E Network to create content for the Biography series.

"My very first one was George Hamilton," she recalled. "I did the ones of Cheryl Tiegs, Gorgio Armani, Samuel L. Jackson. The last one I did was Robert Blake, which led to part of my wanting to leave. But I did some stuff for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel in between."

But earlier, while studying at New York University, she found a way to amuse herself: become a cabaret musician.

"It was just for fun," she said. "I never, ever thought I would be a musician. While I went to college, being a musician wasn't something I was supposed to do."

And when she wasn't playing jazz in candlelighted nightclubs, she was singing songs that were more than 300 years old in an Irish band.

"It was another one of those things I just stumbled into. One of the graphic designers for CBS was going out to some bars in the West Village and he came across this Irish band one night who was looking for a singer. He kind of tricked me into going to hear them. He bought me some Guinness, then some more Guinness and then said, `Go sing.' And suddenly I had a gig."

She continued. "It was old, old, old music. Some of the songs were 300-year-old ballads that had never been recorded. I sang some. But mostly I just played guitar."

It is ironic that Kaelin's tendency to stay out of the spotlight began in a city where you can't toss an empty latte cup without hitting someone who is striving to be a star. Instead, by providing background jazz piano in a cabaret and guitar and vocals with an Irish band, Kaelin was finding her niche: sideman (or, actually, sidewoman), something she was happy doing.

But a frightening turn in her life brought her back to Louisville. And to a new career.

"It was a long, strange series of events that led me back here," she said. "The biggest one was probably that my mom got breast cancer. She's fine now. I had been working a lot, then my mom got sick and I was far away. And I'm thinking, `Why am I working and climbing this career ladder?' It was a creative job and wasn't miserable or anything, but I didn't need to be there.

"So I just came home for a visit and stayed. I started playing music here just for fun and realized that it's really cheap here."

Her first regular gig began as a dare. While visiting Air Devils Inn, one of the bartenders, who knew she had played in New York, dared her one Sunday night to go onto the bar's tiny concrete stage and start playing. The dare paid off because people began coming back to hear her play on Sunday nights. Then other musicians started joining her, notably Bill Ede (one of the bar's regular performers) and Nate Thumas. But it was bassist Danny Kiley, who plays in Thumas's band, who began to spread the word about Kaelin among Louisville's singer-songwriter set. The first to invite her to be a part of a recording project was Dan Gediman.

"He was looking for a female vocalist who played something," Kaelin said. "And that something happened to be an accordion. So it worked out."

Nate Thumas was the other performer with whom she played regularly and immediately the two of them began to demonstrate the old paradox of getting what you resist. "We didn't date right away," Kaelin explained, "because we were playing music together. We tried not to, but when you try not to there's obviously something there."

Like the homes in the area of Louisville where Kaelin and Thumas live, the city's singer-songwriter community is close, where you can easily find one singer who has played on three others' CDs, perhaps even produced a few. It is a utopian microcosm of how the music industry should work: sharing, encouraging, helping and knocking back a few when the gig is done, with very few ego barricades and high-octane divadom. So after a few years of contributing to the singer-songwriter community as a sideline performer, Kaelin took her turn behind the microphone.

"I wouldn't have made a record," she said, "if danny flanigan hadn't said, `Where's your CD? I want one. I'm gonna buy one. Here's money.' He'd set up gigs for us and when we'd get there he'd say, `Okay, go. I'm your sideman. Sing something you wrote. I wanna hear it.' Then he'd say, `That was really good. Why don't you record it?' I didn't have much confidence in it, but people started asking for songs that I'd written. And I said, `You know what? I'm gonna make a record. Everybody else has a record. Why not me?"

flanigan appears as one of the sideman musicians on Keep Your Secrets. So does Dan Gediman, John Mann (last month's LMN cover story subject), bassist Jimmy Brown, Nick Reifsteck, Aaron Montgomery, Rod Wurtle, producer/engineer Ben Andrews, cellist/Realtor Peter Searcy, Mick Sullivan and the spiritual and musical Godfather of Louisville's singer-songwriters: Tim Krekel. The entire production was recorded and engineered by Howie Gano at his studio in Butchertown's Bakery Square.

Even though Kaelin has a powerhouse lineup of session men, they are not the foundation for Secrets. That comes from strong songwriting, the kind from someone who weaves years of music training and performance with attention to one small detail: good lyrics.

"I grew up listening to the songwriters more than anything," Kaelin said. "John Prine, Carolle King, John Denver, Richard Thompson. And I do write my words first because I want to make sure I'm saying something."

Now in addition to her work as a piano and accordion teacher at Bizannes Music Mart, Kaelin has the chance to get her music into more people's ears. Which means playing out more and, possibly, touring. The experienced group of sidemen who performed with her on Secrets, including her husband Thumas (who claims he's an amazing resource for her because he's done everything wrong), is giving Kaelin some help there as well.

"I'm trying to be smart about it. From playing with all these musicians, some have told me what not to do, not that anyone knows better than anyone else. Ask me how to make a documentary and I can tell you, because I've done that before. But as far as making a record, this is something that I've relied on other people who have done it before me. People say one thing, others say another. What I've decided is some sort of combination of what everybody else has done or wishes they'd done and that's starting locally and branching out.

"Eventually, I'd like to travel and play original music and have people come to see me because they want to come see me."

In an industry that is already crammed to capacity with mediocre (or worse) talent that either demands or begs for our attention, Kaelin's direct, simple attitude toward the work that is involved in making a recording that people will want to hear and the epic amount of work involved in touring to support it, is refreshing and distinctive. It fits the way she evolved as a musician: starting off on the side, shyly making her way into the spotlight, watching and studying and listening to the people she was backing. Put another way, moving from teacher, to sideman, to star and back again makes her a moving target, one that's harder for the twin beasts of music industry hype and obscurity to pounce on and devour.

"The music business is fickle," Kaelin said. "I'm not looking to be Britney Spears or Madonna. I just want to go somewhere."

Watch Brigid Kaelin go somewhere at - Louisville Music News

"Song Squeezer"

Onstage, singer-songwiter Brigid Kaelin reigns from behind a 48-bass vermillion-colored accordion emblazoned with the nickname "Big Red" -- which occasionally audience members might mistake as the red-headed Kaelin's moniker. If you have seen the 26-year-old perform, you might also mistake her sound for nationally emerging singer-songwriters Erin
McKeown or Nellie McKay or the long-established styles
of Joni Mitchell or Edi Brickell.
Kaelin's own versatile vocal style shifts seamlessly within a set from spirited to sultry. Her humorous
original "Whisky in the Faucet" imagines a world with bourbon flowing like water (and was inspired by the 1996 Heaven Hill Distillery fire and reports of bourbon in the water supply) within a playful "Big Rock Candy Mountain" sound, while the contemplative, stirring "Ballad of Motorcycle Joe," a tribute to a patron of Air Devils Inn, where Kaelin plays weekly, is seductive in its sadness.
The Louisville native, and former associate producer for the documentary division of CBS News in New York, plays regularly at Air Devils, Clifton's Pizza and
Gerstle's -- and can sometimes be spotted on a downtown street corner (where you might catch her doing a cover of Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine") playing guitar or accordion next to a tip jar marked "Good Karma."
Kaelin also performs frequently with local singer-songwriters such as Heidi Howe, danny flanigan, Dan Gediman, Tim Krekel and Nate Thumas (her husband).
"The musicians here are nice, helpful and want to help each other succeed. I don't know why more people aren't coming here to hear the songwriters," she says.
On a recent afternoon, Kaelin sat at the kitchen table of her Germantown home, poring over a five-subject notebook bursting from the spiral binding with the songs shw has written in the past three years, and reflected on her creative methods. "I get an idea for a song before I sit down to write it. I write the lyrics away from the piano or guitar and
then have it make sense with the music," she says.
Kaelin's style of clever, thoughtful songwriting and her "the accordion is for every occasion" attitude help her resist what she describes as the "tortured female singer who wails" classification. "I'm fascinated with the accordion... it bellows like it's
breathing and has a rich texture," she says, comparing its sounds to a saxophone and an organ.
Kaelin plans to release her first album next March, saying that she is motivated by her growing audience.
"I'm starting to not recognize the faces in the audience, which is cool," she notes. Kaelin's individualized approach to her music compliments a welcoming stage demeanor -- she often talks to fans and tells stories between songs. "Complete silence
makes me nervous," she says. "I like that the audience can be relaxed but still interact."
For a complete listing of Kaelin's upcoming shows and to join her mailing list, visit - Beth Newberry - Louisville Magazine

"Brigid Kaelin, 'Keep Your Secrets'"

By Jeffrey Lee Puckett
Courier-Journal Critic

Brigid Kaelin's reputation is for making positive, happy music -- which she does -- but that doesn't mean she's headed toward an old age of driving the "Up With People" tour bus.

"Keep Your Secrets" has its share of lighthearted songs, including "Whiskey in the Faucet," "Future Mr. Used-to-Be" and "I Want You All." But she also shows a rewarding somber side with "Do You Think About Her?" "Delaware" and "Secrets," on which she even makes an accordion sound mournful.

An A-list of local talent gives Kaelin's debut album a sheen that matches her thoughtful approach. - The Courier Journal


Brigid Kaelin: Those Who Drift Away (2017)
Brigid Kaelin: Once I Had EP (2015)
Brigid Kaelin: Waltzing Kentucky EP (2011)
Brigid Kaelin: West 28th Street (2008)
Brigid Kaelin: Keep Your Secrets (2005)

Novelty Holiday EP's:
Mazel Tonk! (2007)
Here Comes Santa Saws (2008)



Solo, duo, or full band. Currently touring as a duo with Steve Cooley (whom Bela Fleck recently dubbed "banjo master"), Brigid has done 2 tours of Europe in 2018 alone, playing from house concerts to large festivals. Next year she's got a UK tour in April and a continental Europe tour in July/August. Of course, she performs in the US regularly. 

Has opened for: Jason Isbell, Jim James, Loretta Lynn, Nellie McKay, Ben Folds, Maceo Parker, Patty Loveless, so many more.

"Wonderful songwriter." -Garrison Keillor (on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion)

"This hugely talented woman delicately mixes Americana and country with a dash of pop and an infusion of jazz on this her latest album." - Maverick Magazine(UK)

“...a hidden treasure of American(a) performance and songwriting. It is impossible to listen without smiling.” - WNTI, Spider Glenn

"Genry-defying." - A Prairie Home Companion

"Best Singer-Songwriter" - LEO Award (Louisville) 

Multi-instrumentalist Brigid Kaelin travels the world performing her alt-country-cabaret songs. She's been a musical guest on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion, was a semi-finalist on Nashville Star, has played accordion, musical saw, and sung with Elvis Costello many times, tours Europe at least once a year, yet remains a staple performer and utility player in the Louisville music scene. Her new album, Those Who Drift Away, was produced by Grammy-nominated banjo-legend Steve Cooley. Brigid also writes the popular blog, The Red Accordion Diaries, where she overshares her adventures in music, travel, whisk(e)y, and motherhood.  Louisville, Kentucky, is home ... for now.