Gabriel Kelley
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Gabriel Kelley

| INDIE

| INDIE
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"Americana Music Conference"

I went to 3rd & Lindsley for the last show I could attend and when I got there I found a bar filled with middle aged adults, a typical Nashville musician playing country and an at least 55 year old woman in a mini dress with bouffant hair. (I still don’t know why she was embarrassing herself in such a way.)

I sat through the set deciding when I was going to leave because there obviously wasn’t anything happening there. I thought if only I could get in to The Mercy Lounge!

But then after the second rate show had left the stage, Gabriel Kelley and the Reins set up and when he started playing I decided it was definitely worth it to stay.


I’m not sure what Americana means, not sure anyone does. We’re just happy we get to play a bit of what we call music,” said Gabriel Kelley.

All of the guys in the band look like mountain men, wearing checkered shirts, suspenders, and large beards. When the word “Americana” comes to mind these guys are what I picture. And then I listened to the music and I was completely relaxed and sucked in to the set.

Most of his songs started out very chill, easy to listen to and non-invasive but as each song progressed Kelley would just get more and more into it, stomping his feet, squinting his eyes closed and just belting out his version of Americana.

He talked in between songs mentioning how the band is from Nashville, how interesting it is to play in “a city of broken dreams” and how grateful he was to be there.

The lyrics were a little more sad than some of the other bands I heard but it just gave Kelley all the more passion in his performance.

After the set I went up to talk to him and just let him know that I enjoyed the music and I just had this feeling that he was different from the other musicians. It must have been the way he talked to me. Then I realized that the way he responded to me is what Americana is.

Everyone is different and everyone brings something new to the table whether it be happy lyrics, stand up bass, twangy voices or just an acoustic guitar. Americana being a roots based genre holds the idea of everyone going back home and being around family, a large family, where everyone always has something to add.

The all encompassing styles Americana covers shows how huge the genre can be but more importantly how everyone can come together, bring something to the table and create beautiful, relaxed and entertaining music but most of all music with passion.

And that, after four days of festival, is what I have learned Americana to be. - Chelsea Lynn Reed


"Living with Intention"

For most young musicians and songwriters, it’s an opportunity of which they can only dream: They put together a new band, they play the local club scene, create a buzz, and before they’ve become too burnt out and jaded, the big guns come calling, and sign them to a publishing and artist development deal. But for Gabriel Kelley, that dream became a reality, living out that exact scenario and moving to write in the commercial world of Nashville. Within the first two and a half years, Kelley had already recognized what he was contributing to wasn’t in alignment with his purpose. So, he just walked away.

An astonishingly good songwriter in the Americana vein (think Ryan Adams meets older Wilco or Jayhawks), in retrospect it seems that maybe Kelley wouldn’t have been a good match anyway. He’s not slick enough. But then listeners realize after hearing his songs and singing them all day—long after they’ve stopped playing—that this guy knows how to turn a phrase or inject a melody that stays. Really it’s the staying power that Nashville loves.

So how does one get an opportunity so rare in today’s music world and then decide that he’d rather do it on his own terms? Last week I spoke with Gabriel Kelley about his story and why he decided to walk away from commercial country music.

encore: How exactly did you end up in Nashville after beginning your band in Athens, Georgia?
Gabriel Kelley: At some point after about a year of playing in Athens, we started to get some attention from people. A guy named Scott Siman, who was Tim McGraw’s manager, heard about us through the grapevine and ended up coming down [from Nashville] to check us out. And from seeing us perform, I ended up getting a publishing deal to write music for a company called Stylesonic. The only reason I really moved to Nashville was they offered me a really good deal for a writing contract, where it was kind of an artist-development thing and also an opportunity to write in the commercial world, mainly for Tim McGraw.

e: Is it true that you’re no longer working with that company?
GK: It is. I parted ways with them this past June, mainly because I was coming from a place where my value system wasn’t matching up to what I guess is the Nashville mentality: you know, hit songwriting and success being [measured by] a certain amount of money or a certain amount of CDs sold. I’m at a place where I write what I write because I have to. What success means to me is writing about real-life experiences in a real way and not about dollar signs. And that’s become what my focus is.

e: How did that decision come about?
GK: I decided that I’d much rather not have that focus, to spend 80 percent of my time focusing on the 10 percent of commercial writing that I was doing. I just thought when I signed that deal—and it’s part of being a young guy, I guess—that I was willing to do this in order to support myself. But I feel now that, in many ways, it’s a cop-out because I feel like I’m really being honest and meaning what I say, which is where the value system comes into play. And I think if I’m doing that then success is something that just follows naturally. And success is being able to have a life and a career. I think it’s a natural byproduct of just being honest and making real music that people can relate to.

e: Where would you say that insight and integrity comes from?
GK: I’ve had it and developed it for a long time. And it’s not just music; it’s the way that I’ve decided to live my life. It’s the value system again and realizing where my value comes from. It’s obviously not about fame or money for me; it comes from somewhere deeper than that, being a human being like the rest of us.

I grew up in the countryside, living a very simple way. My parents are sort of old flower children from the ‘60s. So, I grew up on a farm in a log cabin where I spent a lot of time outside chopping wood and that sort of stuff. It was just very simple and very honest. And the music that we were playing and being a part of down there is old-time music. It is honest—it’s been around for 100 years. People aren’t doing it to impress anybody. They’re playing it on their front porches as a way of expressing themselves. So, I think a lot of it comes from that.

e: How would you say that this integrity manifests itself in other aspects in your life, and how do you go about your day keeping yourself focused?
GK: It’s about being open to living in a more conscious and intentional way. I think that’s what it really comes down to, and just kind of having an understanding of having intention and living consciously. I want to take the trash out in the morning with the same intention that I do from the stage. I don’t want to make that more of an important thing. I just want to be who I am in the moment. That just kind of happens naturally, musically.

e: Is that where the conflict arises with the music business?
GK: It’s kind of funny; you take something that’s really from the heart and real and intentional, and you take it to the music-business people, and it’s turned into something lacking heart because it’s about money. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t many people within that community that are there for the right reasons and literally got into music because they have a genuine love for real music. Those people are out there, and I’ve made a lot of those connections recently, and that’s a huge joy. Now it’s about making more of those. - Adrian Varnum


"Music Fog review w/ video"

Gabriel Kelley "You Kill Me"
Gabriel Kelley Gabriel Kelley and his band The Reins are on a roll. They've picked up management, agency representation, and a songwriting deal since moving to Nashville in 2007, and delivered a six song EP Light at The Bottom in 2008. The new EP is called Stranded In Nashville and is being released on Dualtone digital in the next couple of weeks, as is Light At The Bottom.

They played the Americana Fest with quite a buzz on the full band set at Third & Lindsley, however, we did a solo Gabriel Kelley session, and that is real satisfying too. Here's one of the new songs, "You Kill Me."

-Jessie - http://musicfog.typepad.com/music_fog/2009/10/gabriel-kelley-you-kill-me.html


Discography

Light at the Bottom EP (Dualtone)

Stranded in Nashville (released on Dualtone Digital )

Photos

Bio

Born and raised on a farm in Northeast Georgia, Gabriel Kelley grew up living a simple life surrounded by music. In his youth he left home to travel the country playing music. After 18 months, life on the road brought him back to Athens, Ga, where he put his experiences to work starting a band. After touring this band for some time, his regional success attracted a publishing deal offer from a prominent company out of Nashville, Tn

In the spring of 2005 Gabriel moved to Nashville and signed the deal with Style Sonic Publishing, where he began writing songs for Tim McGraw. During this time he released two EPs, ‘Light at the Bottom’ and ‘Stranded in Nashville’. In 2009, after fulfilling his publishing contract he decided to leave the deal to pursue his own artist career. He sold most of his belongings and moved into a 1977 Dodge RV to reestablish his motives for writing--focusing on creating simple music dealing with real life experiences. He spent the past year writing material for his first full-length record, It Don’t Come Easy, with plans to record in 2011.

Go to www.gabrielkelley.com for more information and links to videos and all social media.