Kelley McRae
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Kelley McRae

Austin, TX | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Austin, TX | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Duo Americana Folk




""The last songs that made me cry were by a young New York singer, Kelley McRae." - Wim Wenders, San Francisco Chronicle"

In an interview in the San Francisco Chronicle, acclaimed German filmmaker Wim Wenders was asked about life, film and music. This is what he had to say about Kelley McRae:

Q: When was the last time a work of art (music, film, painting, etc.) made you cry?

A: I saw a great Paul Klee exhibition not long ago. ... The last songs that made me cry were by a young New York singer, Kelley McRae. One was called "Time," and the other one "Break Us." - San Francisco Chronicle

""Sometimes a great voice and acoustic guitar really are all you need." -"

Following her critically-acclaimed debut, 2006’s Never be, Brooklyn-based country-folk singer Kelley McRae takes a more experimental route to the coffee house this time around. And with Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) replacing J.D. Foster (Laura Cantrell) in the producer’s chair on Highrises in Brooklyn, it was only to be expected that a certain amount of synthesized scratch, crackle and bleep would be utilized to flesh out McRae’s rootsy tales of late-night bars and fractured relationships—not to mention the synthesizer-generated hand-claps on the otherwise catchy electro-pop of the title-track. The real magic, however, happens in front of the mic when McRae’s sweet, seemingly wood-smoked larynx, pitched somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Michelle Shocked, is allowed to take flight and soar on the handful of stripped-down numbers like the bluesy “Last Call Town” and album highlight “Sparrow”, a fluttering melancholy ballad. Sometimes a great voice and acoustic guitar really are all you need. -

""She breaks past the usual sensitive singer-songwriter limitations with a booming, R&B-influenced voice" - Nashville Scene"

Most songs about Johnny Cash focus on his image as a rebel, a hell-raiser or a tortured seeker of universal truths. But McRae, a Mississippian residing in New York City, finds a new angle. She wants to love someone the way Cash loved June Carter. That may sound cheesy, but McRae turns it into a layered meditation on what matters in life. McRae's earned a budding reputation in arthouse clubs like Manhattan's Knitting Factory and The Living Room by forgoing irony and sarcasm, instead exploring the modern experience with a refreshing directness that finds freedom in living and loving ethically and honestly. She breaks past the usual sensitive singer-songwriter limitations with a booming, R&B-influenced voice and by augmenting her acoustic instruments with sweet, quartet-style harmonies and soulful touches of organ and accordion. - Nashville Scene

""Before the age of thirty, Kelley McRae managed to write two songs that stand among the true greats, an accomplishment many artists work for a lifetime and never achieve.""

What’s the old saying, “never send a letter when you’re angry”? Well, no one ever told Kelley McRae not to write an album when she was angry (not to mention depressed, exasperated, insecure, vulnerable and lonely), so that’s exactly what she did. Highrises in Brooklyn came out of a period where she was getting out of a terrible relationship via a heart-rending breakup. Rather than shut down completely, she channeled her emotions into her music, as many have done before. But what could have been just another miserable cliché full of ironic bitch paeans and revenge songs was instead molded by the hands of this budding master songwriter into a tour de force full of emotional resonance. - No Surf Music

"“…an incredible voice, a timeless sound, and an album that shows emotion in all its forms”"

"Her songs all have a trademark sound and her songwriting is clean, succinct and she does a great job bringing you inside her head and all it’s wonderful thoughts. From love songs to songs called simply “Alone”, she manages to give happiness and sadness the same sweet musical sound, one that makes you want to sit, close your eyes and focus on the music." - Ear to the Ground Music

"Paste Magazine gives 'Never Be' FOUR STARS"

Part of a new generation of Celtic singer/songwriters working out of Brooklyn and the East Village, Kelley McRae came from Mississippi dragging a guitar case full of rural influences. On 'Never Be,' she moves effortlessly from the mournful tones of the plantation to the celebratory swing of the saloon, from songs of loss and decay to hymns of love and grace. A ruminative writer with an attractively vulnerable twang in her voice, McRae has made an assured and varied coffe-house debut that helps put a little Hank into Williamsburg. - Paste Magazine

""Brighter Than the Blues" Review"

“The new album’s wonderful title track is a marvel of simple production that defies the stripped instrumentation with densely packed layers of guitars strummed atop a shuffling foot-driven beat (amped up to eleven." - Direct Current

""Kelley McRae, with this second album, continues to prove that there is more to her than just a stunning voice, but that she is also an incredibly talented songwriter.""

Kelley McRae, with this second album, continues to prove that there is more to her than just a stunning voice, but that she is also an incredibly talented songwriter.

“Highrises in Brooklyn” is as much a powerful album as it is proof that there is no genre that Kelley McRae cannot tackle and make her own. From the sorrow of the folksy “Sparrow”, to the bluesy “More of Nothin”, to the mildly country “Last Call Town”, McRae proves again and again that she can write and sing it all.

As if that were not enough, she somehow entwines each with a hint of her own personal touch, making it so that this CD, containing so many different styles, still feels like a coherent collection, versus a hodgepodge of what-have-you.

McRae is also very honest in her songwriting. Nowhere is this more evident than in the aforementioned “Sparrow“. In an interview with McRae, she told me that this is the one song, more so than any other, which so many of her fans have claimed as their own… and it’s no wonder. Brutally honest and soulful, it reveals itself with each verse. - The Vinyl Experience

"Kelley McRae: An Interview on Becoming 'Never Be'"

Kelley McRae: An Interview on Becoming 'Never Be'

A New Breed Of Film Making
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Give me something deep! I've got access to over 2 million songs on my iTunes, so why is it bloody impossible to find music that's worth a second thought? I need something emotional: music that's refreshingly nostalgic, yet still part of a genre outside the realm of the emo cult. Forget pop music; I crave intelligent lyrics – maybe even the kind which possess a metaphor or two: words meaningful to an artist, and all the more meaningful to me. I need something uplifting and spiritual, but not overwhelmingly saccharine. I'd love to take in some music that's real.

I'm at a point where radio play lists are falling miserably short of entertaining me, and after hearing K-Fed's rap debut just once, I've stomached enough 'PopoZao' for a million miserable lifetimes.

One will find though, that there is always a silver lining, and of late I found my own glimmer of hope for the music world in the debut album of newcomer Kelley McRae, 'Never Be.' I recently interviewed the 26 year old Starkville, Mississippi native about herself and her music, and she graciously filled me in on the elements that go in to creating her unique, yet comfortably familiar sound.

EL: 'Your debut album is amazing! What went in to creating it and how would you personally describe your sound?'

KM: 'My sound's definitely a blend of folk, gospel, and country - different influences. There were a lot of components to putting the album together: the writing and creating the blend of sounds. I sing with two other girls that I met at school: Sarah Fullen and Virginia Kull; they write and sing the harmony.'

EL: 'Tell me about school?'

KM: 'I went to school at Southern Methodist University in Texas to study acting. I took guitar my junior year as an elective and fell in love with writing and the whole song writing process. I was torn between the two (acting and music), but music became my heart.'

EL: 'Let me say that I think it's fantastic you've written a song called 'Johnny Cash.' What kind of influence does he have on you and your music?'

KM: 'Certainly, I have a huge respect for Johnny cash and his wife June Carter; he is just one of those amazing artist on so many levels. His wife is so interesting as well. But actually the song itself was inspired by some graffiti. At home someone had spray-painted 'Johnny Cash died from a broken heart' on a warehouse at just about the time that he died. I took my inspiration from that.'

EL: 'In 'Stone Cold Sober' you compare a bad lover to a drink. Do you think that people can become addicted to a bad relationship?'

KM: 'Absolutely. I think that a huge inspiration of mine from my acting background is examining why we do what we do, and the heart always has its own desires apart from our minds. We can abuse anything - from a relationship to almost anything else.'

EL: ''Never Be' seems like an ironic name for an album with such obvious potential. What is the significance of the title to your debut?'

KM: 'When I lived in Baltimore, I played in a cafe every Thursday night. I got to know this older sailor man who has become one of my really close friends, and we sort of clicked. He is also painter and I loved the way he looked at the world. We were on the phone one day, and he said to me, 'You'll never be far from me.' And that's where the song came from; it's a song for Richard, my friend - a song for people who will always be with us, and he definitely is.

EL: 'Wow, I would never have thought that's what the album title meant out of context!'

KM: 'Yeah, I like that. I am sort of hesitant about my song's explicit meanings, because the song is for the audience and I am really interested in people sort of making it their own.'

EL: 'In 'Morning Song' you bring a refreshing perspective to the beauty of spending time alone. Do a lot of your song ideas come to you when you are by yourself?'

KM: 'I never really thought about it. I think that they can come from almost anywhere, when you have your eyes and ears open. And sometimes they come from something someone says that rings true for you. I certainly do songwriting when I am alone, but ideas will come from anywhere.'

EL: 'Tell me which song off of 'Never Be' you enjoy the most. Why is it your favorite?'

KM: 'That's a hard question. I don't know; they really all sort of have their different places. I don't really have a favorite so it would be hard for me to say.'

EL: 'Any other talents outside of music your fans should know about?'

KM: 'I don't know, hopefully acting; I have a degree in it! And (acting) is something I would love to return to. I am pretty singularly focused on music and song writing right now, and I love collaborating with people. I love music so much. I think about it when I wake up in the morning, and I try to view everything as a writer. That's the privilege with writing: it's a -


Still working on that hot first release.



FOUR STARS - Paste Magazine

"The last songs that made me cry were by a young singer from New York, Kelley McRae." - Wim Wenders, San Francisco Chronicle

"Brilliant." - Bob Harris, BBC Radio

Named a WNYC Soundcheck 'Performance of the Year'

“McRae and Castelein have been regularly compared to Welch and Rawlings, the latter should take that as a real compliment.” – Folk Radio UK

In the last 5 years, Kelley McRae has played over 500 shows coast to coast in the US and Europe, sold out the Bluebird Cafe, and performed at the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga (headlined by Buddy Guy).  Kelley's music is wide ranging – comprising haunting ballads, tender love songs, and energetic guitar driven songs full of hope, and she has found impressive fans: Paste Magazine gave her four stars raveing “Kelley moves effortlessly from the mournful tones of the plantation to the celebratory swing of the saloon, from songs of loss and decay to hymns of love and grace.” Acclaimed film director Wim Wenders told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kelley’s songs move him to tears, and WNYCs Soundcheck named her performance one of the years best. The duo has performed at such venues as The Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, The Red Clay Theatre in Atlanta, and The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and have performed with Nikki Lane, Kim Richey, The David Wax Museum, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Ana Egge, and Rose Cousins among others.  The duo recently completed a 50 date/ 8 country tour of Europe with shows in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris.

Previous Festivals: Riverbend (Chattanooga, TN), Rhythm and Blooms (Knoxville, TN), Forecastle Music Festival (Louisville, KY), CMJ (NYC), NXNE (Toronto, ON)

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