SHIMMERING NORTHWEST AMERICANA
It’s been ten years since her last album, and three years since Kelly Brightwell put a promising solo career on hold to raise her daughter Carissa. Hearts and Home, her newest offering, is the product of the intervening years of soul-searching and personal growth.
Her debut EP, Wait for Your Spring was released in 2004. At that time, her aspiration to be a nationally touring artist seemed to be well on its way to becoming reality. Her songs received airplay on community and college radio stations across the Midwest, Colorado and California. NPR featured her tune “Rockets” on their All Songs Considered website. Satirical cultural observer The Onion picked up her rising star and featured her album in their national outlets. And her songs “Knee Deep” and “Daffodils” garnered her an honorable mention at that year’s Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest.
A repetitive stress injury at the end of her 2005 touring schedule put Kelly on the sidelines for the next several years. She took a hiatus from performing, and a couple of years later, got married and moved from Minneapolis, MN to Portland OR. She took a position with online music distributor CD Baby and left that job after 3 years to stay home with her own brand new baby.
During that time, the idea for an album began to take shape. “The material for this record was taken from everything I’d written since my first CD came out.” She explains, “So it’s really a map of changes -- life changes as well as artistic changes. These songs have been touchstones for me, and I hope they can be signposts for others: songs about living your truth, claiming your heart and finding your home.”
She chose Rob Stroup at 8 Ball Studio to record and produce Hearts and Home. "Kelly writes songs that are evolved” he says, “with themes that are literary, meditative, and explore parallels between our lives and nature. She sings with the smoothness of Sarah McLachlan, but with a bit more Americana grit and charm.” Members of his band, The Blame, provide a rootsy, classic country & western backdrop that adds texture and brings Kelly’s songs to life.
“‘Birds and Stones’ opens the album with a lively country shuffle, followed by the breezy and introspective ‘Walden’, featuring pedal steel. ‘Treeline’ recalls mid-70’s Laurel Canyon-era folk and early Fleetwood Mac while ‘Lightning’s Goodbye’ is an emotionally-charged ballad with slide guitar and a bittersweet sentiment. The aptly-titled ‘The Rain And The Radio’ has a timeless quality that would be at home in any era, with shimmering guitars and catchy, radio-ready, rain-soaked refrain.” (Justin Kreitzer, Dayton City Paper)
Since the album’s release, a group of seasoned players have joined Kelly to support her live performances. Jeff Koch (Beautiful Train Wrecks, The Noted) creates a moody atmosphere with his electric guitar wizardry. Bassist Michael Henchman (solo singer/songwriter) provides a deep groove and back-up vocals. Casey McBride (James Faretheewell, Christie Josef) brings driving rhythms and nuanced textures.
Kelly’s finely crafted songs have won her numerous accolades: second place in the 2014 and 2015 Tucson Folk Festival Songwriting Competition, finalist in the 2014 IAMA Susanne Millsaps Songwriter Showcase, and another honorable mention in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest. With a new band on board, and a standout sophomore album, Kelly has returned to music-making with all the wisdom of her past, and hope for a bright future.
The way, way back background...
Kelly Hagee started teaching herself to play piano in the 6th grade, after a brief love affair with the trumpet ended abruptly. By age 13, she was composing and performing her instrumental piano pieces in local talent shows.
While traveling with the Audubon Expedition Institute after high school, she picked up the guitar and learned the traditional folk songs of Appalachia and the Old West. She began penning her own tunes at 21, living in a tent outside of Santa Fe and drinking too much coffee.
A couple of years later, back in the Midwest, she fronted a folk/rock band (Chicago) and later played in an acoustic duo (Madison and Minneapolis). In 2002, she first attended the Song School, part of the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest in Lyons, CO. At that time, she began to explore her individual voice, adopted her late grandmother's maiden name and became Kelly Brightwell.
Kelly's first solo recording, Wait for Your Spring, was released in the fall of 2004. It was originally intended as a demo, and features alt-pop anthems, intimate acoustic tracks, driving ballads and dance mixes. Her strong lyrics, penetrating insight and clear voice shine through on every song.
She toured throughout 2004-5, playing such notable folk venues as Ginkgo Coffeehouse in St. Paul, MN; Café Montmartre and Mother Fool’s in Madison, WI; Rose Street House of Music in Berkeley, CA; and Uncommon Ground in Chicago, IL. It was her pleasure to share the stage with a diverse group of well-loved folk performers such as Chuck Brodsky, Ellis, Tret Fure, Cindy Kallet, Justin Roth, and Barb Ryman.
In 2006, she took a hiatus from the guitar due to repetitive stress injuries. She and her new husband moved to Portland, Oregon in 2007, where Kelly joined the team at CD Baby. Kelly spent 3 years there learning the music distribution business, assisting artists with their online sales, and organizing the company’s annual International Folk Alliance presence.
At the end of 2010, she made the decision to be a full-time, stay-at-home, songwriting mama to her brand new baby girl:)