The new copy of Riff Journal just came out and I’m honored to be a featured artist this issue! I’d like to thank the TrueFire team for including me– Jeff Scheetz, for writing the article, Alison Hasbach, for the great photos, and Brad Wendkos for running such a cool organization! YOU guys ROCK!!!
Check out the magazine– the article is on page 34. Enjoy!
Here’s the Q & A the article was written from– thank you Jeff Scheetz!
How old were you when you started playing guitar?
I started playing guitar when I was 15 years old.
Did you play anything else before or since?
I grew up playing piano. My mother was classically trained, so there was always a piano in our living room. I started taking weekly piano lessons when I was 5 or 6 years old and continued through 7th grade.
My next door neighbor had a set of drums I used to play, and one day he offered to let me borrow them so I could play them at my house instead of his. Yay! Then, one day my Dad said to me, “Kelly, if you quit playing those drums I’ll buy you whatever you want!” So, that’s when I got my first guitar!
You tour a lot – what is it about touring that you like – that keeps you going back for more? (How many shows do you do per year?)
I like the challenge— you never know what’s going to happen once you hit the road. Weather, travel conditions, band dynamics, vehicle issues, traffic, and/or other events you compete against from town to town. There are so many variables you just can’t worry about what might happen, but rather you train yourself to stay focused on what is. I’ve seen parts of the country I would have never seen, met people I would have never met, woven in and out of cultures I would have never experienced, and become aware of how different— yet how much alike we all really are. I do most of my thinking when I’m driving. I work out song ideas in hotel rooms, take those riffs and different jams to the stage and see what kind of response I get from my band and from the audience.
I started touring in 1986 with a band on Arista records called Stealin’ Horses. We played all over the USA, playing as many as 275 shows per year. That was grueling! I was with that band on and off from 1986 to 1990. In 1991, I started the Kelly Richey band. I built a local, then regional fan base, released my first record in 1994, and started touring nationally in 1997 with the release of my 4th CD “Eyes Of A Woman”. For the next 13 years I toured all over the USA and Canada with several tours to Europe as well. I averaged 200 plus shows per year. In 2010, I took a much needed year-long break from touring and then returned to the road in 2011— averaging 100 plus shows that year. I find recording albums and touring to go hand-in-hand, and both are a crucial component in my life as an artist.
Touring is hard and it takes it’s toll on musicians, but it’s the main way to get your music out there and it helps hone one’s skills. For me, touring is about hitting the stage and seeing what I’m made of: as a player, a person, and as an artist. There are things you can’t know about yourself without putting yourself on the front line and going for it. Things happen when you tour… good and bad, easy and hard. Some nights you play a great venue and the house is packed, other nights it’s not a great venue and only a few people are there. You always have to do your best, and you have to be thick-skinned enough to weather whatever you’re faced with and still find a way to allow yourself to become vulnerable AND perform well when you hit the stage.
Touring is not for everyone, and I can honestly say that I’ve always found it to be hard and fairly unappealing in many respects; however, I LOVE to play and it’s the only way I know to get an entirely new audience each and every night of my life. Each town and each situation is unique, and so are the individuals sitting in every seat.
What is the most difficult thing about touring these days? Have you seen anything change in touring over the years?
The landscape of music has drastically changed since I first started touring. The club scene is not what it use to be, with the development of 500 cable stations, the internet bringing in so many affordable forms of entertainment into your living room, and artists’ of all stages of development having access to recording makes the airwaves and internet filled (if not saturated) with music, photos, sales pitches, stories and ads. It takes a lot to get peoples’ attention nowadays, and I’m constantly reminded that the most important thing is to be real, be who you are, and share that with your audience. You must remain relevant in today’s market, and you must give your audience a reason to connect with you because there are too many choices and people have to genuinely want to care and feel connected.
The hard costs of touring have doubled, and in some case tripled! Gas, hotels, vehicle maintenance, and food have all gone up— and pay is seldom guaranteed, but rather based on ticket sales. Often people don’t realize that an artist can drive 20 hours to play a show and he or she may not make a dime. If you run your own band then your are responsible for paying your band members no matter what. The hard core realities are intense, and impact an artists’ mental, physical and emotional ability to perform and maintain healthy relationships. CD’s are becoming souvenirs, and though they still cost the same to make and to promote, people can get your music for almost free online or from their friends. The artist has to be smarter today than ever before, and creativity often plays out more in survival mode than in “artistic mode” but again, this business is for the hardcore “fire in the belly” types and not so much for those with any sense of an altruistic point of view. Please do not take me wrong, music can and should be enjoyed and supported on all levels, but if you’re going to try to support yourself with it, it’s a very different animal and you need to be prepared for the realities.
As a teacher what do you think is the most important thing to help students with?
I think there are a few key elements that need to be explored; first, what are your students’ personal music goals? Second, what is your students’ learning style? And third, what natural abilities exist so you can teach to their weaknesses and help them leverage their strengths?
1) The teacher should never confuse their goals for the student with the goals they have for themselves. Find out what your student wants to learn and help them assess what it will take for them to do so. This is critical because learning to play the guitar is quite different than “mastering” an instrument. Some students seek mastery and other students just want to play and have fun— one is no more important or admirable than the other; however, it’s important to identify these goals and design an effective practice routine that helps every student to succeed.
2) Learning style is critical. Some students need to know “why” so theory and structure are going to be a key component in their ability to learn. Other students find theory to be intimidating— and even an obstacle to learning, so a good teacher will find creative ways to teach theory while they learn, instead of as a means to learning. These are two very different approaches and both equally important. A teacher should be prepared to meet the learning style of each student in a way that keeps the student inspired and excited to learn.
3) Find out what your students strengths and weaknesses are. Some students may have natural ability, but have had very few opportunities to learn or to play. Get to know your student, see what things come naturally and what things will come solely through learning and developing a skill set that may not be intuitive. This also plays into helping students develop the proper practice routine, and find out what exposure they’ve had to music; as well as identifying their possible natural ability and they what they want to accomplish, and how fast. This is yet another reason to help students develop the appropriate practice routine. I always have students “play to their strengths and practice to their weaknesses” to insure a healthy balance of fun while helping them to achieve the results desired.
Final thought: people are really busy so I never underestimate the importance of defining for them where to place their focus and their time. As a teacher for over three decades, I find this to be very important.
You write, record, tour and teach – is it ever difficult balancing all those things and making sure you are doing your best in each area?
Yes and no. For me they all work hand in hand. You need an album to promote yourself, and you need to promote yourself in order to book gigs successfully, and you need to tour successfully to sell records. All that builds clout with students who want to learn to play and preform. Writing is something that comes in waves for most artists, but it’s the dedication to the craft of writing that equals the artists’ ability to generate a complete body of work. It’s a massive amount of work to do this on a professional level, and there have been times when I couldn’t see how I was going to pull things off… but you learn to do the next thing, stay focused and don’t freak out!
I just released my 16th album, and honestly, with the release of each CD, it never gets easier! When you’re in the middle of things it’s hard to see and maintain perspective. I can play the guitar, that’s not at question; but can I book gigs? Can I maintain a good band? Can I write music and remain relevant? Can I remain healthy and strong enough to meet the physical endurance and sheer cost of being on tour? And when I teach, can I show up, fully present to support and inspire students to learn and be their best?
I learn as much from teaching as I ever did when I took lessons, and I get better at my song writing craft with each album that I record. Playing live on stage is a constant opportunity to learn and grow, and it’s also an opportunity to discover what you need to learn. In short, it’s all a very organic process and you really must have the passion to pull it all off. I’ve done this non-stop since I was 15, with one short break in 2010 to get healthy, get 100% sober and redirect “my path” for sustainable success. I can honestly say it’s worth it, but in the middle of a snow storm in North Dakota with the highways shut down and no Starbucks in sight, some days I question my choices! ;>)
What are your plans for the next year?
I just released my 16th album “Shakedown Soul”, and I have six solo shows and six Kelly Richey Band shows between now and the end of February to support the release of my new CD. I will be shooting my next TrueFire series in mid-January, and this series will be a “Focus On” what it takes to play guitar in a power trio. I’m excited about this series, as I’ve been a guitarist in a power trio the majority of my career and it’s very different than working with another guitar player or touring with keys. This past year was my first time only playing festivals and concerts with my band (no club gigs), and fully developing a solo show that would allow me to have the greatest flexibility to travel, write, and remain excited by all that I’m doing. I played just 30 show with my band this past year— and we honestly had a blast! It was my best year ever! I played almost 50 solo shows and carved out an amazingly strong platform for taking the high energy of my guitar style to the stage all by myself. I use a crazy setup with a boss RC300 looper, Native Instruments Maschine Studio for drum beats and loops, a stereo guitar amp that allows me to create a wall of sound that puts a smile on my face all night long and keeps me fresh and looking forward to the shows where I hit the stage with my band: Tobe “Tobotius” Donohue on drums, scratching and DJ work; and Rikk Manning, who is a bass beast! Tobe and Rikk have supported me in taking my playing, writing, and performances to a whole new level. I’ve honestly never been so excited to be playing music, except for when I got my first guitar!
I have an excellent team around me now. I have an amazing band, a fresh new sound that blends electronica, funk, hard rock and blues; I have a new record that represents the best work I’ve ever done, and I have Sonya Ziegler, my photographer, consultant, editor, artistic director, and voice of reason behind the scenes. Sonya has been instrumental in helping me select material and is a solid sounding board for me when I song write. I’m already starting to get booked up for 2016 with band shows and solo shows, so I’m very excited to see what’s in store for all of us!
In combination with performing and recording, teaching is woven into most days of my life. I’m either catching up with my TrueFire students in my classroom, teaching someone in my studio one-on-one, or delivering a Skype lesson to someone somewhere in the world. Teaching guitar is a major passion of mine! I have a three-part video series I developed in my home studio called “Blues On Steroids” and it’s a deep dive into my playing style that covers rhythm, lead, theory, and all the tips, tricks, and techniques I use. I find that creating videos gives me an added ability to support the needs of students and meets all forms of learning styles. In conjunction with teaching, I am also a writing facilitator for Women Writing for (a) Change; I do writing workshops and hold writing circles. And I run a non-profit organization called Music for Change. I’m committed to help keep music and arts alive in our school system! You can find out more about M4C here– https://kellyrichey.com/m4c
You can read more about the making of the CD at the following link:
CD SHORT DESCRIPTION:
“Shakedown Soul” is Kelly Richey’s 16th album in her 35 year career as a Master guitar slinger. The album is an unprecedented mix of urban/indie in-your-face, raucous rock n roll, blues, funky bass grooves, and synthesized electronica— complete with DJ scratching and drum loops; with added elements like horns, strings, and synth sequencing that combine to make “Shakedown Soul” a one-of-kind, phenomenal sonic wall of sound that will have you foot stomping and head banging one minute and completely mesmerized the next. Richey’s husky alto vocals and raw, ultra personal songwriting will leave you introspective, speechless and wanting more. Her guitar work on this album is truly exceptional— the songs retain her signature Strat sound, but Richey steps out of the box to incorporate new melodies and synthesized guitar sounds that sit perfectly within the concept of the album.
“Shakedown Soul” is a studio album superbly mixed and mastered by Tobe “Tobotius” Donohue and features a group of extraordinary musicians and back scene talent all collaborating to make the finest piece of work that Richey has done to date. All the songs are original, and feature Richey on guitar and vocals, Rikk Manning on bass, and Tobe Donohoe on drums, scratching and synths. In “You Wanna Rock” and “Love” you can hear some of Richey’s early influences from bands like Led Zeppelin, Free, and Bad Company. The song “Lies” is influenced by Sheryl Crow’s self titled album, and the tracks “Afraid To Die” and “The Artist In Me” are haunting tunes that reflect the influence producer Daniel Lanois and artist Emmy Lou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” album had on her. Add to that list “Just like A River” and you have three songs taken from Richey’s poetry and reflect her influence for artist Patti Smith— while musically being influenced from bands like the Smithereens and early Chrissy Hinds of the Pretenders. “I Want To Run” draws on straight forward power chords and powerful riffs that pull from influences like Lenny Kravitz. “Only Going Up” and “I Want To Run” is where you’ll find a classic example of where rock and roll and electronica meet face to face! Richey approached the writing and recording from a strip-downed perspective, writing the majority of this material to both rock and hip-hop drum loops. Heavily influenced by the work of early Black Keys, Jack White and Led Zeppelin, Richey handed her songs to Tobe to “do his thing”. Richey said to Tobe and Rikk, “You make me cool and you make me relevant and I’ll make you rock!” Indeed she did! Tobe brings his unique bend of heavy funk, electronica, D.J. production to each song, and Rikk manning completes the groove with his spectacular bass playing.
Never one to rest on her laurels, Richey has crafted her finest album to date, featuring ten stellar songs that are guaranteed to blow you away whether you are an old fan or new. Be prepared for an astonishing, intense sonic experience that will leave you with your jaw on the ground!