Annie and Ray Fiore with Capt. Tony and Lori at Capt. Tony's Saloon in Key West, Fla. 2000.
Twice Shy playing a show in Isafjordur, Iceland
Cletus & Lori
Lori Kelley at Lizard's Bobby's Idle Hour in Nashville, TN.
all about me
“I can’t thank my Dad enough for breaking our TV,” says Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lori Kelley. “That made us kids turn our full attention to music.”
Though she didn’t start penning songs until she was 16, Kelley’s earliest memories are all rooted in music.
“My mother loved to dance and she was singing and whistling--all the time.” It didn’t take long for Kelley to follow her lead, singing her way through grade school. By age 9, others began to take notice, earning her a spot in school as the little girl with a big voice.
“My sister, Kristie taught me how to play guitar when I was 11 years old,” says Kelley. “By 16 I had written my first song.”
In the years that followed, Kelley would hone her skills as a writer, a player, and most notably a singer. With a husband in the Coast Guard, she moved around the country often. Change was constant—and so was her music.
Kelley spent a stint in the Washington DC area for 4 years, performing in the band Twice Shy she founded with her sister and brother in law, Michelle and Butch Nielson. A move to Key West inspired many years of songwriting, and eventually got her a prime spot at the famed Key West Songwriters Festival. While in Key West, she caught the ear of many a music lover who became loyal fans of her residency at Capt. Tony’s Saloon.
“There was this one man who would come to hear me play, but he’d never come in. He’d stand at the door and when I was finished with my set he’d fold his hands at his chest, look at me, and bow,” she recalls. “It was Shel Silverstein.”
A year after his death, a friend of Silverstein’s shared his kind words—that he would often tell people, if they were ever in Key West, they had to go to Capt. Tony’s to hear Lori Kelley sing.
Eventually, Kelley moved back to DC for a second time and stayed for over a decade, performing and touring with local artist Cletus Kennelly. Their award-winning duo, Cletus and Lori, won over 13 WAMMIE Awards (Washington Area Music Association Awards) which included Songwriters of the Year and Best Contemporary Folk Duo/Group.
Between gigs, Kelley began her pilgrimages to Nashville three times a year. In 2013, she and her family made the permanent move.
“When I first got to Nashville, I hit the open mic circuit every week and I met so many amazing writers that way,” says Kelley. “Tim Carroll…Dave Pahanish…people who really inspire me still to this day.”
Kelley has spent much of her time over the past five years focusing on co-writes with artists who were looking to cut their own songs. “I wanted to be that person that helped aspiring artists get to the next level. Also, I love how no one in Nashville seems to care about age when it comes to songwriting. I’ve had people of all ages approach me to write with them after hearing me play in songwriter rounds.”
Though she still co-writes around town with both hitmakers and artists, Kelley says her goals this year have shifted. Her new full-length album, Under Stars and Storms, is her step onto center stage.
“I think people who know me as a collaborator and have listened to my music in the past will be surprised by this album,” says Kelley. “They’re songs I wrote because they’re from my heart. They’re not just for other people to sing.”
The 8-track album was recorded in Nashville with producer and songwriter Cliff Goldmacher. Nashville studio musicians Catherine and Kerry Marx (Johnny Cash, James Taylor, Olivia Newton John, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire...), drummer Nick Buda (Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” and “Red” albums), Dave Francis (Bassist on Luke Combs’ “Hurricane”), soulful singer Jason Eskridge (backing vocals for Lyle Lovett), and percussionist Glen Caruba (Jimmy Buffett, Pam Tillis) helped shape the folk pop sound.
For Kelley, the album is a new approach to the creative process.
“My previous albums were just a series of songs. They were a little disjointed,” she says. “I wanted to do an album purposefully, and I wanted the songs to relate to each other.”
“In the past I always put my songs out there for people to critique, I stopped doing that,” says Kelley. “These are my feelings and ponderings. This is what I have to say.”
Without Blue - (Lori Kelley)
“This song is for anyone who’s had a rough time of it. It’s a reminder to keep your eye on the prize. I was compelled to write this song after a family friend came to visit me and my kids. A devastating period of her life had knocked her down and stolen a piece of her spirit, but when we saw her she was doing well. People say you have to “grow through what you go through” and she had. The song is for anyone who has gone through a tough time. What I want them to know is, you’re going to make it.”
Ain’t Ever Letting Go -(Lori Kelley)
“I wanted to write something fun about two very special and quirky friends of mine. He’s a real-deal cowboy and she’s a nurse. Knowing their story and seeing them together warms the cockles of my heart. I had to write about it.”
Honey and Sugar - (Lori Kelley)
“I woke up one morning feeling super dreamy and inspired to write. The sun was just rising and golden light filled my room with music. I started recording this little song on my phone about how different—but also how alike men and women are—and how we can make our lives sweeter together. No need to complicate it. This is just a sweet song about love.”
Lori enjoys writing songs in the flavors of Folk/Pop/Fiction with a dash of Country.
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