Interview by Scott Preston
Guitarist/singer Kelly Richey has been described by one music critic as: “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out.” That’s an apt appraisal of the Lexington, Kentucky native, who’s now been based in Cincinnati for many years. Over the course of many album releases (and a live DVD), Richey has often been compared to such greats as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan because of her ability to capture and entertain an audience with ripping guitar leads that both sing and astonish.
In addition to her work as a touring artist, Richey’s involvement with music hardly concludes when the stage lights go down or the studio goes quiet. She has committed her life to music across the board. For 25 years, Richey has taught private guitar instruction. In 2003, Richey began developing a Guitar Workshop and a Blues History program to take into the schools. In 2004, Richey became an “Artist on Tour” with the Cincinnati Arts Association, and in 2005, was added to the Kentucky Center’s artist roster. That same year, Richey began delivering an adult education program that included a six-week Guitar Instruction program. The following year, Richey created Music for Change, a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to music education in today’s public schools, a discipline all too often cut when districts are hit with budgetary constraints. A variety of programs offering live performances, lectures, and interactive participation serve to facilitate learning opportunities for students while keeping the history of American music alive and prospering. Through standards-based instruction and academic enrichment, Music for Change programs support and strengthen existing school curricula. Richey’s entire life is dedicated to enhancing the musical experiences of students and audiences alike. Ms. Richey recognizes that music is a universal language and the gift of music can be used to build learning skills and to strengthen each student’s imagination. (source: bio on kellyrichey.com)
Cincy Groove: So I understand you have a cd release show coming up?
Kelly Richey: Yes, the official street release for the distributor is June 3rd. But we will have the cd for our fanbase by the end of next week and our first cd release party is 4/11 at Peachs in Yellow Springs.
Cincy Groove: How long have you been playing guitar?
Kelly Richey: For thirty years, I just celebrated my 30th anniversary this past Christmas Eve. My mom and dad got me my first guitar on Christmas Eve thirty years ago.
Cincy Groove: What made you start your own record label?
Kelly Richey: In the late 1980’s I was in a band that was on Arista Records. I was pretty disillusioned by the chain of events that I saw. About that time Ani DiFranco was hitting the scene pretty hard just as a solo acoustic act only. I have a lot of respect for her and what she did. Especially on her first two records. So I got a credit card, a friend of mine recorded it for free. I used the credit card to press it and I have been doing my own records ever since. Theres pros and cons to it. When you do something on your own you have to learn how to do it. With each project that you do you learn how not to do it as well. It’s been a learning process.
I did a full blown cd in 2001 with a Grammy winning producer and the best studio musicians money could buy. So I have seen that side of things, which is more like a label experience. Except I had control over what I wanted to do. I have done 4 live cds , I have a mobile recording studio now. I recorded my last 2 live cds myself and had someone else mix them. That’s an art form in itself and I hope to be able to do it one day but right now I’m in training.
Cincy Groove: So you also have your own recording studio?
Kelly Richey: Yes I do. My last studio release, Speechless, which came out in the summer of 2006 was my first project in the studio here at the house. I had someone else mix it, and I was pleasantly surprised at what we were able to do here. The new cd that will be coming out here next week, Carry The Light, we did all the pre production here. We recorded what I had hoped would be a cd, only to sit down and listen to it and evaluate it, and realize that they were really good demos. I needed to get the cd to a bigger studio and find a co – producer. I had taken the songs as far as I could.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a gentleman here in Cincinnati named Rick Brantley at All These Sounds Music. He is a guitar player, he has the goods. He has the amps, all the guitars, amazing recording gear. We sat down and had a really good honest talk about the goals of the record. It was a great working relationship because he was truly honest. He was really a tuned at what I was trying to get then he would respond to that.
Cincy Groove: What was it like when you played with Lonnie Mack?
Kelly Richey: Lonnie is a good friend of mine actually. Every now and then he will call at 3 or 4 in the morning and leave a message. He has been a mentor to me and I can always count on him being honest. I was doing a benefit for the Musician Emergency Relief Fund in Louisville. A good friend of mine who passed away a few years ago from cancer, he was a brilliant harmonica player, his name was Jim Rhoades. He was a true blues gentleman to me, he opened up so many doors to me. He knew Lonnie and Lonnie was headlining the event. Jim introduced me to Lonnie and just really insisted that Lonnie come and check out my show and Lonnie did. He came in and watched the whole thing and asked me to come and sit in with him later that night. We have been good friends ever since. He really is under appreciated, he is just amazing.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your non profit group Music For Change.
Kelly Richey: I started to get that set up 2 and 1/2 years ago and this past spring 2007 it became official. I have worked with a school teacher to develop a curriculum. We have a guitar instructional workshop and this thing called Urban Voices where I try to get the kids to write songs. Our goal is to go into low performing schools and try to raise the money if they can’t afford to have us in so there will be some grant money to pull from. I just did the first school performance with my band this past week. Both my bass player and drummer are teachers, and I was thrilled with the way they interacted with the kids. We are going to be expanding the program. We will not just be doing a blues history program but an American History program. We will not just being doing guitar workshops, but drum and bass workshops as well. We hope to be able to take this on the road to schools while we are traveling during the week instead of always playing gigs during the week.
Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?
Kelly Richey: My major influence was Jimi Hendrix. I had never heard anything like it and didn’t know the man existed. I was raised in a Baptist church, where we heard a lot of white and black gospel music because my church was the first one to intra grate in my hometown and someone ended up burning it to the ground. That black gospel music really resonated with me and when I figured out that rock music really came from somewhere and Led Zeppelin didn’t really write all these songs? (laughing). I just think so often people really don’t know their history. I mean when I first heard Jimi Hendrix, I didn’t know a guitar could make that kind of sound. The thing that he had a real influence with me early on was learning to control feedback. Then my guitar teacher told me if I really wanted to learn how to play guitar I needed to discover Freddie King and Roy Buchanan.
Cincy Groove: Are there any local groups that impress you?
Kelly Richey: I have to admit we travel so much its hard to keep up with the local music scene, but somebody who I have become friends with is Jon Justice and his band. What a great group of guys, what a great band. Just talented, nice, no egos. I really can’t say enough good things about them. They are on the top of my list.
There is my guitar mentor around town, I dubbed him that whether he likes it or not, is John Redell. I call him my guitar teacher but he doesn’t. Along with him, myself and one of my guitar students wrote all the songs on the new cd thats coming out. John would come to my house once a week and wouldn’t leave until we wrote a song. He really pushed me, but its great and everyone needs that. Its never comfortable but its necessary. He took the time to come and see me play and to get to know me and he really just wants to see the best for me.
Cincy Groove: Any lasting thoughts you would like to leave us with?
Kelly Richey: This new cd Carry The Light, this will be my 11th cd, I have waited my entire career to do this cd. The songs really have a message. This is the first record I have ever done that sounds just like the Kelly Richey Band is supposed to sound. Its the first record where I wouldn’t change a thing.
Kelly Richey Band will be holding their cd release party on April 11, 2008 at Peachs Grill in Yellow Springs, OH.
The Kelly Richey band is:
Kelly Richey – vocals, guitar
Jimmy Valdez – bass
Shane Frye – drums
Upcoming Kelly Richey Band tour dates:
For complete show details visit kellyrichey.com
04/11/08 Yellow Springs, OH Peach’s Grill – CD RELEASE
04/12/08 Covington, KY Deadwood Saloon
04/18/08 Indianapolis, IN The Slippery Noodle Inn
04/19/08 Indianapolis, IN The Slippery Noodle Inn
04/25/08 Tallahassee, FL Bradfordville Blues Club
04/26/08 Boca Raton, FL The Back Room
04/27/08 Leesburg, FL Leesburg Bikefest
05/02/08 Columbus, OH The Thirsty Ear
05/03/08 Covington, KY Deadwood Saloon
05/09/08 Maryville, TN Brackins
05/10/08 Marietta, GA Darwin’s
05/17/08 Lyons, CO Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
05/18/08 Evergreen, CO Little Bear Saloon
05/20/08 Boulder, CO Outlook Hotel
05/23/08 Seattle, WA Highway 99 Blues Club
05/24/08 Port Townsend, WA Upstage Restaurant
05/25/08 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
05/26/08 San Francisco, CA California Blues Fest
05/27/08 San Francisco, CA Biscuits & Blues
05/29/08 Las Vegas, NV Boulder Station Hotel & Casino
05/30/08 Grand Junction, CO Boomers
06/01/08 Catoosa, OK Cherokee Casino
06/06/08 Cleveland, OH The Winchester
06/07/08 Covington, KY Deadwood Saloon
06/12/08 Rawlins, WY Music In The Park
06/13/08 Boulder, CO Outlook Hotel
06/14/08 Parker, CO Country Festival
06/15/08 Catoosa, OK Cherokee Casino
06/20/08 Canton, OH Blues Festival
06/21/08 Monmouth, IL Rivoli Theatre
06/27/08 Troy, OH Private Function
06/28/08 Mishawaka, IN Midway Tavern
07/04/08 Thunder Bay, ON Bluesfest
07/05/08 Bottineau, ND Dockside Lounge
07/06/08 Pomeroy, IA Byron’s
07/11/08 Nescopeck, PA Briggs Farm Blues Festival
07/12/08 Kalamazoo, MI Blues Festival
07/17/08 Oxford, OH Oxford Music Festival
07/18/08 Covington, KY Deadwood Saloon