Clover is the new album from Canadian singer/songwriter Jadea Kelly. The album’s filled with achingly beautiful, sharply crafted alt-folk songs. Bittersweet. Haunting. Melancholy. Kelly has a mesmerizing, expressive voice.
I recently spoke to Jadea Kelly while she was on a train en route to visit her parents. We had to finish up by email due to a poor connection.
Amy Steele: How did you decide you wanted to be a singer? What attracted you to singing?
Jadea Kelly: My mother tells me I was singing before I was talking. For whatever reason, I’ve always found singing natural and incredibly therapeutic.
Amy Steele: You said that you took music lessons and singing lessons. How old were you when you started?
Jadea Kelly: I began with fiddle lessons and competitions at the age of 11 and took up guitar lessons at 15. Alongside high school vocal and instrumental class, I sang in a number of choirs and talent shows.
Amy Steele: What do you like about performing? What do you bring to music that differentiates you from others?
Jadea Kelly: Performing provides a beautiful escape for me. I enjoy the recording and writing process, but when I’m on stage I am my truest self. When I’m on stage I put myself back in the emotion, and sing from that vulnerable place. It gets the message across to the audience and engages them for longer. If anything, I suppose that differentiates me.
Amy Steele: Why did you want to be a singer/songwriter, write your own songs? Have you always liked to write and create?
Jadea Kelly: Singing and writing has always come naturally. I honestly don’t know if I would do anything other than this. I think it’s incredibly important to write and extend a creative work into the public. It touches everyone around you, and changes them. If anything, the job of the artist is to help others look within themselves.
Amy Steele: You majored in English in college and then worked in various aspects of the music industry. What was the club scene like and how did you build up a fan base as you were working a day job and writing songs to get an album together?
Jadea Kelly: At that time, I had four jobs! During the day I worked for a music publicity company, by night I worked as an usher at the Toronto symphony and during the AM I galloped around town from show to show on my bicycle. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by other songwriters…all of whom taught me how to perform and are now my friends. Somehow, in the midst of all this, and 2 internships at record labels….I wrote and recorded my first record [Eastbound Platform].
Amy Steele: Were you living in Toronto? What is the music scene like up there?
Jadea Kelly: I have been living in Toronto for seven years now. Our music scene is busy, vibrant and filled with insanely undiscovered talent.
Amy Steele: What challenges have you faced as a women in the music business?
Jadea Kelly: Often times, as a female performer, your kindness is seen as a weakness. This happens in any business. I have learned to stay grounded, firm and work with like-minded individuals.
Amy Steele: Is blues a major influence and have there been other influences to you? [AS note: think I read that somewhere]
Jadea Kelly: I did work for a blues artist named Skaura S’Aida. She taught me a lot about confidence on stage – and in life. Very grateful for her lessons. Musically, my major influences would come from the country and folk spectrum. Huge fan of Patti Griffin, Emmy lou Harris and St Vincent [not as country and more experimental]
Amy Steele: This album Clover was inspired by time spent on your grandfather’s farm. What is the significance of that?
Jadea Kelly: When I was making that, my grandpa was retiring and my dad was taking over the farm. He’s been there four years now. Seeing my grandfather that happy was how happy I want to be. You don’t want to retire if you’re doing something you love. I wanted to remind people we’re only here for a short period of time and you should do something you love.
Amy Steele: What about “Lone Wolf?”
Jadea Kelly: I wrote that while I was on tour in Europe. Everything went wrong. It was an eye-opening experience. I was going through all these changes. I was feeling a bit bullied. I know a lot of female songwriters in this industry feel the same way. But you need to stand up for yourself and let your kindness take over.
Amy Steele: How about “You Had Me?”
Jadea Kelly: It’s a love song. They’re all such sad songs. It’s about a friend who suddenly passed away, a Portugese singer. And my partner who helped me through that time.
Amy Steele: Can you explain the impetus for the song “Clover?”
Jadea Kelly: “Clover” was named after my grandfather’s farm. When I began writing this, he was forcibly retiring from farming for health reasons. As my Dad returned to farming, to assist my Grandpa, I began to recognize the relationship between farming and working as a musician. Both professions require an immense amount of passion – and zero stability – zero guarantee of retirement and zero financial guarantees. Despite this, we both pursue it with open arms. And THAT is the message of “Clover.” To follow your passion, and live for it wholeheartedly.
Amy Steele: What inspires you?
Jadea Kelly: The songwriters around me in Toronto and around Canada.
Jadea will be performing at The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, Mass. on May 30.
purchase at Amazon: Clover