Interview: Bridget Kelly
Wed, 14 Aug 2013 11:10:34
"I'll try not to wake up from this dream," sings Bridget Kelly on her latest single "Street Dreamin" with Kendrick Lamar.
You're not going to want to wake up either. Kelly's got one of those voices that instantly transfixes. Emanating palpable soul, she delivers each note with heavenly harmony. It's utterly irresistible. It's also the perfect introduction to one of R&B's most talented young voices. When she drops her debut full-length this year, it's going to be a "dream" come true for the genre...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Bridget Kelly talks "Street Dreamin", her forthcoming debut, and so much more.
How do you feel like you shaped your identity within R&B?
It's taken a long time. I've been signed for about five years. It's taken a lot of soul searching and patience, which I didn't start out with [Laughs]. I have to be honest. At the beginning, I thought in six months to a year I was going to be a millionaire, have an album out, be on a private jet, and sipping champagne in Tuscany. That wasn't really the case! A couple of years ago, I went through a really tumultuous breakup, and that forced me to go inside myself and figure out what I wanted to say in my music and how I wanted it to come across. There was a lot of experimentation. I went in with a lot of producers and writers and found my niche with a couple people. They knew the sound I was going for and helped me cultivate this lane that I consider my own now.
That's not easy to find, but it feels really natural once you do.
It really does. Working with producers is hard. It's like changing therapists in the middle of your breakdown. Upon your first meeting, you're like, "Well, how much do I want to give of myself? How much do I say? If I say too much, are you going to think I'm really nuts? Should I hold back?" You really never how much of yourself to share. It was very difficult for me in the beginning. In the past couple of years, I think I've learned a lot that helped me put my all into this album. I'm pumped to release it this year. It's going to be really good.
What ties the album together for you?
I think it's the overall story of being on the fence about love and going into it not taking yourself too seriously, but also not being scorned and bitter. The cliché and stigma attached to most female R&B artists is that we're all of these heartbroken and love-scorned women who won't trust any man. I'm not in that boat at all. I've definitely had my heartbroken. I know what it feels like to be completely destroyed inside, and I'm still hopeful and optimistic about love at the end of it all. I think the album really speaks to that audience about finding strength in the middle of the storm not just once you've gotten past it.
Is it important for you to tell stories in the songs?
When I'm on stage, part of my tactic is to really engage and connect with the crowd. By connecting with them, I'm telling a story. I really like to create it as a conversational piece because that's just who I am as a person in general. I talk way too much [Laughs]. If I get sick and am instructed by a doctor to be quiet, not talking is the most agonizing thing ever. Being on stage is the perfect opportunity for my audience to get to know me. By telling stories, it's a way for me to connect. That's the main thing and the most important piece to me.
What's the story behind "Street Dreamin"?
A lot of my songs are about love and heartache. They're dramatic and dark. With "Street Dreamin", I wanted to take a more whimsical approach to love. It's not really to rebel against the whole world and say, "You're not going to wake me up from this dream love", but in a cute, flirty way say, "I have this idea of the person I want. No one is going to tell me I can't have that". Kendrick Lamar is on the record with me, and I thought his verse was perfect because he's talking about the platform he's on with his career and how he's worked really hard to get there. It's still very surreal to him that his dream is coming to fruition, but no one is going to take it from him. I feel like that about my love life, my career, and everything I've worked really hard for. It's a dream, but as exciting and cute as it is, it's like, "You're not going to mess with me. You're not going to take me from this place".
What song of yours resonates with you the most right now?
Probably, my favorite song on the album is "Afterlife". It was one of those records I heard the music first without having any preconceived notions about what I wanted to talk about in the session. The music was played for me, and it made me cry instantly. It's guitar-driven with heavy drums. The drums for me are very nineties. The actual guitar and the way the music is setup, it gave me the emotional intensity of "Purple Rain" meets "It's a Man's World". That was the place it took me to. I knew whatever I was going to sing about would have to be really powerful. When I went in, I said, "This needs to be my song. It's going to end the album. We need to discuss something that's going to take everybody to the next place". Essentially, it's really about an undying love. No matter what happens, against all odds, the only thing that remains after all is love. I felt like it was the perfect closure for the album. It says so much about who I am and how much I hate listening to what other people say and living by their rules. I don't want to be with somebody society thinks I should be with. There are so many people who just want to be in love and have nothing else matter. After I cut the record, I invited all of my girlfriends into the studio and played it for them. Every single one of them was in tears. To me, I was like, "This is the record. This is going to be the one that will help me leave my mark on history".
If you were to compare your album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's rough! That's a good question though! I'm a movie person. I go to the movies a lot. I think it would probably be The Notebook meets It's Complicated. There's so much romanticism in The Notebook that every single woman who's watched that movie wants to feel like that and have that one person. Then, there's the reality of the situation, which is the It's Complicated part. You're like, "Damn, we really tried to work this out". There are bits and pieces of humor in it. In real life, everything is not completely melodramatic. At the end of it, you may not end up together. Even if you don't end up together, you still have that mutual respect. It's always complicated. If love is done right, in my opinion, it's always going to be complicated.
What artists shaped you?
Mariah Carey…she's actually the reason why I wanted to be a voice for other women. I'm a mixed girl. I'm a biracial girl. Being biracial, you never really feel like you fit in anywhere. You're always walking that line between where you feel, "Am I white enough for white people? Am I black enough for black people?" Mariah Carey knew how to walk that line very well. She made music that was completely for everybody. She was singing her heart out. It was soulful. I remember singing a lot of those words and having no idea what she was talking about because her vocab is so extensive. Then, I'd go back later and say, "Did she really just say that?" Vocally, between her and Brandy, growing up, their adlibs were crucial parts of the music to me. Their voices were the instruments. As a woman, that's incredible to have your voice be a part of the music. I'd say Mariah and Brandy. I listened to Alanis Morissette and Mary J. Blige. Later on, it was P!nk and Alicia Keys. Those were my heaviest influences for sure.
Have you heard Bridget Kelly yet?