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  • Interview: Kelly Pettit

    Fri, 18 Apr 2008 15:36:01

    Interview: Kelly Pettit - The winner of UBL's Ultimate Band Contest walks us through his musical journey

    Canadian native Kelly Pettit knew from a young age that music was his passion. After playing in numerous bands and releasing CDs independently, his journey in pursuit of his dream eventually took him clear across the globe to Japan where his star continued to rise. As a member of the UBL.com musical community he entered the site's Ultimate Band Contest in 2007 competing with over 2000 other artists for the chance to be chosen as the #1 artist on the network. After thousands of votes were cast, Kelly emerged as the victor, giving him exposure to many more potential fans through a promotional partnership with ARTISTdirect. We tracked the singer down in Japan to discuss his musical career to date, his work with UBL and his plans for the future.

    Tell me a little bit about growing up. When did you know that music was your passion?

    Music was always around the house—my dad played guitar. There was always music around. I had a lot of friends that were musicians at the time. At, probably, 13 or 14-years-old I started rocking out the guitar. I started writing songs and they were really bad at the time. We formed a lot of really bad garage bands. It's a typical story, like most musicians at the time. When I was 16-years-old, my friend got a hold of a 4-track. I don't think anyone knows what that is anymore. It was from 1984-1985. We were like 15 and 16, just writing a bunch of songs. I started recording in a bigger studio, when I was 18 or 19-years-old, and recorded a couple of songs. I moved to Australia, my father's an Australian, and I moved around a bunch of studios over there. I was recording, and singing backup, for a bunch of studios as well.

    And as all musicians know, it's never overnight.

    Yeah, it's never overnight. You do it because you love it, that's the bottom line. It's been 21 years of experience. I wish I could pack it into a couple of years—the knowledge has taken a long time to accumulate. It's a long process, and hard work at the same time, but it's been fun.

    So what bands were you listening to when you first picked up that guitar?

    There are so many. I'm from Vancouver, Canada, so Bryan Adams was big back at the time. I was a big Beatles fan, because of my father; and early Rod Stewart. The weird thing, for me, is that I always had a taste that went all over the place. The Cure, Billy Joel, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album—all that stuff really got under my skin.

    All great bands. Did you find when you moved to Australia that making music was different there? How was the transition?

    Well, for me, I don't know if there was a transition, being so young. It was just sort of one big event. I was just learning all the time. The music was big—bands like INXS. In Australia there were bands like Cold Chisel—all these bands I'd never heard of. I was introduced to a whole bunch of Australian music like Split Ends and Crowded House. In particular Crowded house and Neil Finn's songwriting styles were something I fell in love with.

    You obviously play guitar. I read you also play bass and fiddle as well.

    Guitar is my first instrument. The others, I've learned not that very well, to be honest, except the mandolin. I was in a really cool band when I was in Canada going to University. We had an upright bass player, another guitar player, and fiddle player and we traded back and forth. He actually plays in Kelly Clarkson's band now, and was in Shania Twain's band for a while. He's an extremely talented musician. So we were always trading different instruments. I would get lessons from him all the time, the poor guy. He taught me the cool tricks. I never considered myself a fantastic guitarist or instrumentalist. I always thought my strength was in my songwriting. That's always been where my heart has been.

    I saw you made your first album back in '97. What was that experience like when you first got into the studio to record a proper album?

    I was really lucky, as I mentioned earlier. I was in a three-piece band. We used to be street performers. Long story short, you had to audition for a city to get a permit to play there. We used to go down there on the weekends and play this really cool spot. People from all walks of life would pass by and take this bus from one part of Vancouver to another. Another group down there had a young guy that was studying to become a recording engineer. He found us and asked us if he could do his master's degree with the three of us performing. I came in with a handful of songs, and we recorded eight songs for free. About six months later, I recorded another five or six songs with my own money. Then I sat back, scratched my head, and said, "I've got 14 songs here, I can put a CD together." That's how my first CD came about. It wasn't a plan from A to B.

    When you were making those records, did you plan to produce and distribute independently, or did you plan to shop majors?

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