Sultry smoke and white-hot fire escape the lips of Austin singer/songwriter Kelly Hafner on her debut release, If it’s Love. It’s an ambitious work for an independent artist releasing her first full-length album. If it’s Lovewill be distributed by The Orchard, and released by Smokey Jazz Records. Kelly recently debuted her upcoming single release, “If It’s Love” on Fox 5 TV Good Day Austin, and you can check it out here.
The Berklee College of Music graduate steps to the front of seven and eight-piece ensembles that include drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, horns, and strings on funky soul head-bobbers like “Things Are Changin,” “Lifted,” and “On My Mind.” She explores deep vintage vocal-driven tracks on tunes like “If It’s Love” and reggae influences in “Give Light.” Songs like “Summergirl” and “Angel” even wind their way into R&B/minimalism.
It’s all wrapped in the warm bow of Hafner’s show-stopping voice and unmistakably improvisational style, which promise to keep listeners hooked from start to finish. Echoing the traditions of her soul forebears like Etta James, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, and Amy Winehouse, If it’s Love tests the boundaries of neo-soul in a refreshing way.
Hafner grew up in northern California and headed to Berklee a couple years after graduating from high school. There she learned music theory, ear training, and vocal performance. On graduation, she returned to San Francisco and began writing and recording music in her bedroom. She performed with Fire, a San Francisco-based live band, before eventually moving to Austin to begin her career as a solo artist.
From there, Hafner met producer Derek Hames (The Drugstore Gypsies, National Park Radio, The Buffalo Ruckus) and the two began the collaboration on If it’s Love. Recorded at Hames’ Edgewater Studios just outside Houston, the record was made with a mix of Hafner’s Austin band (Sam Diaz, Daniela Jane) and a bevy of talented studio musicians.
In the end, Hafner’s view of her own music is what gives it true soul. “The fear that plagued me before I started writing was challenging, but I eventually grew out of giving a damn what other people think of my ideas. The music is there for the people who appreciate it.”
Poised to release If it’s Love, we suspect she’ll find more and more people appreciating the music every day. Stay tuned for big things from Kelly Hafner.