INTERVIEW: Critically-Acclaimed Blues Artist Kelly Bell

Hi Kelly, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

KB: Well hello! Thank you so very much for having me. Life has been crazy busy with the Kelly Bell Band as of late with the new video, single, radio and release.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Long Train”?

KB: “Long Train” was selected as the first single because it’s kind of indicative of what the Kelly Bell Band does! In one song we are able to dance from genre to genre without stumbling, giving you blues riffs with rock ‘n’ roll energy swept up by soulful harmonies. We did our video for a “Long Train” and an old pipe bending factory. It was crazy cold but lots of fun and I think that comes through in the video. It shows many aspects of the band both visually and musically.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

KB: ‘I am the one your mother warned you about!’ On our album Should Have Been You there is a song called “Smooth Talker” and it’s written in a similar vein and that, once again, is ‘I am the one your mother warned you about’ 🙂

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

KB: So yeah…if you come by name with the intent in the song and then you see what I did with my expressions in the video – you are either in love with it instantaneously or extremely disturbed by it. Either way we evoked an emotion in you. That’s all we aim to do in the first place!

The single comes off your new album Know My Name – what’s the story behind the title?

KB: The title track Know My Name comes from an examination of the child’s perspective and parental disputes. In other words, many times couples break up and they may become better parents. However, people rarely write about the child’s perspective of divorce or separation even if it all goes well. “Know My Name” is a direct examination of the child’s perspective. It speaks directly to your soul even if you grew up in a nuclear household.

How was the recording and writing process?

KB: This release is different for us because I turned over more of the writing than ever before in regard to putting the record together. I even co-produced it with Ryan Fowler, our lead guitar player and Steve Wright of Wrightway Studios in Baltimore. I believe this release is more diverse than anything we have ever done before and if you know our music that’s saying something. Our brand is what we called Phat Blues Music! So we were able to speak from any direction and dance in any genre. This release represents our artistic freedom!

You got to play with different genres – how did you go on balancing all these influences and those the lyrics’ themes tends to lead you to focus on a particular style?

KB: If you could imagine Muddy Waters wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt riding on Black Sabbath’s tour bus on the way to a Parliament Funkadelic concert listening to a James Brown eight track tape humming a RUN-DMC song with the Nighthawks ball cap on –

all in the glory of Bo Diddley— that would be close but only close to what we do! The whole objective of our brand is to remind the world that we have one foot planted firmly in the root of the blues and the other foot to go anywhere and everywhere all the time.

After a two decade plus long career – what have you learned from all that experience?

KB: Being in the game for so long, I have been able to sit at the foot of many of my musical heroes and grow up in the business with some of the greatest musicians of the day. The funny thing now is reaching back and giving advice to the younger cats who want to know how in the world we are still here and relevant. I always give them the words that Taj Mahal gave to me when he said, “Don’t sell yourself short in the beginning and you won’t have to sell yourself out in the end.”

Would you call this a departure from your previous material or rather a continuation?

KB: It’s most definitely a continuation! Our music is so all over the place. It takes you on a ride, stops anywhere it wants to and every place you think it won’t. We were even concerned that maybe we stretched a little too far this time. It was as close as I guess you can get to an artistic challenge when you have written as many songs as we have.

What aspect of the Blues genre did you get to explore on this record?

KB: The whole goal of our brand is to bring people back to the Blues. To let people know not only are the Blues still alive, but it never went anywhere. We remind them that Blues is the healing music that you hear in the doctor’s office…Blues is the romantic ballad and your favorite movie…Blues is the song that puts you on the dance floor each and every time. We don’t need to teach you the difference between a Louisiana Shuffle and a Texas shuffle, we just need to keep you interested. In a world of distraction in every direction we give you focus without restraint.

What role does Baltimore play in your music?

KB: Baltimore is very much a blue-collar town. A town that you certainly can be proud of. Baltimore gets a bad rap sometimes. Sure, we have had bad things that happened here too, like any other major city in America, but there is community here too. The fine arts community in Baltimore is like no other! Everyone is so supportive of each other regardless of the path your particular artwork takes you down.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

KB: Rahsaan “Wordslave“ Eldridge is a poet as well as being a longtime member of the KBB. So, he is the one that pushes us to explore our boundaries with regard to telling a story with in a musical framework. He teaches us all the time that the song should stand on its own even without the music and still mean something.

Any plans to hit the road?

KB: I’d have to say after all this time being road dogs, we kind of only know one way to live now. Our release Know My Name is our 13th CD and is enjoying commercial success like no other. For anyone that knows anything about the band, you would know that we use our platform to help others in almost anyway we can. We have partnered with several foundations and spend a great deal of time including most of our holidays with our United States military via Navy Entertainment.

What else is happening next in Kelly Bell’s world?

KB: Well I haven’t told anyone this yet but a good friend of mine who goes by The Bruiser recently announced that he was battling leukemia. You may not know this, but I spent 14 years as a professional wrestler. There is an “honoring legends” show for MCW Maryland Championship Wrestling. That’s the company I worked for. I have agreed to come out of retirement and do one more show in an effort to fund raise for a guy I faced in the ring many times. Outside of that I’ll be training and finding places to train while we’re on the road all around the world supporting the new record. Hope to see y’all out there soon family!

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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