It’s hard to believe that singer/songwriter/guitarist Liam Kelley is just 20-years-old, because every phrase he articulates suggests he’s an old soul, the kind of old soul that can steer a series of barre chords or turnarounds into a seething blaze of emotion. He can play finger-style or Hendrix-style. You name it. Oh, but then he already has—The Liam Kelley Experience

Ever since this Detroit-born artist took a chance on neighboring Chicago, he has charmed coffee house citizens and local shredders alike. A sharp-looking, but humble artist, he’s the guy that is comfortable talking to anyone. And he’s focused. When his blonde curls reflect off the sheen of his black leather, as he poses defiantly on an urban railroad track, that pose suggests that even a high-speed train couldn’t block his ambitious career path.

When he recently appeared at the annual International Pop Overthrow Festival (hosted locally at Chicago’s Red Line Tap), he immediately brought smiles onto new faces in attendance. Those new fans insisted on knowing where they could hear him play again.

Liam brings to mind folks like Link Wray, the late American instrumentalist who manufactured fascinating, curious sounds on songs like ‘Run, Chicken, Run’. But a host of other legends also appear in Liam’s heart wrenching solo work.

Add to that, his fresh approach to songwriting. Do I hear reggae? Blues? Isn’t that a confessional ballad? Liam Kelley writes about social consciousness and the perplexities of love.

The Liam Kelley Experience is fresh out of the studio and have lots to share with a growing audience. Welcome, Liam Kelley.

PB: Hi Liam. You performed at the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Chicago this year. What was that experience like for you?

LK: Getting the opportunity to play the International Pop Overthrow Festival at the Red Line Tap was a great experience for the band (The Liam Kelley Experience) and me. It was one of our first shows, so it gave us the chance to see how our songs would vibe with the audience, and it went well! We got a great reaction. Thanks to David Bash and the Red Line Tap for including us in the line-up.

PB: Can you give us some background about the band members that make up the Liam Kelley Experience?

LK: Most of my band members so far have been students at Columbia College Chicago. Being a former student there, I was able to meet a lot of talented musicians, and I've been lucky enough to work with a few different groups. The core band is bass and drums behind me, but we grew to several choir singers, keys, and horns as well, which you will hear in the other two records we just finished. On the new single, 'Daylight Sinner', Drew Polovick played bass and Drew Gercak played the drums. Eric Doar has also started drumming a bit with me — he played on the ‘Miss Simone’ record — and I have since began working with a second bassist as well, Inho Park. I can’t forget my newest member, either, James Boyd III — he’s another incredible drummer that I’m fortunate to be playing with now as well. Patrick Jasper played saxophone on ‘Make Me Stay’ and the trumpet (Aaron Gamalinda) and
saxophone (Josh Schwartz-Dodek) players from another awesome band out of Chicago, Zaramela, played on ‘Miss Simone’. Background singers for ‘MMS’ and ‘Miss Simone’ include, D'zhari Bolden, Anna Agosta, Kloé Mallard, Ayanna Spaulding, and Sam Ficcadenti.

The "experience," so far has kind of been a melting pot of musicians that my manager and I have been pooling together. It is truly a blessing that I have found other musicians who feel my music and see my vision enough to be a part of the “experience.” I am very grateful.

PB: Are you a native Chicago musician?

LK: I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, then came to Chicago to study music at Columbia College. I dropped out shortly after, but decided to stay in Chicago because the music scene here is abundant with opportunity and talent. My roots will always be in Detroit, but Chicago feels like the place to be for me right now.

PB: Is guitar your first and primary instrument? If so, what drew you to it?

LK: I first picked up a guitar when I was less than six-years-old. I became obsessed with music after I’d heard a song called ‘The Space Between’ by the Dave Matthews Band. Soon after I got into all the great guitarists: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’ve never stopped practicing since then—I play my guitar all the time. We’re basically attached at the hip.

PB: You have some unusual effects on ‘Daylight Sinner’. Did the group as a whole arrange it? Did the arrangement change along the way?

LK: ‘Daylight Sinner’ was always meant to be a trippy rock song. So having some guitar effects in there was essential. I basically came up with the song on my acoustic guitar and it started out more laid back. When we added the drums and bass, it sort of took on a life of its own.

PB: What was your original vision for ‘Make Me Stay’? Did you accomplish what you wanted? Were there any surprises?

LK: In ‘Make Me Stay,’ we added a saxophone and some background vocals, which turned out pretty nicely. I knew I wanted both the guitar and the sax to solo on top of each other at the end, but I didn’t know exactly how it would happen, so we just sort of made that up on the spot at the Pressure Point Studio. It ended up being a beautiful combination.

PB: Which guitarists do you admire the most?

LK: My biggest musical heroes are probably Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Jimi Hendrix fascinates me because of the way he was able to completely revolutionize the sound of the electric guitar. I’m always striving to meet his creative capacity.

Bob Marley really resonates with me because of how well written and simple his songs are. ‘One Love,’ for example – I think it’s true art to be able to write a song that has so much meaning and have it be so catchy at the same time.

PB: How would you describe your method of songwriting?

LK: My writing process is very sporadic. Usually my best melodies pop into my head in the middle of the night or something. To me, it’s not really an active thing. You just always have to be ready to write it down when it comes. If you try too hard to force it, the song will just sound lifeless.

PB: Can you name a few arrangements (written by another writer) that intrigue you?

LK: Well, off the top of my head, I love Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’. I think the arrangement of the song is genius because of its simplicity. The lyrics and tone are powerful because they change my mood. I find I can’t stay in a bad mood while listening to that song and it’s an amazing feat.

I love the song, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones. The lyrics and arrangement are incredible in this song. Lorde’s song, ‘Team’ is amazing because of the melodies and harmonies she uses, but I could go on and on with this question. There are so many artists I admire and respect for different reasons.

PB: Is there an era in the past you feel you missed out on?

LK: I would hate to be pulled back into a past era – my mind is always focused on what’s happening next. Could you imagine how torturous it would be to have to relive the past? My obsession, musically, is with the future, and I think with all the new technology the world is creating, the future of music is going to be incredible.

PB: You were recently in the studio with The Liam Kelley Experience. Can you
update us on what transpired?

LK: The 'LKE' recording sessions have gone tremendously well. We did all three records at Pressure Point Recording Studios here in Chicago with an awesome engineer, Steve Kovacs. My manager, Cal Handmaker, and I, have been waiting since we met last October to release something - and we're so glad the time is finally here.

Our first single, 'Daylight Sinner', is coming out on all music platforms including Spotify & iTunes on July 11th. The sound I'm going for is going to be different from the usual music coming in today. Moving forward, I'm looking to head into a direction that fuses electronic music with my rock influences. It won't be like these three records we just recorded, so expect to hear some new sounds in the near future - It's going to be different to say the least!

PB: What do you enjoy doing in your free time, when you’re not playing guitar?

LK: I love reading books. My favorites are mysteries or anything really gripping. I love horror movies.

PB: If you could change anything about the world, what would it be?

LK: If I could change one thing about the world, it would be to have people set aside their differences and live in terms of peace and love instead of violence and hate.

PB: What are your plans for the future?

LK: In the next five years, I hope to cover a lot of ground in my musical career. My goal is to expand the idea of music and to open up genres and new directions that music can go into. There are limitless, untapped potentials and I feel that my career will reflect that.

Thanks so much for your time and interest.

PB: Thank you.

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