Sarah Kelly Interview: A new album, a new music school and getting comfy in her corner of heaven.
By Jeff Game
Recently, I had the chance to speak to one of my favorite singers and artists, Sarah Kelly, chatting for over an hour about life, love, Sweden, her new music school, her favorite foods and her new album, My Corner of Heaven.
Back in 2006, I was visiting a church in Uppsala, Sweden for Christmas when I first discovered the soulful voice and talent that is Sarah Kelly. She was a guest worship leader for Word of Life Church on this chilly night in Uppsala, a small college town about 50 miles outside of Stockholm. I was smitten from the first song that night and downloaded all of her music that very night and personally connected to the whole album, Where the Past Meets Today.
The artist and the woman that is Sarah Kelly has traveled down some dark roads in the past, only to come out stronger, happier, a better songwriter and now head of her own school, The Sarah Kelly Music School at her home in the Woodlands, Texas. “It’s all about my students and the future of music. I have like 11 young artists living in my home right now and over 200 students, they are the future,” Kelly tells me in our long phone conversation.
One other huge impact in Kelly’s life and career was meeting and marrying her, “Swedish Jesus” as she refers to her husband and now Producer of her new album, Jonas Ekman. Kelly cannot help herself in bragging about her musical and life partner, “This whole album has great hooks and is a departure for me musically, that’s all Jonas, he grew up listening ABBA and other great Euro pop groups and knows how to produce.”
Even so, this independently produced album that began as a Kickstarter idea features not only Kelly, the music is also a collaboration with several of her up and coming music school students, which are featured on the album. “We asked for $20,000 on Kickstarter and ended up being blessed with over $30,000,” Kelly humbly tells me.
In the end, the hard work and infusion of young talent have resulted in a stellar and personal musical achievement for Kelly and her budding crop of singers and musicians. My Corner of Heaven beams with those great hooks, signature Sarah Kelly profound lyrics and showcases what a powerful Christian artist Kelly has become over the years and how much more she has to offer the future of music.
School of Rock
Kelly is much like Magic Johnson, giving her talented students some great assists in promotion, mentorship and encouragement in their young careers, even coaxing a European festival crowd of thousands over the summer to chant one of her young singers name to promote herself on YouTube.
Some of Kelly’s students are now primed and ready to be shot out of the gate, into the musical stratosphere with Kelly raving like a proud and protective mama. Kelly tells me that two of her students to watch out for in 2015 are Inzi and Ryan Kennedy, both who are prominently featured on the new album. “Remember these names, these guys will be stars and household names someday,” Kelly giving one more great assist to her young talent, however after listening to both new artists, they both seem to have a future so bright, they may be needing shades.
My Mixed Tape Questions
I love discovering local hangouts; cultural differences and what is an artists favorite places to eat, drink and what are they are listening to in these days on their iPods, Spotify and the return of vinyl. Here are My Mixed Tape questions for Sarah Kelly.
Mixed Tape: Where are you from and what is your favorite thing about being from Rockford, Illinois?
Sarah Kelly: I am a foodie, I love food and I love the food at Mary’s Market, best sandwiches, soups and good people. You’re making me miss them.
MT: Who are your musical influences and why?
SK: Funny enough British rock growing up was a huge influence. Believe it or not, speaking of Swedes, one of my favorite bands is the Cardigan’s were a big love of mine and have been for many years now. It’s dark, but rock and empowering. I also grew up playing classical music, so I love listening to any of those classics like Bach impressionists or Glenn Gould.
MT: What are your favorite (or several) places you love to play each tour?
SK: California is the state I have toured the most and is always a must for my tour list. We usually build Sweden in a tour, do festivals there, the Swedes have been some of my biggest fans. Sweden and California I really grew musically, and both places have really paid my bills for so many years now. Illinois is, of course, always on the tour list as well.
MT: Does traveling in any way influence your music and songwriting?
SK: Sure it does, that’s where my friends are. To me, the world is about people, I am a people person, and I love people hard. Even places like Mary’s Market in Rockford, I have such a connection with the people there.
MT: What are you listening to these days on your iPod, phone or Spotify or iTunes?
SK: Of course my students, some who even appear on my new album, because they are awesome. Write this one down, two artist names that will soon be household names are Inzi and Ryan Kennedy. These two singers are the real deal and will become stars some day. Inzi writes about humanity and is an insanely talented redhead. Ryan is a Christian artist that came out of the womb for Christian radio.
My Mixed Tape Sarah Kelly Playlist:
I have been listening to Sarah Kelly for years now and I am digging the album as well. I discovered this great cover of Sarah performing on of my all time favorites, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Here are some of my favs from Sarah Kelly
Hallelujah – Covering the Leonard Cohen classic
Fall Into You – Where the Past Meets Today
Living Hallelujah – Take Me Away
Just As You Please – My Corner of Heaven
What You Leave Behind – Where the Past Meets Today