RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST GARLAND KELLEY
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you want to play music?
There are a few key people in my personal life who inspired me to play music but the original influence was my grandfather. He and I were very close, in many ways he was a primary father figure for me in my youth until he passed when I was 16. He played saxophone in the navy band in WWII as well as in a jazz ensemble called the Modernaires. As a child, I was immediately enthralled with music and musical instruments, particularly the patinated Selmer tenor saxophone he would play on occasion. This led to my playing saxophone in the middle school band before moving on to playing guitar at around 12 years old.
Introduce us to you and your musical history?
I was born in Martin Army Hospital in Columbus, GA. I moved upwards of ten times as a child, funny enough not due to military relocation. Because of this, I don’t really have a hometown to claim but I have been in Nashville, TN for the past 8 years where I met my incredible wife and stepdaughter. I began playing guitar in middle school and owe the core of my musical roots to classic and alternative rock. My biggest classic rock influences would be The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Fleetwood Mac. My biggest alternative rock influences would be The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, TOOL, Radiohead, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews Band. I am also heavily influenced by basically every other musical style but particularly the songwriters of the 70s such as Nick Drake, John Denver, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Neil Young.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
This is a very difficult question to answer and is very subjective. I feel good about my place in the music industry. That said, much of how one feels about their plight in life is contingent on their mentality/perspective. Like most things, this is easier said than done and is a practice I attempt daily. There will always be a “grass is greener” feeling at any position in life. As is seen by many child stars, fame and financial success does not always lead to a happy and healthy life. I have been fortunate to make a living in the music industry for the past 5+ years but am always striving to grow in a general sense. To summarize, I believe success is a state of mind and depends on how one defines success, particularly when balancing the thin line between art and commerce. I think the goal as an artist is to be as authentic as possible and strive to become more authentic with every artistic endeavor. That is artistic progress.
How have your songwriting skills developed over time?
My songwriting style and taste has evolved tremendously over time. Early in my songwriting years, which was around 15 years old, I was listening to a lot of folk-based songwriting and artists such as Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, and Bright Eyes. At this point in my life, I was writing much more love-centric music playing fingerstyle acoustic. I played fingerstyle acoustic for years and that has heavily influenced my playing as a guitarist in general. During this time, partly due to the time period, my own musical tastes, and influences of people around me I was always listening to and absorbing the aforementioned rock music as my taste in music grew. I now tend to write message driven, electric guitar based rock songs.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
Unfortunately, this is a serious issue that women have always faced and continue to face. I try to remind myself daily that there are so many pressures and safety concerns that women have to contend with on a daily basis that men typically don’t even consider. I don’t think there is one, easy solution to this problem but continuing to evolve the public consciousness towards gender and sexuality to reach a safer and more understanding landscape is essential for humans to achieve equality, safety, and peace. Hopefully, we can achieve a space where all people feel safe and welcome, particularly when celebrating an expression of art.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
I utilize every possible avenue while considering my relationships. There is a tasteful way to inform your friends, family, and the public about your music without constantly spamming them. The music industry is built on relationships so I think building long term relationships is far more important than short-term numbers. Numbers are an important factor in growing as an artist but the quality of the numbers is as or more important. Having your music heard by the right audience is key.
Tell us two truths and a lie about you.
I only have one electric guitar
I play in a wedding band
I play a Gibson Les Paul
What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?
This is another difficult question to answer and like most opinions I have, is a duality. From a purely artistic standpoint, I am critical of the entire music industry. On the other hand, from a capitalist standpoint and as a devil’s advocate, they are extraordinarily successful and offer artists (particularly independent artists) a means to build a fanbase and connect with fans in a way that has never been accessible before. If anything, I am more critical of the current music consumption climate and the role music plays in modern society than of Spotify, which is essentially just mirroring the demand.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
I find conspiracy theories to be fascinating and entertaining. I do think diving in should be handled with care as essentially all of them have a compelling rabbit hole that could lead to an unhealthy obsession.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
I didn’t buy anything I don’t need but I did build my stepdaughter an extravagant treehouse with a television which was totally frivolous and unnecessary but totally awesome and a labor of love.
What was the worst experience on stage?
This isn’t a one-time situation but was always a cringe moment when it used to happen. Nashville, TN has changed a lot in the past few years, which is neither good nor bad. I used to play downtown at a bar called Crazytown (now closed, renovated, and renamed) and seemingly every night, security would have to pummel someone unconscious and drag them outside. There were a few times in particular that were pretty brutal and still make me cringe thinking about them. Saturday nights are still busy and occasionally get out of hand but this was next level ridiculous. The behavior that led to this happening ties back to your question about women not feeling safe at shows.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
I don’t eat meat. I am not judgmental of anyone’s food choices and don’t like to make this a thing but people are often surprised when they find this out for some reason.
What makes you stand out as an artist?
I write message driven music that has a unique and original sound.
I hear you have a new song, what can you tell us about it.
“A Mind of Your Own” is a song about disinformation and freethought. It was written in response to the current social and political climate in the USA and worldwide.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
Existence has always been difficult but there is a new set of problems and struggles in the modern world. In the information age, knowing what sources of information to trust can be impossible and false information abounds. Many people seek their identity through validation from groups or ideologies that are often exacerbated by media propaganda. This validation is often found as social currency in the form of an online identity. While there are a tremendous number of benefits to technology and interconnectedness, the dangers can be that people are trained how to behave, think, believe, perceive, and react. The message of this song is to shed the confines of society, media, and ideologies and attempt to view existence through a lens free from ego. The message of the song is as much a mantra for myself as a call to action for humankind. In many ways, this song chronicles my life philosophy and elements of my spirituality.
What was the recording process like?
This song was recorded at my home studio in Nashville, TN. The song was written, produced, recorded, arranged, and mixed by me. I am the guitarist and vocalist and I am also playing bass on the track which will likely be readily apparent to actual bassists. Being a gear nut, I could easily write an entire page on gear rundown so I will save that for another time.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I made some major studio upgrades in preparation for this single and the remaining songs on the EP. I also made major upgrades to my guitar and guitar rig. There were some learning curves, trial and error, and plenty of physical work that went into getting the setup dialed in. I have a bachelor’s degree in music production and worked as a studio assistant with a Grammy-winning producer so fortunately, I have training and experience that allowed me to execute this project. I enjoy working on my own material because I also learn and grow as a music producer and session musician in the process. I love learning in essentially all forms so I welcome a challenge and a chance to grow.
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
I am happy with the way the song turned out. I also stand by and believe in the message.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
A huge thank you to anyone who took the time to read this and/or listen to “A Mind of Your Own”. Much love to you all!