"It Took Awhile to Get Here,
But Suddenly it Just Got Easy "

The Musical Ascent of Kelly Riley in 4 Easy Step

By Anna Huckabee Tull, Songwriter’s Monthly Magazine


When I asked Kelly Riley what on earth she had done to bag the Lyle Lovett opener gig in Hyannis a sometime back a bit--after just having opened two weeks earlier for Willie Nelson--she said, and I quote, "I picked up the phone."


There you have it. From a woman who not so very long ago was hanging off the back of a truck spraying towns for mosquitos, waitressing, doing market research for Calvin Klein, and selling cars (selling cars??) to the gal whose single, "Gonna Take Some Time" off her Live and You Learn CD played nationally last month on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in front of, what, eight gazillion people or something? This is Kelly Riley. All grown up and picking up the phone that is, suddenly, ringing. And ringing.


So how, exactly, does one go from bug spraying to standing in front of the TV, laughing on the phone with your sister while you hear, along with a nation full of people, the song YOU wrote, recorded, and sang all by your darn self? If you want to do it the Kelly Riley way, it seems to take about four steps.



Sure, be an observer of life. Hum along with the radio. Go ahead and sing in the shower. But when it gets right down to it, get your butt over to a place where professional professors have dedicated their lives to waiting for you to show up and open your ears to their concentrated years of brilliance. If you are good enough (Kelly Riley is) get yourself accepted to the Berklee College of Music and work it, girlfriends. Enter a contest or two. Win them.


What good would any self-respecting life-review be without the Floundering Period? Give yourself a few years of singing lead for some Top 40 bands, or back-ups for Lizzie Borden and the Axes, or Indigo Red (formerly Dish). Give yourself a few too many of those wild nights you’ll grow up to roll your eyes about later. Change your mind about which coast to live on, pick up everything, and go. Change it again.


Okay, now do the soul-searching you were so brilliantly putting off in Step 2. Start paying attention to what matters. Form a band, a good one, and don’t be afraid to keep switching out the members until it takes. Gather up all those songs you’ve written and value them. In fact, let yourself value them every bit as much as you hope, someday, others will too. Bring them to life. Give them their own CD, on which to stretch out, and flourish, and find their ever-intended, rightful sound.


The last part is, by all accounts, the most fun, as Kelly Riley is finding out. Let all that living and learning that went into your songs come back to set the ringer on your phone alive with the glorious resonance of people who want you, bad. Kelly Riley lives in Lynn, MA where she teaches voice, guitar, piano, bass, songwriting and performance workshops. She performs throughout the Northeast and beyond with the Kelly Riley Band, the Porch Party Mamas and as a solo act.