Josh Kelley

Josh Kelley (9:30 PM)

Molly Kate Kestner (8:30 PM)

Fri, July 21, 2017

8:00 pm

Adv Tix $10.00 / Day of Show Tix $12.00

This event is all ages

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Josh Kelley - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Josh Kelley
"I feel like I'm reinventing myself on this album," Josh Kelley says of New Lane Road, his first new release in five years and his first for Sugar Hill.

Indeed, listeners who think they know Josh Kelley via such trademark tunes as his pop smash "Amazing" and his country hit "Georgia Clay" may be in for a surprise with New Lane Road. With Kelley handling the songwriting, production and engineering, and playing most of the instruments himself, the TK-song album is a landmark for the artist in more ways than one, breaking new sonic ground while featuring the most revealing, personally-charged lyrics of his dozen-year career.

"This record is the most me of any record I've ever made," Kelley asserts. "It's the most honest I've ever been, and it's the best subject matter I've ever had to write about. When I was first coming up, I was young and inexperienced, and I had to make things up. Now that I'm older and I've traveled the world and had kids and have seen more and felt more, I have things to write songs about."

Such effortlessly catchy, lyrically engaging new tunes as "Take It On Back," "You're My Angel," "Life's Too Short," "It's Your Move" and "One Foot in the Grave" demonstrate a remarkable balance of emotional insight and melodic craft.

Although New Lane Road is Kelley's first new album since 2011's Georgia Clay, he's kept busy with a variety of projects that have allowed him to stretch out and explore new musical challenges. For example, he wrote and performed the theme song for the hit TV sitcom Mike and Molly, scored the feature film Home Sweet Hell, and created the theme song for TV's Golf Channel.

"I got tied up in some politics with another label, which is why this is my first record in five years," he explains. "But that's OK, because if I'd released an album then, it wouldn't have been as good as this one. I wrote about 500 songs over the last few years, but these are the ones that fit together and felt like the right statement."

New Lane Road is the product of three years' worth of writing and recording, much of it in the state-of-the-art studio that Kelley built in the hills of Utah, where he lives with his wife, actress Katherine Heigl, and their two children.

"It was recorded in four different studios, but mainly at my place, which is my mad-scientist laboratory," he says. "It's kind of a snapshot of our life in Utah, and how I feel about being a father and a husband. It's also a snapshot of what I've been listening to. I've been listening to a ton of Otis Redding, Al Green, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty and Joe Cocker; that organic warmth is what I'm always trying to achieve.

"I'm in the studio every day," he notes. "Being the producer, the engineer and the artist can get lonely sometimes, but it's very empowering and very satisfying creatively. For me, there's no better drug than spending the morning writing a song, spending the afternoon recording and producing it, and then making a copy and listening to it in the car on the way home. It's so much fun having that instant gratification, of creating something from scratch.

"I tend to get totally immersed in anything I'm creating," he continues. "I've been that way my whole life, whether it's recording or drawing or painting or whatever. It's a part of myself that I've never really shown to the world. I play 10 or 15 different instruments, and if I need one and don't have it, I'll buy one on Craigslist and learn to play it. If it weren't for my wife, I would probably just be a Sasquatch and stay in my studio all day every day. She saved me from that by forcing me to get out and engage with the world a little more."

Josh Kelley has been pursuing his own creative path since his childhood. Growing up Augusta, Georgia, in a close-knit family that encouraged his early interests in music, painting and drawing, he absorbed the influence of the R&B and soul that his mom loved, as well as inheriting his dad's love of vintage country, and his older brother's affinity for classic rock. During their early teens, Josh and his younger brother Charles (now one-third of Lady Antebellum) formed a band, Inside Blue, whose self-released indie CD gained airplay on local radio and caught the attention of soul legend James Brown, who expressed interest in signing them.

While studying art at the University of Mississippi, Josh recorded his indie solo debut Changing Faces, building an impressive amount of online buzz. His D.I.Y. ingenuity helped him to win a deal with Hollywood Records, which released his 2003 mainstream debut For the Ride Home, which spawned a Top Five single in the anthemic "Amazing." Kelley's sophomore effort, Almost Honest, including the Top Ten single "Only You," followed in 2005.

Despite those early successes, the artist chose to take a more hands-on approach to his career, releasing four independent albums — Just Say the Word, Special Company, the digital release Backwoods and the limited edition To Remember — between 2006 and 2008. Meanwhile, Kelley became a familiar media presence, thanks to high-profile appearances on Ellen, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Regis & Kelly and Last Call with Carson Daly. Meanwhile, his songs were featured in episodes of such shows as Smallville, Scrubs, Brothers and Sisters and MTV's The Hills.

Kelley then embraced his deep country roots, signing with MCA Nashville and releasing the steeped-in-tradition album Georgia Clay in 2011. That album's title track became a substantial country hit, helping to expand his extraordinarily loyal, open-minded fan base, which has continued to embrace his music, even during his recent recording hiatus.

"I just did this acoustic tour, and I was so nervous about what attendance was gonna be like, because I hadn't been out in so long," he explains. "But we sold out 80 per cent of the shows. And when I got on stage, it would always be a surprise to me, like, 'Whoa, these people still care!' My fans are pretty awesome, and I definitely don't take that stuff for granted.

"It took me a long time to get to the point where I could really appreciate how fortunate I am," Kelley reflects. "I was very, very green when I got into the business, and I was scared of success. So I sort of crawled into a hole up in the Hollywood Hills for a while, and smoked a bunch of weed and made music and didn't tour much. I wish I had handled it differently, but that's life, and I know better now."

Kelley's renewed enthusiasm is apparent throughout New Lane Road — not only in the artist's transcendent songs and performances, but in the album's packaging, which features several of his paintings, which vividly illustrate his songs' emotional contents.

"I've been painting and drawing since I was a kid, but I've never really showed that side of me to the world until now," says Kelley. "I've been recording music since I was 11, and I should have been using all of these things to my advantage. But I never let anybody know, and I never let anybody know that I played all these instruments. My wife pushed me to show that side of myself to the world, and to let people know about my artwork and my paintings. She was like, 'The world thinks you're just some glossy singer-songwriter dude.' So I guess that on some level, people haven't ever known who I really am, and now they're about to find out.

"I feel like I actually know what I'm doing now, which was not always the case in the past," Kelley concludes. "I'm a better player and performer than I've ever been, and I've found the sweet spot in my voice. I write, record and create every single day, and because of that, I think I've gotten better at everything. I'm a better husband, a better dad, and I'm better at my craft. I think of all of the stuff I did before as my apprenticeship for what I'm doing now."
Molly Kate Kestner - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Molly Kate Kestner
On the April day that Prince died, Minnesota-born singer, songwriter Molly Kate Kestner was in a writing session with some collaborators musing about his untimely death. “I think one of the most dark and desperate things is when you see a good person die at a young age. It doesn’t make sense. So I wanted to write a song about that whole concept, and I came to the conclusion that the only positive thing that comes out of something like this is that it makes you look at your own life and evaluate whether you’re living it to the fullest. Because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, or any time at all. So when someone like Prince, who was so talented and full of life, is gone just like that, it encourages me to say, ‘Okay, I need to be doing my absolute best every single day.’"

That session birthed Kestner’s debut single, “Good Die Young,” and it serves as a powerful indicator of her mission statement as an artist. A blonde, blue-eyed 20-year-old with an open smile and engaging friendliness, Kestner has always been drawn to finding the one piece of light in a dark situation, though her intimate, piano-driven songs — powered by her earthy, soulful voice — have often taken on hard topics. “If you look at the first 10 original songs I put up on YouTube, they’re all really deep and heartbreaking,” Kestner says. “I’m a happy person, so for the longest time, songwriting was a way for me to express my sad side. There were songs about unwanted pregnancy, bullying, depression and mental illness, cancer, and losing the person you love, but I always put a piece of hope in there as a way to meet someone where they’re at, if they’re dealing with something tough, but then to also show them that they don’t have to stay there.”

Kestner has always been drawn to finding the one piece of light in a dark situation, [through] her intimate, piano-driven songs

It was such a song, “His Daughter” — an emotional ballad about finding hope in hopeless — that first propelled her into the spotlight, something she never dreamed was possible growing up in a small Midwestern town. Kestner was raised with her six siblings by an electrician father and a stay-at-home mother in Austin, Minnesota — a factory town that serves as home base for Hormel Foods. Before she could even write properly, Kestner would scribble down lyrics and sing the songs she had written to her family. “I was a little girl mashed in between five boys, so I spent a lot of time by myself,” she recalls. “I had this huge imagination, so I would write plays and musicals and songs in different languages.”

Kestner learned how to play violin, piano, and ukulele, and sang in the choir in middle school, but a career in music seemed “out of the question where I grew up,” she says. “I had access to a limited amount of resources, so you set the bar low for yourself, which is kind of sad.” At the end of her junior year of high school, Kestner wrote “His Daughter.” The lyrics came to her while she was working a shift as a janitor at her dad’s electrical shop. “No joke, I was cleaning the men’s bathroom when I got this idea,” she says. “I had a close friend who had grown up in an abusive home, and I knew someone who had gotten pregnant at a young age. I thought, ‘How can I turn these stories that are really dark into hope?’ I grabbed a pen and paper from my dad’s desk and just started writing down the words. It all just came out. I came home and sat at the piano and it was done — my first song ever.”

How can I turn these stories that are really dark into hope? …. I came home and sat at the piano and it was done — my first song ever.

Kestner recorded a video of herself performing “His Daughter” on her great-grandmother’s out-of-tune piano on “this hideous, green iPhone 4, with a cracked screen” and posted it on her Facebook page. Within 48 hours, the clip had amassed 13,570 likes. After her younger brother encouraged her to post it on YouTube, actor/social media star George Takei shared the link with his nine million plus followers asking: “Has America found its young Adele?” Before she knew it, Kestner’s view count skyrocketed, celebrities like Jordan Sparks and Ashley Judd had shared the video, and she found herself fielding calls from media around the world. By May, Diane Sawyer was introducing a segment about Kestner and her newfound viral fame on ABC News and she was performing on Good Morning America.

In February, Kestner left her close-knit family and friends behind and moved to Los Angeles, where she has impressed seasoned songwriters and producers with her talent, intelligence, and engaging personality while collaborating on songs for her upcoming EP for Atlantic Records. Her new songs include “Amen,” which she says is about “forever love.” “In Hebrew, the word ‘amen’ actually means truth or certainty. So when you say a prayer and finish with ‘amen,’ you’re basically saying, ‘That’s the truth.’ When you find someone you truly love, all you want is for them to know how much you really love them. To me, the lyric ‘I’m in like Amen’ is the best way to put that love into words. Because it means that no matter what, you’re committed to loving this person like the truth … and the truth never fades.” Another song, “Footprints,” is about her younger brother. “Growing up with a younger sibling is hilarious and infuriating,” she says with a laugh. “When you’re young, you argue about the most ridiculous things and compete for attention. But as you grow older, you realize that it’s pretty cool to have someone in your life who has seen you through everything and still loves you. As the younger sibling, my brother has learned from mistakes I’ve made but he’s also seen me get out of my comfort zone and move across the country to pursue my dreams. I hope he does the same.”

When someone listens to my music, I want them to think, ‘Oh, this is for me. She gets it.’

Overall, Kestner’s goal for her burgeoning career is to write songs that make people feel understood. “When someone listens to my music, I want them to think, ‘Oh, this is for me. She gets it,’” she says. “Then not just leave it at that but always point it back to life, to hope, and to truth. I always want the end goal to be leading toward something that’s better than where you’re at.”
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change