11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: Kiely Connell

Kiely Connell (Photo by Kurt Ozan)Photo by Kurt Ozan

On November 12, singer-songwriter Kiely Connell will release her debut LP, “Calumet Queen.” Until then, you can listen to its first two singles, the hometown-inspired title track and “The Blues That Really Burn.” Both give you a taste of her Folk and Blues fused Americana sound. A third single, “Nobody’s Business but Mine” drops on October 28th. 

Kiely is not afraid to get personal in her songwriting, and “The Blues That Really Burn” is a brave look at the depression she has struggled with throughout most of her life. Says Kiely “My hope is that people hearing it will feel less alone and that if you’re lucky enough to have never gone through it you’ll leave with a better understanding.” 

For now, Kiely’s tour calendar is empty except for an album release show at 6pm on Saturday November 20 at everyone’s favorite cozy live music venue, The 5 Spot on the eastside of Music City. See you there and thank you Kiely for taking the time out for 11 Questions. 

Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?

I am originally from Hammond IN, four houses from the Illinois state line, and 20 minutes from Chicago. I became interested in Nashville when I first learned about Third Man Records opening and started hearing more unique artists and bands who were based out of Nashville. I arranged a trip to check out the city and went to watch an old friend Aubryn play a writer’s round at Hotel Indigo. I was blown away by the amount of support and respect I observed in all the songwriters on stage and that was what did it for me. I immediately wanted to be a part of the community and become the best songwriter and artist that I could be. That was the night I knew Nashville was for me.

What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital? 

The first album I ever bought was Americana by The Offspring. I vividly remember using my Best Buy gift card to buy a CD with an “EXPLICIT” sticker on it. At the time, my parents did not approve of the album and hid it from me for a few years. The most recent album I purchased was Mariachi Static by Izaak Opatz. I’ve been a big fan of Izaak for years now. He was in a band called The Best Westerns that my roommate really loved. I inevitably started listening to him and watching his YouTube videos. He has kind of a laidback Willie Nelson thing going on that I really enjoy.

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

My dad always used to take me to Blues festivals all around the Chicagoland area. I still have a very vivid sensory memory every time I think about those summers. It was always electric guitars, mournful vocals, and the scent of midwestern corn wafting through the humid summer air. My first concert on my own was Weird Al when I was 11 years old with my friend Ashley. As for the last concert I saw, it was Joan Jett & the Black Hearts. Nikki Lane opened the show and I loved that it was just her and a lead guitar. I think it’s my love for Gillian Welch that prefers that simple set up for singer-songwriters.

Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?

I’m shocked to not see Willie Nelson’s name on this list already. He has had a huge influence on almost everyone who is already on that list. He is responsible for some of the best songwriting in American history. You can’t go to a bar without hearing “Crazy” or without thinking about the song “Night Life”. The longevity of his career alone should absolutely qualify him for the Walk of Fame.

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

For coffee I usually go to Barista Parlor in Germantown. Their “Espresso + Tonic” is the perfect pick me up. For pizza I’m a recent Five Points Pizza convert. I really enjoy going in and grabbing a slice and typically when I order for pick up, I just go with their classic South Brooklyn pie. Their pizza I have finally decided is the best in town.

What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?

I have two that are tied in my book. Both albums had a huge influence on me as a songwriter and artist. For me it’s Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, and Gillian Welch’s The Harrow & The Harvest. I was in awe of how Isbell crafted his lyrics and admired how he was unafraid to put out an album of mostly sad heavy songs. It pushed me to go deeper as a songwriter and work harder. As for Gillian Welch I just think that album specifically is a perfect showcase for her at her best. She and Dave Rawlings created such magical music together on that album and every time I’ve ever heard them. After hearing them I decided that is what I wanted to sound like. I’ve always admired the organic raw feel of what they do together.

Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?

My local haunt is definitely Fleet Street Pub in Printers Alley. Their kitchen is open late, and their pub food is by far the best around. Their Fish & Chips is better than what I had in Ireland and their Shepherd’s Pie is probably the only one I’ve been able to snag at a pub in Nashville. If I’m not close enough to downtown Nashville, then Waffle House will fill the late-night food void. If it’s late at night you need those Smothered and Covered Waffle House hash browns and a cup of coffee.

The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.

This is a tough one! Especially since I know an insane number of writers who I absolutely love what they do. I think if I’m looking to put together the most cohesive round of heavy hitters, I’d choose a few of my favorite Americana writers. Most likely Caitlin Cannon, Lindsay Ellyn, and Michael Conley.

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

Obviously, The Bluebird is a very special room, and it is definitely one of my favorite places I’ve played. For me the place I’ve played the most throughout the years and debuted almost every song in my catalog is Belcourt Taps. Belcourt has always been a special home for a lot of us. Another one of my all-time favorite venues to call home is The Bowery Vault. Emily and Vero at The Bowery Vault do a great job of embracing all of us songwriters and showing us so much love and support. When you play at The Bowery Vault, it’s such a special intimate experience and those are always my favorite rooms to play. Emily and Vero went from being the owners of a very cool incredibly supportive local music venue to people who a lot of us call friends and our Nashville family.

Name a musician who you’d like to see move here.

Since Courtney Marie Andrews already moved here a few years ago I’ll say Izaak Opatz. I still would love to put some shows together and just have the opportunity to hear him in person on a more regular basis. Another one is Andy Shauf. I saw him open for case/lang/veirs at the Ryman and he absolutely knocked me over. For me, I just really want more opportunities to hear him playing solo again especially at more intimate venues.

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

For the immediate future I’ve got my first single “Calumet Queen” coming out September 16th, the second single “The Blues That Really Burn” coming out October 14th, the third single “Nobody’s Business but Mine” coming out October 28th, and the full album release of Calumet Queen coming up on November 12th. The album release show is scheduled for November 20th at The 5 Spot from 6-8pm. I have a ton of music that I need to record, and I hope everyone is ready to hear all of it because I’m just getting started here. There’s a lot to do but I feel more ready for it than I ever have. I’m hoping that with all the music I’ll be releasing that I’ll be able to get back out on the road and start playing live for all of you again.

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