11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: Bern Kelly

Bern Kelly

Well, I’m a day or so late in telling you to head over to the OG Basement to see singer-songwriter Bern Kelly celebrate the release of his new single “Gotta Stay” on Underpass Records. So, I guess that you will just have to watch and listen to this lovely duet with Larissia Murphy here. (Bonus points if you can name the location!) BTW – The vocals on the track were recorded and produced by 11 Questions alum Patrick Damphier.

I know that after hearing this you will want to hear more of Bern which will lead you to his fine 2021 full-length LP “Fantastic Stories.” This record is a collection of “pulp-noir” short-story inspired monthly singles that Bern released one at a time. Great stuff to listen to on a cold, dark and dreary winter day. “This collection finds characters toeing the line of right and wrong in the back alleys of their own lives” says Kelly.

Sure, love what Bern is doing and happy to have him gift us his 11 Questions interview below. Looking forward to another full release later this year and seeing him on a local stage!

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

I grew up in Pennsylvania. I lived in NYC for a few years and then moved to Nashville in January 2008. It was hard to be a troubadour in New York when you had to be working multiple jobs just to be there. I moved to Nashville because back then you easily could live, work and be surrounded by artists all doing the same thing. It was a welcoming scene. You can still do that now I guess, but it’s just more expensive and more spread out.

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

I think I illegally joined one of those tape clubs like BMG or Columbia House when I was nine-years old to get Pearl Jam’s Ten. The last record I bought was a vinyl reissue of Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On which for some reason only has a re-recording of the title track on it. I got way into Arthur after finding more of his 45s on DOT Records. His version of “Anna (Go to Him)” is one of my favorite recordings of all time.

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

My sister and her college friends took me to see Dave Matthews Band in ‘95 in Holmdel, NJ. I was in like 7th grade. It was a big day. I remember the smell of the amphitheater lawn and hearing the sound of 20,000 folks singing along.

The last concert I saw was just in November and was Dylan at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. He played almost his entire new record and one of the few things he said to the crowd was about how Sylvester Stallone should win an Oscar. It was wonderful. The band looked and played like assassins. Bob’s still out there in it. And at 80 years old!

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

Don Kelley who fronted The Don Kelley Band at Robert’s Western World. Everyone should know about Don’s run at Robert’s. He entertained the masses night after night, year after year, and acted as a conduit for some of the greatest guitar players on the planet. I miss the days of JD Simo searing the paint off the walls.

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

For coffee, anywhere that serves Drew’s Brews. The South Brooklyn from Five Points Pizza is a favorite, although sometimes you just have to order like 25 pounds of the 8 Corner from Jet’s.

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

Wow, this one is tough. Justin Townes Earle’s The Good Life came out right when I moved to town. So, driving around and exploring the city while listening to that and seeing him and that band at The Basement at the time will always hold a special place in my heart.  When I hear it today, it always evokes my earliest memories of living here, so I gotta go with that one.

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

There have been many-a-late nights at Mafiaoza’s: good, bad, and ugly. Gonna miss Hermitage Cafe. But nowadays probably a burger and fries at Dino’s. Even if you have to wait in line for a spell, your jacket will only smell better the next day.

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

Larissia Murphy, Beau Burnette and Gillian Welch.

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

The OG Basement and The 5 Spot. They’re both perfect rock clubs. They can feel intimate but also get loud and rowdy at the same time. Although, one time I played off the back of a loading dock at the old Jackelope and I feel like there should be more shows on loading docks.

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

Tom Waits, but instead of opening a themed restaurant he could open a salvage yard and when you go there, he just yells at you with a megaphone.

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

Well, I’m released a new single on Friday, February 4: “Gotta Stay” featuring Larissia Murphy, and I played The Basement that same night. I’ve also got an acoustic record that will hopefully see the light of day later this year.

One comment

  1. Kathleen Carroll · · Reply

    I am from Ashland, Pa. I was a classmate and good friend of your Aunt Karen. Congratulations on your success.

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