Aug. 29--Wilkes-Barre singer-songwriter Katie Kelly plays well with others.
The soloist's fondness for collaboration helped her find the perfect lineup for her current band, the Charming Beards. Guitarist Ray Novitski of Plymouth, drummer Theresa Lazzari of Wilkes-Barre and mandolin and bass player Aaron McCurdy of Mountain Top form a group that is exactly what Kelly is looking for in a band -- a stable mix of the right people.
"If you can have a good time with them and they're your friends, you're golden," she said.
Kelly and Novitski previously played together "in a really loud psychedelic rock band" called the Love Crimes. McCurdy played in her former band Ashes for Trees, and Lazzari is a friend of Kelly's brother, who Kelly once invited to a jam session.
The group works because members share common work schedules and work ethic, and just plain get along, she added. She doesn't consider the group a backing band, recognizing the individual talent each member brings to the stage. McCurdy can show her how to play any song, and Novitski and Lazzari help her broaden her approach to writing, making tunes less formulaic.
"I don't want four of me on stage," she said.
Kelly performed as a soloist for a while after splitting with writing partner Conrad Miller, with whom she formed band Ashes for Trees. Miller and Kelly met in 2005 during karaoke at an Applebee's restaurant. They played together in a band, stayed together when that band split up, and released their first CD in 2010. Their music was folk with a country feel, and both members contributed lyrics. Miller left the group to go back to school.
Kelly released her debut solo album, "Three Dark Days," in 2012. She wasn't completely alone when she produced the album -- Novitski, along with local musicians Betty Harlot, Terry Childers and Ryan Post, performed live in-studio with her. She put together a band for her album release party, too, and enjoyed the experience enough to want to work with a steady group again.
Kelly started playing guitar as a teen after making a deal with her parents to take piano lessons first. She worked in social work for six years, but her schedule made it difficult to play gigs. She now gives private guitar lessons, and works at Guitar Center in Moosic, where it's easier -- and even encouraged -- to work around gigs, she said.
She enjoys the job because it allows her to work alongside music people, former touring musicians and people involved in the record business. She didn't go to school for music and doesn't plan to -- she prefers to learn in a more casual setting.
"I have a ton to learn, but I'd rather learn it outside the rigors of college," she said.
Eager to learn
Kelly added she learns best from human interaction, rather than studying or trying things out on her own. She's looking forward to performing with Justin Mazer of Leroy Justice during his residency at the Rattler in Pittston on Wednesdays during September. The Shavertown guitarist performed on her solo album.
"I think it's going to be a major learning experience for me. I'm really excited about it."
Kelly performs locally, and also plays out-of-town shows in Binghamton, Harrisburg and Gettysburg. She tried playing in Brooklyn, but didn't like the scene. The Philadelphia and New York City markets have been difficult to break into. She said she would love to take her music on the road, and see the country, and maybe the world, while touring.
Earning money from live gigs is difficult, she said. Currently she's looking into music publishing as a way to earn a living wage. Avenues include writing songs for other artists, or selling songs for use in commercials and films.
She looks up to artists who are able to sustain themselves on a career in music. It's something she aspires to -- not fame or fortune, but a practical income.
Katie Kelly and the Charming Beards
Founded: September 2012
Genre: Folk, alternative folk
Members: Katie Kelly, guitar and vocals; Ray Novitski, guitar; Aaron McCurdy, mandolin, bass and vocals; Theresa Lazzari, drums
For fans of: Of Monsters and Men, Alex Culbreth and the Dead Country Stars, PJ Harvey
Online: www.facebook.com/KatieKellyMusic, www.reverbnation.com/katiekellymusic
Up next: Sept. 27, Irish Wolf Pub, Scranton
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