Holler Country Music
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New Artist of the Week: Tim Kelly

By Amanda Wicks

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Singer/songwriter Tim Kelly's debut album spans a wide range of time. We're talking decades. Produced by his son Ruston Kelly, Ride Through the Rain brings together songs Kelly wrote when he was a teenager with more recently penned fare.

Music has long been part of Kelly's life. His father purchased a guitar for him at age 12, where he dedicated his free time to learning the instrument. But a music career seemed like a fanciful wish. Kelly's father grew up in the Great Depression and knew the value of steady work. Music seemed too risky. Instead, Kelly focused on his manufacturing career, which he'd taken to support his growing family.

"Maybe the truth is I lacked the self-confidence I needed at the time to just push through with music in a ‘hell or high water’ kind of way", Kelly said. "I don’t regret the decision – well, I guess I did for awhile, since music was all I really ever wanted to do - but things seem to work out the way they are supposed to in the end".

When Ruston picked up the musical mantle, Kelly played on his two albums: 2018's Dying Star and 2020's Shape & Destroy. He also toured as Ruston's pedal steel player. But now Kelly is stepping into his own spotlight.

After some encouragement from Ruston, he set about recording his first full-length album. Marrying together Americana, country-folk and elements of the Laurel Canyon sound, Riding Through the Rain hones in on family. In the opening track 'Better Man', Kelly sings about his father and the lesson of losing him. Listen to it below.

Kelly spoke with Holler about what it was like working with Ruston as a producer, recording songs from such a wide span of time, and who he'd most like to collaborate with.

Where are you from and how has that influenced your music?

My family lived in Mobile, Alabama, until I was fifteen. After that, we moved to Texas. I was exposed to a wide range of musical styles early on, but by high school I was drawn to the singer/songwriters of that time.

What did you listen to growing up?

I listened to everything I could from Merle Haggard to CCR, the Beach Boys to groups like The Buckinghams and The Classics IV. By high school, it was mostly California singers and groups.

What was it like recording such a span of music: songs you wrote when you were a teenager and songs you wrote more recently?

I wrote 'Old Friends' at 18 and part of 'Free' around that time. I didn’t finish it until a few days before recording. The others that Ruston and I chose from the ones I’d written turned out to be more recent. It was cool that a couple old songs made it on the record, especially since Ruston had heard them when he was a teenager. It feels like the qualities in those songs informed his songwriting early on.

There’s a strong theme of family throughout the album and in its creation. How does family factor into your music and your creative process in general?

My family is a group of creators. All of us are involved in either music, writing, and/or art in varying degrees, so we have always supported each other’s work and projects. I love writing with other people, but for this project I wanted the songs to be in my creative voice, so I wrote the songs alone.

You’ve played on Ruston’s albums, but what was it like working with him as a producer on your album?

It was a blast! It’s pretty easy for us to separate our father/son relationship and our music relationship. I have a lot of respect for his knowledge and talent, so I had no problem taking direction from him in the studio.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

Probably Adele.

What’s next?

I take each day as it comes. I do plan, strategize, dream, etc., but I really don’t try to steer too much. I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing music and, hopefully, writing songs with some of my songwriting heroes.

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Ride Through the Rain is out now via TK Records.