14 May 2009

Billy Kelly - An OWTK Kid's Music Interview

A few days ago OWTK sat down with Billy Kelly for a lil' Q&A. Technically speaking, I was standing. Billy could have been standing as well or sitting or laying down. I'm going to assume he was sitting while answering my email but kneeling is also possibility. Kneeling isn't really comfortable though, so he probably wasn't doing that unless he was working in a garden but how could he have been answering email while gardening? I guess he could have been dictating his responses to one of his handlers as he planted petunias and dahlias.

I wanted to chat with Mr. Kelly to clarify a few things about his identity and also to learn a bit about the origins of his fantastic debut family record "Thank You For Joining The Happy Club".

In the end, I came away even more confused but chuckling all the while. Mr. Kelly is one funny fella on record and via email. Read on...

Earl Pickens, Billy Kelly...who the heck are you sir?
Billy Kelly:
Even I'm not sure sometimes. My rule of thumb for figuring out who I am at any given moment is: Earl Pickens rides a unicycle and dresses like a cowboy. Billy Kelly just rides a unicycle.

OWTK: Where did "...The Happy Club" come from? What made you record and release an All-Ages/Family record?
BK: I'm always writing songs and — well, not always. Right now I'm doing this interview, for example. But I'm always writing songs when I'm not doing this interview. Love songs, dance songs, political songs, sad songs, funny songs; all different types of songs.

After a few years of writing I found that I had a handful of songs that didn't quite fit in with my other songs. Some of them, like "Thank You for Joining the Happy Club", were written specifically for my kids, but others I wrote solely to amuse myself. ("People Really Like Milk" & "I Can't Get Away From Myself" for example.) Obviously, I am very easily amused.

I was looking for a New Years Resolution for 2009, and I settled on the idea of recording a CD of my weirdest songs. Since my daughters would often ask me to play these oddball songs when I was practicing in the house, I decided to approach the project as a children's album.

OWTK: Stylistically, where did the record originate? What music influenced the music on "Thank You For Joining The Happy Club"?
BK: We were out for a family [trip] on New Years Day and we were listening to "The Monkees Greatest Hits" in the car. After a few songs, my then-5-year-old asked "Is this CD for little kids?" I told her "No, not really," and explained that The Monkees were sort of a band for teenagers and grown-ups, but that little kids seem to like some of their songs too. She replied "Well I think this CD is for little kids." That became my approach to "Thank You For Joining the Happy Club". I didn't want to make a kids album that adults could tolerate, I wanted to make an adult album that kids would love. The fact that roughly half of the songs are straight-up kids songs didn't really cross my mind. Me and The Blah Blah Blahs (my super-duper band) worked on this record like it was a greatest hits pop collection.

"The Monkees" ended up being my starting point for every song in the studio. I love their harmonies and backing vocals in particular, and on this CD I tried to do my own version of things I heard in the background on their songs. I always think of The Monkees as the plastic Beatles, and it was fun trying to copy them knowing that they were copying someone else. Who the Beatles were copying I don't know. It would be weird if they were copying the Monkees.

OWTK: How does an alt-country crooner make the transition to kindie (kids+indie) rock? I mean, seriously, what gives you the right?
BK: I believe it's in the Constitution. Right after the right to keep bare arms. I think it's the Constitution. Maybe I'm thinking of the Magna Carta. I often do. Man, I love the Magna Carta.

OWTK: Any plans to play some all-ages gigs in support of the record?
BK: YES! I want to tour this summer. I have a vision of the Kelly family hittin' the road; my guitar and a box of CDs strapped to the roof of the car. We drive to a nice town, hang out all day & take in the sights and then I play a show somewhere. Meet some people, entertain 'em, talk to 'em after the show and bid them a fond fare-thee-well as we Kelly's roll off to the next nice town and do it all again.

I've never toured in the proper music industry sense, because I don't like to be away from my family. If I could work out a way for us all to go on tour together then time on the road would suit me just fine.

OWTK: I count 3 songs with blatant spelling lessons. Do you have some radical agenda to educate our children? Dude, you're going to teach them to spell...don't you realize we parents depend on their inability to spell as a means of communicating around them. There goes my chance to ask the Mrs "do you want to let her make a S-N-O-W-M-A-N now or after nap?"
BK: The songs with spelling lessons in them are there because I was trying to teach you to count to three. You counted them all, so it looks like I succeeded. Good job, Jeff. My work here is done.

OWTK: What was your goal in making your debut kiddie record?
BK: My goal was to make the best record I possibly could, and to put a little extra sunshine into the world. I guess that's two goals. I thought it was one goal at the time, but now that I see it written out it's pretty obvious that it's two different goals. Sorry.

OWTK: Now that it's done, what are your plans for the future of the free world or (if your unwilling to share THAT level of detail) what are your plans for your future in the family music world?
BK: I've got big plans. I'll let the future of the world take care of itself (for the most part) while I work on trying to get my music out to anyone and everyone who will enjoy it. I really like the idea of making people happy. Making millions of people happy would be great. To that end I'm producing music videos for the songs from "Thank You for Joining the Happy Club", working on a children's book idea, and creating my own online show for kids.

I'm running a DIY operation here, so in addition to all of the above I'm also looking for ways to promote my cd to radio stations and to music reviewers, keeping up with orders and mailing CDs, building my web site, practicing with The Blah Blah Blahs, booking shows, playing shows, not to mention writing more songs. Oops! I mentioned writing more songs.

OWTK: Finally, tell us about The Billy Kelly Show...what should we expect? when should we expect it?
BK: "The Billy Kelly Show" is a live action/animated, serious/nonsensical theatrical production/youtube show that focuses on some version of my life that may or may not be stranger than reality. It will hopefully be "Thank You for Joining the Happy Club" brought to life. Music videos, stories, poems, jokes, illustrations, cartoons, puppets, band practice. It's all in there. I wouldn't go expecting it at all if I were you, that way you'll be really surprised when it comes out some time over the next few days!

You should become the newest member of The Happy Club. Today. Right now. Why are you still reading this? Go now and buy the CD!, which comes with your very own Happy Club membership certificate.

No comments: