Kelly Thomas is easily one of Cincinnati's young local legends. She describes her music style as traditional country with a strong dose of rock and blues. In 2005, Kelly Thomas and The Fabulous Pickups carved out a respectable place as a premier band almost immediately. Kelly has also recorded an EP with Ryan Malott (500 Miles to Memphis) and has released a gospel CD with The Hayseed Tabernacle Choir. Also you can see Kelly with The Tammy WhyNots, an over the top old school traditional country band. Together they were nominated for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best Country Act and Best New Artist in 2011. Kelly has also picked up a Cincinnati Entertainment award solo in 2012 for Best Singer / Songwriter. Oh, and let's not forget about her Fairmont Girls' Trashie Award for Best Rock Hair (2012). The girl knows how to rock a poof! Good to know I am not the only girl in the city helping the Aqua Net stock prices.
In addition, Kelly spearheaded the Sacred Harp Sessions. A project in which she records with some amazing local bands, they do some classic covers, some rocking originals and all with different producers and studios around town. An amazing way to showcase a wide variety of what our city has to offer.
Goodness, what can't Kelly do?! I sat down with the motivating Kelly Thomas and it seems that she really can do and have it all. And she deserves all of it.
What's your first musical memory?
Hmmm. I think I've been singing as long as I've been talking. I don't necessarily remember this, but my mom has told me I would break out into songs when we'd be out shopping (or whenever there was a potential "audience" around). "There's Something About America" was one of my earliest favorites. I also used to tell jokes when we'd be stuck waiting in long lines, like at the BMV. I remember putting on shows in my backyard when I was about 5. I'd sing, "Country Roads" by John Denver, and even then I knew presentation was important. I'd wear a very cool red banana around my head. (okay, I was a dork.)
How did you get involved in the Cincinnati Music Scene?
I first became involved when i was in my first original band, Second Sister (circa 1998). It was a very different scene then. There were 3 or 4 "big dogs" in town and everyone else (me) would get the less cool gigs. The Barrelhouse was open then and I loved that place because they would give newer bands a chance. After Second Sister broke up I floated for a few years and would do occasional gigs with my ex (who was in SS with me.) He actually played with me when I started doing The Rivertown Music Club, which was a monthly musicians show with lots of guests and sitting in. That really put me smack in the middle of what was going on around here musically. I put most of my energy into that for years, until I recently started really focusing on songwriting and recording my own stuff. If you're a newer musician in town, you need to understand the amazing music scene we are experiencing right now is relatively new. DON'T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED! I think as a town, this is our moment! If we want to keep this up, it's absolutely essential that bands do their part and put on kick ass shows, put out great recordings and promote, promote, promote! It literally could go away at any moment, if we do our part as artists, we can maintain it!
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Good question! I'm very fortunate. I LOVE what I do during the day--I'm a teacher in an urban school, helping high school students figure out their career path. The hours aren't as taxing as some jobs. I am a strong advocate of the power nap (don't sleep more than 30 minutes or you go into REM and you'll be more tired. A quick nap can give me a little energy to go play a gig or rehearse in the evening.) And, of course, I LOVE my other job (and I do consider it a career) as a singer and writer. For me, if either of these careers were missing I wouldn't be my best. I'm lucky that way.
What's one thing our audience can do to engage in and help build up the Cincinnati Music Scene?
I would encourage folks to check out someone they've never seen before. This town is so overloaded with talent that you have to put in some effort to see it all. Ask a friend for a recommendation and then go check out someone that has been off your radar. If you can't do that, go online and buy someone's album. An album is usually a little different experience than a live show and gives you a great feel for an artist. Plus, putting that stuff out isn't cheap! So help a brotha/sista out. ;) You can buy all of my music at www.kellythomasonline.com/store.