reat music transcends genres and for twenty-four years, THE KELLY BELL BAND has been making 13 albums worth of great music. Now, the band has issued their latest album KNOW MY NAME and the borders that have traditionally separated such music as metal, blues, jazz and rock are nowhere to be found, resulting in a musical journey that is unparalleled in an age where singles are king...at least until APPLE takes i-TUNES away. If the myriad sounds collected on this one album look daunting in print, to front man KELLY BELL it's just business as usual. In fact, the music of THE KELLY BELL BAND indeed has a label and it's "Phat Blues".
"There are so many different musical perspectives in our music and it comes from six different musicians with completely different backgrounds," said BELL in a recent phone conversation with ROCKWIRED.COM. "Our sound has shades of everything from blues to jazz to heavy metal and hip hop. It's all there in our music."
The release of KNOW MY NAME has been accompanied by the release of the single "LONG TRAIN" and its accompanying music video - a first for the band.
"The video for 'LONG TRAIN' is the first music video that we've ever done and I feel that the song and the music video show you everything that this band is about. It's a fun song and it kicks ass but it demonstrates the musicality and diversity of the band. In this band you've got different cats from all over the place, from different races and ages but in this band we are all one voice."
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR LONG TRAIN!!!
Aside from social media marketing and breaking into the music video medium for the first time, KELLY BELL has a good idea of what else sets this latest album apart from the band's previous and equally adventurous releases.
"Our records are all over the place musically. Our sound starts from the roots which is blues and gospel which is the backbone of all of the music that came out of this country and from there, we just start exploring different genres of music. That is what we do as a band. We can do a jazz song, a country song and a metal song. I think as time has gone by, people have become more eclectic listeners so I think that with this album, we have stepped out more creatively and musically than ever before. On this album, no song sounds alike but at the same time, we're not a singles band. We are a band that specializes in making albums because we want to take people on a journey. Another thing that makes this album different is that I've turned over more control creatively on this album and it feels like it has paid off."
THE ARTiCLE WiLL CONTiNUE
FOLLOWiNG THE ADVERTiSEMENT BELOW
According to BELL, it was he, STEVE WRIGHT and the band's guitarist RYAN FOWLER who called the shots behind the mixing board. With KNOW MY NAME available to the public, BELL has expressed surprise at the swift reaction to the band's latest opus.
"Over the years we've sold about 100,000 records on our own without any support from a record company and that number doesn't include digital sales. So as a band, we've done okay. But with this album, I did not expect this commercial success right away and I think a lot of that has to do with the music video we did for LONG TRAIN. It's also resulted in airplay and when we last checked SPOTIFY, we were up to 14,000 hits. We also had a little bit of success with the song 'I'M GONE'."
"I'M GONE" is a straight ahead blues shuffle that is all about giving that two-week notice. It's clearly the best adios a band or solo artist has issued this side of JOHNNY PAYCHECK's TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT. According to BELL, the inspiration was simple.
"I wrote that song for the purpose of quitting my job. After we recorded the song I went into my boss's office. I didn't say anything I just held out my phone and started playing the song. He just started to really jam to it and then slowly to realize the message of the song and how it applied to our situation. I continued to play the song for him while I quietly drank my coffee. When It was over, I handed him my resignation letter."
hat is where I've got to acknowledge my father, God rest his soul" says BELL when asked about what he attributed his path in music. "When I was growing up, me and my dad were broke, but despite these circumstances, my father was a mason and always had a sense of service. Every weekend, he and I would get the lawnmower, put it inside of our raggedy van and we would go into the DC area and cut lawns for older folks. These older folks didn't trust people in their own neighborhoods to cut their lawns and a lot of these people were in bad shape. I remember one elderly woman who smelled like she was eating cat food. My dad would also fix faucets and he would do some light electrical work for these people if they needed it. We did this for years and it wasn't until I was older that I realized that he never charged these people. When I was a teenager, I had no appreciation for this kind of thing. It was the weekend and I wanted to hang out with my friends, but now that I'm older I deeply appreciate what my father was trying to do."
"My father got me into listening to this radio station WPFW out of Washington DC. There was this deejay on that station called THAT BAMA who was this guy from Alabama who played everything from the most gutbucket blues you ever heard to more contemporary blues. That was basically the focus of his show. There was also another show on that station called THE GATOR HOUR that played a lot of old blues and jazz. This was the kind of music that my childhood was filled with but at the time I wasn't sure what to think of it. My dad wanted me to listen to this music. He pointed out to me that it was musicians like CHUCK BERRY and all of these other bluesmen that were responsible for the more contemporary music that I was listening to. He drilled into me the importance of understanding where all of this music that I listened to came from. The music I perform today comes from this."
BELL's desire to perform was inspired by an evening at the HOWARD THEATER where R&B legends CLARENCE CARTER and BOBBY BLUE BLAND shared the bill. It was the performance by BOBBY BLUE BLAND in particular that made the strongest impression on BELL.
"When BOBBY BLUE BLAND got up there and sang, he had all of the women going crazy. I'm talking women from eighteen to eighty-one. I had never seen anything like it before and after seeing it, I knew that I wanted to have that kind of an impact on people like he had."
The only thing left to do was to learn an instrument.
"I started out by playing the flute and then I tried to learn to play guitar, and to be honest with you, I'm still learning to play the guitar. In high school, I played the tuba and the baritone saxophone. That was when I was doing more orchestral type stuff. The first band that I ever sang in was a heavy metal band and from there I was in this blues band called FAT TUESDAY and I was in that band for about three and half years."
THE ARTiCLE WiLL CONTiNUE
FOLLOWiNG THE ADVERTiSEMENT BELOW
BELL's tenure with FAT TUESDAY ended when BELL and that band were asked to provide some backing for rock n roll pioneer BO DIDDLEY.
"This club owner in Baltimore asked me if FAT TUESDAY would be interested in giving some back up for BO DIDDLEY and I said "Hell yeah!" so I went to the band to present the offer to them, and shockingly they weren't interested. They just had no motivation to do it. So I kind of deflated when I heard this. Well it just so happened that as I was telling the band this, a guy named SLIM from the band AUTOMATIC SLIM AND THE UGLY BABYSITTERS overheard me and saw how I was crushed by the band not wanting to play for BO DIDDLEY. He came up to me and suggested that I take the gig and that he would help me get some guys together for the show. We had some time. The show wasn't going to happen for another eight weeks. In the beginning, I wanted to call this band the BALTIMORE BLUES ALL STARS but SLIM suggested that I give the band my name. So that was how the KELLY BELL BAND started."
"In eight weeks we had to learn four hours of music and I had all of these setlists written out. The night of the gig, BO DIDDLEY showed up and I presented him with the set list that I came up with. He took one look at it and looked at me and said "This is what I think of your setlist!" and he tore it up and he threw it away. Playing with BO taught me something. He taught me how to read an audience and how to pay attention to an audience. If you saw them getting tired you picked it up with an uptempo song and when it was time to bring them down, you did that. Ever since then, this band has never used a setlist. We've always gone by feel."
"We played with him for four and half years. He fell in love with us but this was the thing. When BO did a series of shows, he never traveled with a band. It was just him and his guitar. It was up to wherever venue he would be playing at to get a band together for him and you would only have a few minutes to rehearse with him before the show started. So whenever he was in the DC/Baltimore area, we were BO's backing band. We gave him what he wanted."
Twenty-fours years is a long time to be in the trenches and despite any line up changes that go with being in a band, the chemistry between the members of the KELLY BELL BAND is undeniable. When asked about his bandmates, BELL had this to say:
"ERIC ROBINSON is the rhythm guitar player but he also does some lead guitar. He is a rock solid player and he is always reminding us of how important it is to feel the music. Feeling is very important to him. He doesn't talk notes, but when he does, he can go on for a while but that is a testament to his musicality. Outside of music, I think the man has seen just about every documentary there is on just about every subject you can think of."
"FRANKIE HERNANDEZ is the bass player and he is the rhythm. He is all about keeping the rhythm going. He really feels the music."
"JOHN ROBERT BUELL is the drummer and he is the Berklee graduate in the band and he is one of those guys that can play anything. A true musician isn't afraid to play anything and everything. Great drummers are good at other things too and if you are coming out of the Berklee School of Music, you've got to be good."
"RAHSAAN WORDSLAVE ELDRIDGE is our other vocalist and rapper and his nickname WORDSLAVE is absolutely true. He has written books of poetry and he has his own band BROTHER'S KEEPER. With his rapping, he brings a strong hip hop element into the band. He is also a phenomenal singer. There is a song on the album called LATE HOURS and it is WORDSLAVE who is doing the singing, not me. Initially he recorded his vocals as a guide for me but when I heard what he recorded, I decided to let him have the song. We just left it that way."
"RYAN FOWLER is the lead guitar player. Before he joined the band, we had two guitar players who left the band and when he left, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to continue with the band. Before he joined the band, RYAN was working for GUITAR CENTER and now he does his own thing called RYAN FOWLER's GUITAR EXPERIENCE. When he auditioned for the band he blew me away. I had realized that I wanted to play music with this guy and I haven't looked back since. We're still going."
"DANE PAUL RUSSELL is the harmonica player. He had been on the road with the BOBBY PARKER BAND for about 20 years until BOBBY PARKER had passed away. We were doing this gig where we were in need of a harmonica player and DANE filled in for us. Given the fact that he had played with BOBBY PARKER, we were surprised that he did it and he blew us away. Eventually we were in need of a full time harmonica player but we had heard that DANE was no longer interested in playing. Well we had no luck finding anyone so we just called him up and asked him and he said 'I was waiting for you guys to ask me!' Ever since he did that show with us, he had wanted to jam with us again. He brings some amazing performance chops to the band but that's not surprising when you consider that fact that this guy has played the MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL every year."
t happens in a variety of ways," says BELL of the band's songwriting process. "The song LONG TRAIN started with a very simple riff and then the band started to build on it. As they were doing it I was typing up some BEATLES lyrics for this BEATLES tribute show that we were going to be doing and when I heard what the band was coming up with musically, the words for LONG TRAIN came into my head. WORDSLAVE started to record everything onto his phone and a week and a half later, we had a song. That was it. It eventually became the first song that you hear on the album but it was actually the last song written."
"Sometimes songs come together with me presenting an acapella recording to the band and they begin to add things to it. It's actually very easy for all of us to put something together. You've got six different men from six different backgrounds creating something."
When asked about personal favorites from the band's latest album, the single LONG TRAIN and it's video still loomed large in BELL's mind.
"LONG TRAIN really stands out for me. The music video for LONG TRAIN shows what we're all about. we spent about 16 hours in a factory in Maryland and we just had a ball. He had breakfast from McDonalds and our energy never went down. The video really captures that. Even an hour after we were finished when they were about to close the factory down, we were all outside still laughing and having a good time. I've already talked about I'M GONE. KNOW MY NAME is very personal song for me. I think people really feel the power of that song. It's a really legit story about coming from a broken home. I don't think there is a such a thing as a broken home. You've got what you got but the whole process of separation and divorce really affects children, even if it's done right. FIRST MOMENT is another one that sticks out for me. It's got this STEELY DAN-ish quality to it. It's very musical and that came from ERIC ROBINSON."
With a significant catalog of music behind them, the album KNOW MY NAME is a definite stand out, but what does BELL hope the big takeaway is for listeners?
"I hope that people listen to the album and hear that it is a musical journey. I hope that it took them to some cool places. I hope that it took them to some happy places and I hope that it took them to some uncomfortable places as well. Sometimes bad memories can help us move forward and helps us to reflect on our own journey through life. These songs are a reflection of my journey in life. In my own life I have two goals. One is to leave this world a better man and the other is to never forget the first goal."
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