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Josh Kelley wows Quinnipiac audience at weekend concert
For music’s new kid on the block, Josh Kelley, success is just “part of the ride.” The 23-year-old performer from Georgia provided opening act support for Third Eye Blind’s concert stop at Quinnipiac last Sunday, and left concert goers with a new appreciation for the singer/songwriter’s latest musical contributions.
Kelley’s debut album, “For the Ride Home,” was released last June from Hollywood Records, and his role on the Third Eye Blind tour has provided him with numerous, varied avenues of promotion, including tour stops at smaller venues, like nightclubs and colleges.
“You can definitely tell that the kids want [the music] more and they have a great time because it is something that they can look forward to,” Kelley says of his college audiences. “It’s a great thing that we get 45 minutes to play, but you want to keep playing even longer than that, sometimes you want to play a whole set.”
For this seasoned tour veteran, who has fit past concert tours with Jewel, Train, Dave Matthews and the Goo Goo Dolls into his busy schedule, his latest nationwide trek with Third Eye Blind has given the performer something to learn from.
“[These large-scale tours are] definitely different, it’s pretty awesome. It’s unbelievable because I’ve gotten to see a totally different stage presence with Third Eye Blind. It’s cool to see the different personas and ways of drawing a crowd into your music. I’ve learned a lot from doing this, it’s been great,” Kelley told The Chronicle in a pre-show interview.
Opening up for Dave Matthews was fun for Kelley, but he says the comparisons he often gets from critics and fans between he and Matthews are not totally correct.
While he says he does draw some musical influence from Matthews, the performer realizes “we do get compared a lot but I think mainly it’s just because I’m holding an acoustic guitar in my hands and I write all the songs and I’m in the front. We don’t really sound anything alike.”
To further distinguish his unique musical persona, Kelley writes all of his own songs; a process he describes as very natural, saying that usually when creating those hits fans love, the music comes first before the words.
“Most of the time the music comes first because music is like the train and the engine to get the poetry across pretty much so I feel like more people will listen to what you have to say if the music feels right so I make sure the music feels right first and then I sort of write the words around whatever that song feels like to me,” he said.
Kelley’s writing strategies have paid off thus far in his career, as his hit “Amazing” can currently be heard on radio stations across the country, including locally on KC101 in New Haven and on Hartford’s Kiss 95.7. Although this is the songwriter’s first single to be played on a national level, he is used to hearing his tunes on his college radio station during his years at the University of Mississippi.
“I heard [“Amazing”] in college a lot so it was different because I sort of got used to hearing it on the radio [since] they played the old version a lot. As far as hearing it on a national level in a different city, it’s pretty weird, it kind of freaked me out a little bit,” he said.
With “Amazing” bringing Kelley so much success, he has decided “Everybody Wants You” will be the next single from his album. While that song was a clear choice for a next single, he finds it much harder to choose his favorite song from the album.
“I love all the songs so much and they’re all so much fun to play. I’ll have to revisit the album and listen to it as if it wasn’t me. It kind of stinks that I won’t be able to listen to the album like everyone else does. When you’ve created it, you know exactly how things are put together and you [the listener] don’t listen in chopped up pieces and you listen to it in one big thing coming at you,” he said.
After seeing the process that goes into creating music behind the scenes, the performer advises student musicians to have fun with their bands and when playing music. “Make sure that it’s never a chore. Make sure that you don’t make it homework. Make it fun, make it a jam,” he said.
“I’ve seen kids totally turn their backs on music because they ended up trying to study and learn too much and the next thing you know it was homework and they dreaded practicing something. I don’t think practicing is ever the right thing to do, I think playing and jamming and teaching yourself is a really healthy thing.”
Aspiring musicians and fans can keep an eye on Josh Kelley when he performs on the NBC hit “American Dreams,” in early January, portraying 1965 singer/songwriter Barry McGuire, and performing McGuire’s song “Eve of Destruction.” His stint as the opening act for Third Eye Blind will wrap up Dec. 1 in Tampa, Fla.