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Bridget Kelly: A songbird soars

Summer of 17 (4)

Photo Credit: Anderson Zaca

Initially inked to Jay Z’s Roc Nation imprint, New York City-based singer-songwriter, Bridget Kelly, an alum of Manhattan’s prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, is probably most famously known as Alicia Keys’ regular fill-in on Hov’s smash hometown anthem “Empire State of Mind.” No longer signed to the Roc, the 29-year-old biracial chanteuse is finally at the precipice of taking full control of her own destiny.
When did you first become interested in music?

I always loved music as a kid, watching the ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘Sister Act’ really inspired me. It wasn’t until I joined a church choir when I was 12 that I realized I really loved to sing.

Growing up in the the Big Apple, who did you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
I was inspired by powerful female voices; Mariah Carey, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Pink, were really heavy in rotation.

At what specific point in time did you even opt to pursue music on a professional level?
I went to a performing arts high school, so that fueled the fire, honestly. I knew at that point that I wanted to pursue it professionally.

That being said, how do you classify your overall sound and/or style?
I always saw myself in an alternative R&B lane. Edgy and gritty guitars with heavy R&B bass and percussion.

What particular string of events led to your initial linking up with Jay Z and ultimately inking to his Roc Nation imprint?
My manager started out working under Ty Ty, so the relationship was already there. I worked on demos and performed any and everywhere for 2 years until Roc Nation was formed, and then we pursued them vehemently for meetings.

Summer of 17 Cover copy

Courtesy of Primary Wave Music

You semi-recently unleashed your latest EP entitled Summer of 17 — what does this title represent both to and for you?
Well, it’s my first independent project so it’s liberating. I feel like I’m 17 again; expected to grow up and be responsible, only now it’s “find a husband, settle down.” I’m still having fun and living my life.

The set’s lead single “Act Like That,” features Mack Wilds. How did it even come to fruition?
I wanted to lead the project with a fun/sexy anthem. Mack and I are close friends, so the chemistry was already there; it was an easy fit. I wrote my part with Jordan Bratton, who also produced the song, and Mack heard it and loved it.

As far your eagerly awaited, debut studio collection, All or Nothing — can you tell us when you expect to release it?
Spring of 2016 you will have All or Nothing! I’ve stopped and started so many times, it’s gonna feel like giving birth once it’s released. Pure freedom and relief.

In having said that, what all can be expected from your forthcoming first proper solo album?
Dark truths. This project will be my most honest to date.

What do you feel you bring to the music industry that makes you stand out from other performers?
I don’t take myself too seriously. As artists we’re super sensitive, I try really hard not to internalize others’ opinions and approach life as lightheartedly as possible. Live performances are an experience. I love to make my fans laugh and cry all within the same hour. I want my fans to face their emotional fears after connecting with me.

What was one of your biggest hurdles to overcome in your career thus far?
Honestly, completing an album and promoting it adequately. I feel like it’s always been a stop/start process. Every time I pick up momentum, I lose it again quickly.

What do you want people to take away from your music?
I always prided myself on being a voice for women who either, a) don’t know how they feel, or b) are too afraid to admit that they feel a certain way. Ultimately, I’m a storyteller. I want people to listen to my music to see where I’m coming from, but to also be able to overcome whatever it is they’re going through.

If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to write a song with Amy Winehouse. I think she was a young phenomenon that we lost too soon. If I could get into a studio with her, Quincy Jones and John Mayer, I would be in heaven.

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Well, that’s a trick question …  I’ve already performed there! Madison Square Garden, the highest of stages.

One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
“Not Afraid” is definitive of who I am as a woman and as an artist. I’m vulnerable, but I’m not weak. Sometimes I am emotional and fragile, but never broken. I think I find that I’m the strongest and my vision is the most clear when I’m amidst turmoil.

Do you have any other outside/additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
I love marine life and the ocean. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a marine biologist. That’s a childhood dream I haven’t let go of, so I’m sure when all is said and done in music you’ll find me on an exotic island, scuba diving off the coast and discovering new species of fish!

To date, what has been your most memorable career moment?
I would have to say my very first performance as a signed artist. My very first show was at Madison Square Garden alongside Jay Z singing “Empire State of Mind.” To this day, that is the greatest memory I have.

Looking ahead, say five or maybe even 10 years from now, where do you see yourself?
I have no idea!.I always hate those questions because no matter what or where I am, no matter who’s around, I just want to be happy. I want my mother to want for nothing, my team to fulfill all of their dreams and aspirations, and I just want to be on a beach with the man I love somewhere warm, planning the next adventure. Multiple albums, tours and TV shows. It’s all on the horizon

As for the immediate, what’s next for Bridget Kelly?
Well after this tour in the UK in November, it’s album time. I’m super excited to lock in and finish creating this masterpiece of mine.

Is there anything else that I didn’t touch upon that you would like to mention?
I think you covered everything!

Any closing thoughts for our readers?
Just thanks for the continued support and encouragement. It’s been a rough road, but I’m no quitter so there’s still much to be seen and done. I’m not going anywhere!