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Kelley James

About Kelley James: There’s a saying, “write what you know.” Kelley James has done just that. On his latest (and first full-length) album, In a city that has no name, Kelley combines all the pieces of his musical past and present. There’s a little bit of everything – acoustic singer songwriter mixed with rock and flashes of hip-hop, Motown, and reggae.

Kelley, now based in Los Angeles, began recording In a city that has no name in the spring of 2006 as a “more focused” effort to follow up a record he finished at the age of 18, Ten Songs About Us. “I basically stumbled into Ten Songs. It wasn’t very calculated, so there was an incredible amount of energy and rawness. It seemed like every day I was exploring a new part of the experience of writing and recording – it was a defining time in my life. For In a city that has no name, we wanted to maintain that energy but follow more of a roadmap for making an album we’d love and be proud of for years to come.”

Kelley grew up in northern California’s Bay Area, an often-overlooked mecca of the music industry that he credits as being a major influence in his songwriting. “Up in San Francisco we’re far enough from Los Angeles to skip out on the cookie-cutter pop…yet close enough to see, feel, and hear a lot of what’s going on in the indie and underground scenes,” he says. Catching as many shows as he could at venues like Slims and the Fillmore, Kelley played guitar in several rock bands and began songwriting as a teenager. The move to Los Angeles to continue his career has been equally as inspiring: “it’s like making the jump to the pros straight out of high school. As a new artist you have no idea what you’re really doing, but you start to figure it out pretty quickly by throwing everything out there. In LA, there’s inspiration, excitement, opportunity...everywhere. There’s no place where the bar is set higher, and there’s no place I’d rather be at this point in my career.”

Seeing Kelley live is a little bit like listening to your iPod Shuffle. You’re bound to hear some acoustic tunes you’ll have to include on your next mix CD, some rock that reminds you of the energy of the mid 90s, some soulful songs with a deep groove, and some hip-hop you didn’t realize you knew the words to. His crowd looks like a few hundred of his best friends, like they all just took a roadtrip and rock-paper-scissored their way to deciding who got to play that night’s show.

But by the middle of the first song, it’s obvious that chance had nothing to do with who took the stage. There was no road trip, no drawing of straws – just a crowd “watching what they know” and enjoying every minute of it.

-Sarah North

LA Musicbeat

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