We spoke to Kelly Oliver about life, music, and her album, ‘Bedlam’, which is out on March 6.
EP: Your second album ‘Bedlam’ is out on March 6. Talk us through it. What’s been your inspiration for the album? Is there a particular theme running through it, or are they songs you’ve chosen from a pool, as it were, and if so, why did you choose those ones?
KO: ‘Bedlam’ is a bit of a mix of styles, sounds and themes – which is why I chose the name! My producer Nigel Stonier brought a more commercial sound to two of the tracks, while my other producer Stu Hanna added a real contemporary-folk sound and at times a country-folk sound to the songs he worked on. Lauren Deakin-Davies and I co-produced the other tracks on the album which are more stripped back and hopefully they aid the transition from my debut album ‘This Land’, which had very minimal production. For this album, I choose songs that I personally enjoyed performing, and also songs that offered more interest in terms of their musicality and lyrics.
EP: What’s the Kelly Oliver story?
KO: I come from a working class family and graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, before going travelling around Europe, Brazil and Argentina. While I was away in Rio, I decided when I came home I wanted to try and pursue a career in music. That was two and a half years ago now and I haven’t stopped since. Some of many highlights for me have been gaining airplay on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, recording an Under The Apple Tree session for Bob Harris, playing at Cambridge Folk Festival and Larmer Tree Festival and releasing my debut album ‘This Land’ which gained 4* from The Telegraph and a Best Album award from Folkwords. I was also really happy to recently win Best Female Solo Artist at The Cambridge NMG Awards and a slot at Secret Garden Party next year, which I can’t wait for!
EP: You’re sponsored by Hohner, meaning you’ve got a wide range of musical instruments to choose from – what’s your favourite to use and why?
KO: Hohner have sent me Special 20s, Marine Band and Rocket harmonicas, and I like them all really! They all play really well and don’t go out of tune – anyone wanting to get a harmonica, I would recommend them because of their quality and precision.
EP: You’re a rising folk star; have you always favoured this genre? Who and what have been your musical inspirations and why?
KO: I’ve always loved folk music, but I only started singing it within the last 5 years, and I had no idea that the folk scene even existed until about 3 years ago! I’d say Bob Dylan is my biggest inspiration to date, but I’ve been listening to musicians like Alanis Morissette, The Pogues, R.E.M and Dolly Parton since I was very young, and they’ve had an influence on my music, even if only slightly.
EP: What’s your take on the current state of the music industry?
KO: I like the music industry, but maybe that’s because I don’t know it well enough yet! I think it’s fascinating, and so up-and-down that it’s like a roller-coaster. But that’s what makes it exciting. The importance of social media and streaming in the industry now can’t be ignored. Up and coming, unsigned artists are able to create a fan base and workprofessionally as musicians thanks to these platforms. I’m lucky to be working in the UK folk scene which is a wonderful scene and offers quite different prospects and routes to success than the mainstream music scene.
EP: Where do you see yourself in a year’s time? In 5 years? 10?
KO: I would love to still be making and playing music in 10 years time, that would be the dream. I’d like to be an internationally-known touring musician and recording artist. There are plenty of artists in the folk scene who achieve this, and it’s something I’m working towards every day. I’d love to regularly play with a band to make my live sound bigger, and I’m actually giving a taste of this on one of my tour dates at The Convent near Stroud, where I am going to be joined by double bassist Lukas Drinkwater and fiddle player Niall Murphy. I would like to continue to play to bigger audiences and perform at different venues and festivals. It would be amazing to go on tour with a more established artist or band as well…these are some of my goals for the future!
EP: Whose music should we look out for and why?
KO: Minnie Birch is a musician on the same record label as me, Folkstock Records. She is always delivering amazing music and her live shows leave people enthralled. If you see her on the circuit, definitely check out her music.
EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does?
KO: What’s my favourite book! It’s between The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird. The next question would be why, but that’s probably for another interview…