Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Kris Kelly, an Austin, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer. Kelly relocated to New York in order to attend my alma mater NYU, where he studied classical vocal performance and music composition. After graduation, he spent several years performing his original compositions for guitar, vocals, flute, violin, bass and percussion at a number of venues across town.
Kelly then spent the next five years traveling through South America with just his guitar and suitcase, spending most of his time residing in Argentina and Brazil. While traveling and living in South America, Kelly met his husband. Unsurprisingly, his experiences traveling and falling in love informed and inspired his recently released self-produced album Runaways. Thematically, the album touches upon finding pure and lasting love, loss, discovery and personal growth among other things.
As the story goes, upon returning to the States, Kelly holed up in studios in New York and Los Angeles recording the album’s material with an all-star casts of session and backing musicians that include Todd Sickafoose (bass), who’s a member of Ani DiFranco‘s backing band; Brian Griffin (drums), who has played in the backing bands for Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile and as a member of The Lone Bellow; Dave Levita (electric guitar), who’s a member of Alanis Morisette‘s backing band; Benji Lysaght (electric guitar), who’s a member of Father John Misty’s backing band; and Dave Palmer (keys), who’s played in the backing bands of Fiona Apple and Lana Del Rey. The album also features string, wind and horn arrangements by John Philip Shenale, who has worked with Tori Amos. Now, as you may recall, earlier this summer I wrote about the cinematic and hauntingly gorgeous, Scott Walker-like single “Cracked Porcelain.”
Runaways‘ latest single continues a run of gorgeous material. Centered around a shimmering string arrangement, an ethereal flute line, strummed guitar, a soaring hook and Kelly’s gorgeous vocals, the song is a deliberately crafted, 70s AM rock-like gem that’s rooted in deep and hard-fought introspection and longing for someplace and something stable, after a lengthy period of being a restless wanderer.
“’Birthplace’ for me is about our relationship with home. I start writing it while traveling around South America, wandering without a plan, without any expectations or any attachments,” Kelly says of Runaways‘ latest single. “I had left everything I knew: friends, family, my band, work, my apartment, all my stuff, everything but some clothes and my guitar. I was drifting from city to city, staying on random people’s couches, and for a period of time I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. I felt alive and I loved the idea of our birthplace being now and that we have always been here, now in an eternal moment, and any relationship with the past or future only really exists in our head. We’ve always been and always will be here in this moment. And I thought how beautiful it is to surrender to that without wanting more. So the beginning of the song is kind of a representation of that feeling. But toward the end, there is a longing for home, for attachment, to be firmly rooted … to be able to hold onto something. The truth is, I ended up feeling very lost after a while. That dynamic between freedom and attachment runs throughout all the songs on the album.”
“For the ‘Birthplace’ video I explained to video director Adi Halfin what the song meant to me, and she came up with a beautiful concept for the video that I think worked very well,” Kelly adds. “The idea was for the video to unfold like a dream. There is me, the narrator, in a room, away from the outside world, and then we also see these different characters, each one very different from the other, in different emotional states, relating to the environment in different ways. There is struggle, peace, conflict, harmony. There is definitely an element of surrealism and there is not a linear storyline or sense of time. It’s a dream. And like in a dream, to me anyway, the characters all represent different pieces of the main character. I ended up relating to each character in my own personal way, and I think the viewer will have their own experience as well.”