When asked how she describes herself, words like “a lover,” “fun” and “a voice for women” are Bridget Kelly’s response. The New York born and bred songstress has accomplished so much during her five years in the music industry. From touring with Jay-Z to teaming up with Kendrick Lamar, the “Special Delivery” singer has received the type of buzz that veterans dream of, all before releasing her first full length album.
Despite winning a Grammy earlier this year, Ms. Kelly does not plan on slowing down anytime soon. Her love for music and the way it allows her to connect with her fans are one of the things that keep her focused on her craft.
This year Bridget Kelly is nominated for Best New Artist, a category that’s filled with talented artists, each with a bright future. In this honest and inspirational interview, Bridget shared with us her musical inspirations growing up, her creative process and her goals for the future.
SoulTrain.com: You were quoted saying, “I hope to touch someone’s life through my writing or my voice.” Growing up, which artists touched you in that way?
Bridget Kelly: Mariah Carey was definitely the main artist for me that I gravitated towards. She was so powerful in her songs, in her voice and what she talked about. Her lyrics were always really interesting to me. She always used words that you didn’t expect to hear in a song, instead of the basic rhyming words that you would expect. She would think out of the box, which I really loved. Lauryn Hill also was an inspiration for me coming up.
SoulTrain.com: Like Mariah, you divide your time between writing and singing. Which came first, singing or writing and do you prefer one over the other and why for your audience?
Bridget Kelly: I started singing first. I didn’t begin writing until I got to high school, which is when I began to explore different styles. I went to a performing arts school and so I started writing there. Writing is therapy for me. Singing and writing are both therapy for me. With this album that I’m putting out, I really made a point to tell my story using writers and producers that I felt would culminate what I really wanted to say. It was a soul-searching process and I think the performance aspect of it is really great. I don’t prefer one over the other. I think as long as I tell my story, if I write it or somebody else writes it, anything that I’m singing about is something that I’ve been through and something that I helped culminate and put together.
SoulTrain.com: You mentioned that you went to a performing arts high school. In the U.S. many schools are trying to cut back on extracurricular activities, especially the arts. How did attending a performing arts high school prepare you for your career?
Bridget Kelly: Honestly, it prepared me for life. It kept me in school, kept me out of trouble. I’m a big advocate for arts and education and I think it kept my mind open to different forms of expression. It taught me how to be more respectful of other people, their feelings, their thoughts and their perspective. It taught me the importance of self expression and being creative. It encouraged me at a time in my life when I felt like I needed it. I needed that vote of confidence and I definitely got it being at a performing arts school.
SoulTrain.com: Speaking of writing, do you censor yourself? Have you ever written anything and then decided that it was inappropriate or too harsh?
Bridget Kelly: I’ve always tried to be as honest as possible without feeling like I need to push the envelope. I think I’m raw and I’m honest enough so that it’s not offensive. I don’t necessarily want to shock people with my music, I really just want to bring to life a perspective and a viewpoint that doesn’t get a lot of shine. As a woman, it’s tough. My mother’s very opinionated and she raised me to have a mind of my own, voice of my own. A lot of women who are opinionated get shunned. They get called a b*tch or they get accused of being a slut if they’re sexually open. I don’t believe in those stereotypes. I don’t think they always apply. I’m just being honest about how I feel. When I speak in my records I’m being honest, but not to the point of being a rebel. I don’t have to be a jerk in order to sell music.
SoulTrain.com: Working with Jay-Z must be a great learning experience. What’s the best and most honest advice that he’s given you so far?
Bridget Kelly: Really to be patient with my process and with myself. Initially, when I started I envisioned something a little different than where I am, and in the process of recording and soul searching, I realized that my disposition was more hurt and angry and that came out a lot more in this album. I was able to get over some of the anger and the fear that I was holding onto during my recording process. It frustrated me because I’ve been signed for five years. You get signed and you think that you’re going to put the record out and you’re going to make money, everyone is going to be happy and they’re going to love you, and it doesn’t work that way. I think part of what he helped remind me is that you have to just love it. Love every moment of it, even in those moments where you’re tired or where you’re sick. You have to find a way to revel in every moment that’s given to you. It’s really a blessing to get to do what I do. I literally get to wake up–not necessarily when I want to–and do what I love. I try to never lose sight of that.
SoulTrain.com: That’s a great way to think of it. Do you think that mindset has helped you achieve and appreciate your successful moments?
Bridget Kelly: I think that building early, positive relationships with people along the way has really helped me maintain some of the status that I have. Again, starting out five years ago when I was on tour with Jay-Z, I had no music, I had no identity. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. It’s hard in this industry, especially when you’re a woman and you’re the youngest, freshest thing. It’s been a long road and to be receiving recognition, love and respect from really great outlets is such an honor for me. It keeps me humble.
SoulTrain.com: On your single “Special Delivery,” you deliver heartfelt lyrics about a relationship gone wrong. What inspired that particular song?
Bridget Kelly: A trait of my personality that I pride myself on is being a communicator. Part of why relationships fall apart is because of the lack of honest and open communication. This day and age, we rely so much on technology (Facebook, Twitter) to communicate with one another and a lot of times, you lose sight of what’s really important and what’s valuable. I wanted to tell a story about a relationship from that perspective, that sometimes things just fall a part because the communication is not there. It’s not necessarily because somebody cheated or somebody did me wrong. I felt like for my first record I wanted to talk about relationships from a basic standpoint.
SoulTrain.com: Your song “Street Dreamin’” features a verse from Kendrick Lamar. If you could work with any artist dead or alive, who would you like to work with and why?
Bridget Kelly: Pharrell is definitely someone that I look up to and really love. When I did the first Jay-Z tour he was on the road with us and he just brought such a dope energy to the stage and as a producer, he’s a genius. I think he just loves to experiment, have fun and make quality music. His music is timeless, it’s classic and it’s really genre less. He creates music that feels good, and I’m all about that and I think that’s really dope. Timbaland, of course. I’m open to doing a collab with him if that happens. And John Mayer. I’m a big fan of John Mayer’s writing.
SoulTrain.com: You have a new album coming out this month. What’s different about this album and what can fans expect?
Bridget Kelly: I’m actually putting the album out next year and I have an EP coming out in a couple of weeks. The EP is going to be available on BridgetKelly.com and it’s really a perfect precursor to the album. It’s five brand new songs and it’s just telling a story of this love affair that I’m completely hooked on and addicted to. It’s no good for me but I can’t help it because it’s love and sometimes you get wrapped up in it. So I’m excited to put that out!
SoulTrain.com: Earlier this year you won a Grammy for a song you wrote on Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger album. Now you’re nominated for a Soul Train Music Award. How does it feel to receive awards and recognition for doing something that you love doing?
Bridget Kelly: It’s an honor and I’m so excited about it. In addition to being humbled by it, I’m so thrilled that I’m even being considered. Best New Artist is a hard category to be a part of. There’s a lot of great competition and I’m the only artist in the category with no album out. To me, that is just reaffirmation that I’m doing something good. That means that we’re really breaking ground. Without a lot of music it’s really tough, and I’m looking at the category of nominees and they’re really cool. They’re people that I respect, that I think are really great. Kendrick is also in the category, which is awesome because we did a song together.
Winning a Grammy this year was really unexpected and such a surprise and a gift. I was told early on in that writing process that the song wasn’t any good, that it wasn’t going to make it anywhere, and it’s the one song that made onto the album that won a Grammy. It’s just a perfect example of the underdog story. When everybody counts you out, there’s always going to be that one thing that helps you shine and let’s you revel in the moment.
SoulTrain.com: Many artists use music to break into other areas of entertainment. What’s next for you and what types of doors would you like your music career to open for you?
Bridget Kelly: I really want to do some acting but I want to do voiceovers first. I want to do some cartoons. I want to do something like Family Guy, Adult Swim, Robot Chicken-type of shows. Something really crass, politically incorrect and fun. That’s what’s next for me.
Stephanie Penn contributes to SoulTrain.com as a music blogger. Currently Stephanie is the Content Director at DailyVenusDiva.com, a website that celebrates and inspires plus size women. Stephanie’s work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Shetroit.com, and Singersroom, among other website. You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.