Kelly Milliner is a talented acoustic singer-songwriter from Boston, USA. Despite working to complete both his upcoming album and his studies we were ecstatic when he kindly agreed to complete a feature artist interview for Song Revelation. Read the full interview below to find out about his hopes for his live tour in 2011, his modern-day musical inspirations and what its been like to study music at the Berklee College of Music.
Q: Who are you called?
That’s actually a pretty good question to start off with – my full name is Kelvin Killmon Schmautz Milliner – but most people just call me “Kelly” Milliner. I’ve been the singer/songwriter/frontman of several bands that have gotten some national airplay including Peter Patrick and the Tones, The Ferly and Daychasers. Now I am attending Berklee College of Music, and preparing to release my first official solo album with an east coast indie label.
Q: If you could classify your music in a genre or a number of genres what would it be?
I try to be expressive without thinking too much about genre – many of the great artists I looked up to as a young songwriter transcended all of that. I write honestly, and the instrumentation takes shape around the message of the song. My love of heavy rock and folk music is often at the heart of what I write – but it’s always begging to be played in a more loose and free style.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
Haha, someone once told me I make “Good music to lose your virginity to…”, but if I would say it boils down to “Reverence, fury, passion, and ecstasy” and after the show we can all go out for a pint.
Q: What is your musical background?
I was a classically trained Suzuki cellist and vocalist from the age of 5, and writing songs well before then. At about 12, I taught myself how to play guitar and keys and truly found my place as a singer/songwriter. I have released three full length studio albums with Peter Patrick and The Ferly, and a handful of EPs. I am currently dual majoring in Songwriting and Performance at Berklee College of Music, and will be graduating in 2012.
Q: How was 2010 for you?
2010 was great for me, how was it for you? I’ve had a chance to travel all around the states, and play and record with so many amazing musicians. Who could ask for more?
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Lady Day, Robert Plant, Elliott Smith, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Cat Stevens (Yusuf), Nick Drake, Maynard Keenan, oh man the list goes on and on….
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
I really dig Fiona Apple, even though she’s been a bit off the map since “Extraordinary Machine”. I also have a lot of love for singers like Brandon Boyd from Incubus who have found a way to incorporate Eastern vocal styles into Western music. Bianca Casady of CocoRosie is amazing too; her voice cuts through the air like a knife, and her lyrics are unapologetically childish but full of powerful, vivid images.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
The Cinematic Orchestra – That band does some amazing ballads. Their cover of ‘Lilac Wine’ and ‘To Build a Home’ give me the best kind of chills.
Q: What songs are on your ipod at the moment?
“Fuck You” by Cee Lo Green – such a catchy track with a retro feel. “Home” be Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “No Poetry” by Gary Jules, and Jeff Buckley’s beautiful heavy cover of Big Star’s “Kanga-Roo”.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
When a song is good, it all comes to you at once and it feels so natural – the lyrics, the melody, even most of the chords. I’m usually walking down the street when it hits me, or falling asleep, and then I have to rush to write it all down on any scrap of paper I can find before it’s gone!
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Melody and lyrics have to work together, alone they don’t mean half as much. We call it ‘prosody’ when a lyric matches the tension of the notes it’s set to, and by playing with the push and pull of each note in the scale you can make sure that the message of each line is mirrored in its melody.
Q: Where are you based?
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
It’s a great town – I’ve had a chance to do songwriting clinics with legendary songwriters like Paul Simon and Andrew Bird here, and alumni like John Mayer, Wyclef Jean and Amanda Palmer are always stopping by campus. It’s an exciting, electrifying place to be a young musician.
Q: What are you currently working on?
I am recording a solo album for release this summer. So far the tracks we’ve recorded have a very hot sound, with bright instrumentation and some beautifully bare poetic lyrics.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
I got fan mail from South Africa once… that was pretty amazing. When my music was first picked up by a handful of radio stations, I was amazed by how far and fast it spread.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
This year I’ll be touring to promote my new album. I’ll be putting on a much more passionate, longer, louder, prettier, sweatier live show – and leaving everything on the stage. I’m also hoping to put all my music up in one place – I’ve worked with so many bands that it would be good to connect all my different projects on one central website.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
Dates TBA, Check out www.kellymilliner.com for details – I would love to see you all come out to one of our shows this summer!
Q: What do you do to relax?
I love to get out of the city and snowboard, and I’m getting into motorcycles. I do a lot of drawing, some of it ends up under my skin. I walk around and wear holes in my shoes.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
We just finished recording the first single from the new album – and we’re hoping to start shooting a video for it in the upcoming weeks! It’s a killer track and it will be up on the website in a few days. I’m hoping we can arrange to make the single free to download until the album drops this summer.
Editor’s Note: Kelly Milliner has a unique hauntingly familiar voice which partners itself perfectly with the tight minimalist production style of his songs. The rest of 2011 will undoubtedly continue to be a success for Kelly as his fanbase steadily grows, as more people discover his music.
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Kelly Milliner, follow the links below:
Official Website (under construction): www.kellymilliner.com
Facebook link: www.facebook.com/kelly.milliner
The Ferly Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFerlyTV