Friday-Saturday, Aug. 8-9
The internationally celebrated Kelly Richey Band evokes the wandering spirits of Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Vaughn Brothers and Band of Gypsys. But the leader of this independent power trio is actually a homegrown talent who hails from Lexington. We recently chatted with Richey, now a Cincinnatian.
LEO: Let’s go way back. At what age were you first entranced by music?
KR: I’ve been captivated by music ever since I was about 2 years old and could reach the keys on the piano in our living room. I took piano lessons all my young life. Then I got a set of drums from a neighbor who didn’t want me playing them at his house anymore, so I took them home. And my father said if I would get rid of the drums, he’d buy me anything. So I asked for an electric guitar, and that really caught and held my attention.
LEO: What model of guitar did you start with?
KR: My dad worked at Sears and he thought this whole thing was just a phase, so he got me a little Sears 3-watt amp and a Les Paul imitation. Eventually I was able to buy my first real guitar, which was a Stratocaster.
LEO: As you were developing your own style, what did your record collection look like?
KR: I listened to a lot of Zeppelin and Rush. It was actually the result of getting a guitar that people started turning me on to all this great music that had not been on the radar in our family.
I grew up in a very liberal but Baptist household, and, you know, my parents just didn’t listen to the kind of music that I came to love. So when I discovered Hendrix and all this blues-rock stuff, I was like a sponge. I just couldn’t get enough of it. And there’s nothing quite like being a teenager and having your own electric guitar and amplifier. There’s no more power than that when you’re 15.
LEO: And then, in your 20s — you got sidetracked with a gig in the popular folk-rock act Stealin’ Horses. What did you learn from your experience with the major label scene?
KR: You could say that I caught a glimpse of a pretty bad movie. I saw how people can get taken advantage of as artists. But at the same time, had we known more, we probably could have avoided some of the mistakes that helped to create that movie. It’s easy for musicians to say, “Record companies are evil.” They may be. But all participants are playing a part in how deals get structured. Thankfully, artists are a lot smarter today. When it came time to do that album, they actually assembled a band of session players behind Kiya (Heartwood, also of Wishing Chair fame), which so often happens. But that was a total shock to the rest of us, who had been excited to be part of this thing. It was a slap in the face that we weren’t expecting. Tactfully reviewing the situation, I already had enough of my own ideas and ways of wanting to do things and had reached the point where I needed to start my own band.
LEO: So, you were already wise beyond your years when you launched the Kelly Richey Band back in 1990. Was it liberating to finally step up as a bandleader?
KR: Yes, though I was very thankful to have been through the experience of Stealin’ Horses, because it really shortened my learning curve. I could use my own name, and I didn’t have to start at square one. I could start at square two. Not that that is too much further down the line. Still, when putting my own band together, I at least understood the concept of having to get out there and tour. I knew what that was like and the effort it would entail. I grasped that I would need to work hard to build a base locally, regionally and nationally.
LEO: Nearly two decades down the road, your discography continues to grow, and you’ve clearly turned your odometer over more than a few times. Are you comfortable now in your shoes as a blues journeyman type?
KR: Absolutely. And honestly, I am more excited about my new material than anything I’ve ever done. We still do all the staples in concert, but the songs we showcase from the new disc, Carry the Light, are very political, socially minded tracks that rock.
KRB holds court at 7:30 p.m. at Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar (230 E. Main St., 582-9945) Friday and Saturday night. Cover is $5.