Interview with Kelly Richey

“This ain’t music for the faint of heart – it’s true blues-rock, music for those who have a deep-down red-hot soul and need something to keep it smouldering.” – Colorado Springs Independent

Kelly Richey is a blues-rock guitarist who has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, for her amazing guitar leads. She has been mentioned in the Guitar Forums as a female artist with great ability. Her new album, Sending Me Angels is a must check out. Her website allows you to listen to a few tracks from that album, as well as tracks from previous albums. Unfortunately for me, Kelly is currently touring in a part of the US that precludes my hearing her live. However, I thoroughly enjoyed her new album, and was able to catch Kelly for an interview between her busy road trip schedule and her rehearsals. She shared so much wisdom that I’ve divided our time into two separate interviews. For Kelly’s viewpoint on learning the guitar, teaching music, electric vs. acoustic, and practicing music read on! For Kelly’s viewpoint on her career in writing, performing and playing music, stay tuned for the next installment. Kelly was generous enough to share the chords to one of her originals I Gotta Move, with me, which I’ll put in a lesson as the third part of our showcase on Kelly Richey.

Laura Lasley: I read on your website that you practiced 12 hours a day as a teen. When did you start playing the guitar?

Kelly: I started playing the guitar when I was 15. I grew up playing piano and my mom was a classically trained pianist and there was a piano in our living room. I played from the time I could touch the keys. When they started giving me piano lessons, that’s when I started not liking the piano. Because I’m dyslexic my ears serve me really well, but having to read sheet music is a drag. Then they had to force me to practice and it was this major…

LL: Torture?

Kelly: Fight. “You have to practice the piano before you can go out and play”.

LL: More torture.

Kelly: I love the piano and I’m glad that I had the training. It would have been great if it could have been a little bit different.

LL: A lot of people have learned to play the piano first. I played classical piano for 12 years; I was tortured too. When reading music, I know I think about notes on a keyboard even when I’m playing guitar (instead of seeing notes on the frets). Can you read music and translate that to frets?

Kelly: My experience from taking piano lessons is where I draw my strength when I teach guitar. I don’t want people to have a bad experience with music. I teach theory with the piano to my guitar students because you can visually see theory. If my lessons were an art class and I said, “kids go home and draw me a picture of a major scale”, whoever comes back with a picture of a piano wins the prize. You can see theory on a piano. When you play the piano you have to re-finger every key that you’re in. So that’s the advantage of being on the guitar. One size fits all. I try to make students see that. That way they can visually see where music is going and they can also visually see on their guitars. And the “CAGED” system is a kind of a way of mapping out the neck of the guitar where it’s somewhat like a piano where you start getting some vision.

I started taking guitar lessons right away when I got my first guitar. Within a couple of years I began to teach as well. So I’ve taught almost my whole career. I like to get kids playing. I think it’s really important. Some people have said that I kind of teach a Suzuki method of guitar instruction. I want people to listen to what they’re doing and I want them to play it. Some kids can handle theory and I’ll give them theory. Some kids can’t. But it’s kinda like having a car. You have to be able to check the engine, the tires, check your oil.

LL: Yes, absolutely!

Kelly: Unfortunately though, when I started playing the piano, I was bogged down with theory, and I just wanted to play the piano!

LL: I know. When you picked up the guitar, did you find it was one of those, like, love at first sight things?

Kelly: Actually I first got a set of drums. My next door neighbor had a set of drums and I used to go over there and beat on them all the time. Finally he said, “Kelly, why don’t you take this home with you?”

LL: As in, “You use them more than I do?”

Kelly: Well I thought he was being nice, but I really think he was saying “Get out of here!” And after a couple of months, my dad said, “You need to get rid of the drums, I’ll buy you anything you want!” I said, “I want an electric guitar.” So we got a Sears guitar and the smallest amp you could find. And after three months I went through three of them. Three guitars. They just fell apart I played them so much. There was just something about guitar that clicked for me.

LL: A lot of people get hooked when they pick it up, it’s such a lyrical instrument you get obsessed with it.

Kelly: I was very obsessed with it! And I didn’t set it down! I slept with it, I took it to school. If I went to the grocery store I walked to the grocery store with it.

LL: I love that part in your website about taking your guitar to school with you. There are some places where they would throw you out of school for bringing your guitar with you!

Kelly: Well, they did disconnect all the outlets on the outside of the school building; they did everything that they could…

LL: You had an electric first?

Kelly: Yes, I started out on the electric. I played for at least a year before I even owned an acoustic.

LL: Wow!

Kelly: Most girls tend to start on acoustics. I think times have evolved and the electric guitar has become a little bit more important to girls.

LL: When I started to take lessons, the teacher had told me that the acoustic was better to learn on. Acoustics are more difficult to play because of the action and the strings being heavier and so forth. If you master the acoustic, you will fly through the electric.

Kelly: It really is a lot easier on the electric. Also it annoys me when the parents buy kids these outrageously expensive guitars to learn on. Get them something that they are going to have to work to get a sound out of. Let them buy their first nice guitar.

LL: Make them work for it!

Kelly: Yeah, I’m not being a slave driver or anything like that. Every situation is different. My parents spoiled me a lot. When they got me my first nice guitar and they said “Now you’re on your own”. They provided me with a vehicle. They helped me a lot when it came to touring. But if you want a guitar and you want gear, that’s yours. Don’t ever ask for that. They paid for my guitar lessons and saw to it that I had a decent instrument to play.

LL: I think that’s one of the things that we’re always harping on Guitarnoise since we try to help aspiring guitarists. We get a lot of beginner questions. You don’t have to go out and buy a major rig that some famous dude has.

Kelly: Go get something and learn how to play it.

LL: Go get a used one.

Kelly: Yeah!

LL: Get a new set of strings, strings are cheap and learn to restring your own instrument. Get a tuner, and GO!

Kelly: Learn to listen. That’s what people forget to do; they forget to listen. Of course, there are lots of guitar players out there. The guitar gods of the 60’s and 70’s, there just seemed to be more people that Played. Today we have computerized music so available to us that it’s kind of gotten…

LL: Too much tech?

Kelly: Well, computerized has become acceptable, as if it’s equivalent to playing an instrument. I don’t want to say one method is better or worse, because art is subject to interpretation and everybody has a right to their own opinion. But I sure do like to see actual musicians playing their actual music.

LL: We went to see Isaac Hayes recently. The biggest disappointment about the performance was finding out that all those beautiful horns you remember from the album are actually played by 3 keyboards. 3 Korg Tritons, doing the work. I’m thinking, both my kids play saxophone. Why don’t you have a sax player up there? It’s because it costs more to have a huge brass section.

Kelly: It comes down to cost.

LL: It does, unfortunately. It’s sad, I agree with you. There is nothing like the original music with genuine instruments. I think that really comes through in your music. It’s music.

Kelly: I’ve kept it simple and I’ve kept it three pieces.

LL: It’s real instruments, real people and real emotions.

Kelly: When I went into the city, I said to the guys, “Y’all, I have to pull this off three piece, so we’re going to do a record that represents that and we’re going embellish in a way that complements.”

LL: Exactly. You can use the tech, don’t get me wrong.

Kelly: I would love to have keyboards if I could afford it! One day I will, but right now, we recorded a record where I don’t have to use keyboards.

LL: That’s great. From our earlier conversation it sounds like you also enjoy the teaching that you do. I think that’s really great that you teach! It’s wonderful that you are sharing your talent with others.

Kelly: I love to teach! (OK, Guitarnoise students in the Cincinnati area, don’t all call Kelly at once.)

LL: That’s great!

Kelly: I’ve got probably about 30 students that I cram into 2 ½ days.

LL: Oh, Gosh! How does that work with touring and everything else you do?

Kelly: It’s hard. I’m crazy, though.

LL: Your students understand?

Kelly: Yes. Usually I’m available 3 weeks out of every month. A lot of my adult students take one lesson every other week. Adults can’t go at the pace kids do, because kids don’t have lives yet. Kids aren’t going to work. Not that school isn’t a big responsibility, but when you’re a kid, you have some luxuries that you don’t have as an adult.

LL: When you’re a kid, it’s such a great time to learn guitar, as it is to learn everything else.

Kelly: It is, and you need that structure of once a week or you wander.

LL: It sounds like you have both adult and child students.

Kelly: I have one 10 year old that just started this week.

LL: Aww. Id’ love you to teach my daughter but it’s a bit of a schlep from me to you!

Kelly: It’s really important to find a teacher that you like. Just because I teach guitar doesn’t mean that I’m the right teacher for everyone. I have one kid now who’s great. I’m going to teach him everything I can, then I’m going to find a teacher that can teach him what I don’t know.

LL: Great!

Kelly: Everybody has their own style. This kid is young enough where he’s playing just great and he should take lessons from as many people as he can. I’ll cram everything down his throat that I can, and work with him until I think it’s time to let go of him. Sometimes teachers look at guitar lessons as more of a business than an art and it really needs to be both. If you do it right, you’ll make enough money and it will all work out. If you do it wrong; you’ll constantly be struggling.

LL: You really need the teacher and the student groove together.

Kelly: Yes.

LL: I didn’t play for five years because the first teacher I had was so impressed with himself.

Kelly: I perform so much that I have no desire to show off. It’s not that I think I’m so good; I have that constant struggle to reach my own goals. In that respect, I’m right there with my students. I’ve just been doing it longer.

LL: With all that you do, how do you find enough time to practice?

Kelly: I don’t practice consistently. I practice in spurts. Sometimes the best way to practice is to be quiet and to get away from music for a while so that I’m fresh when I get to the gigs. I don’t even listen to music, because I’m so inundated with it.

LL: With all the years you put in to learn the guitar, is it now an instrument that you’re very comfortable on?

Kelly: There is definitely a learning curve and there is a window of opportunity. For instance, I don’t play slide well, and I don’t have the patience to learn to play it well. And that may be a personality trait more than anything else. I’ve found that once you’ve kind of hit your groove…

LL: You’ve found it.

Kelly: Yeah.

LL: But then you’re molded.

Kelly: Right. When I first started playing, I was hell with the glider. I could really play slide. But I didn’t know what blues was. I had just heard of Foghat, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I thought “I’m a girl, I’m not going to keep, I’m really going to play”. I could kill myself. Oh my God, I had a knack for it. I didn’t realize that there was this whole genre of music, slide guitar. I had no idea. And I’ve always been sorry for that. But I don’t have the patience to kind of start from scratch.

LL: To put it back together?

Kelly: Call it lazy, but I don’t think I’m lazy.

LL: I think there’s a learning curve, and once you hit a point, you’ve set your style .

Kelly: Once you do it for so many years, then you have your sound. And if you push something then you get burned out. There’s only so much you’re going to get out of yourself. It has to be fun. It’s like, once you’ve kind of framed up the house, you can decorate it anyway you want to.

LL: But the framing’s done.

Kelly: The framing is done.

LL: That’s an excellent analogy.

Kelly: You can add some things on, but your property is only so big. You just have to be realistic as to your goals. Do you want to be really great at one thing, or do you want to be mediocre at a lot of things. Some people are great at a lot of things; look at Prince.

LL: And some people can actually say, fine, I’m going to knock down the whole house and reframe something completely different.

Kelly: Some people do that.

LL: But that’s exhausting.

Kelly: Yes. But I, I don’t know. (Chuckle)

LL: Do you have a preference between your Strat and your Taylor, the acoustic?

Kelly: I LOVE my Strat.

LL: I love the way you say that.

Kelly: I do, it’s my first love.

LL: It’s your baby.

Kelly: Yeah.

LL: Is that the first nice guitar you bought yourself?

Kelly: I had an Aria Tele copy that got me through my first two or three years, which was a nice guitar to play. But my Strat was my first real guitar.

LL: It’s kind of like your first car, or something. There’s nothing quite like it.

Kelly: It’s a part of me.

LL: It is a part of you. It’s an extension of yourself. I know. I feel the same way about my first guitar. I see that you’re gracious enough to provide a gear list on your website; very cool. You own a Fender Strat and a Taylor Acoustic. Do you feel you get a different sound from the Strat that you can’t get from the acoustic? Or vice versa? Or do pretty much feel that you pull from both?

Kelly: I pull from both. They both have their own voice. It’s just a matter of getting it out of them.

LL: Where do get ideas for all that stuff? Where do you get your inspiration for your songs? Where do you get your inspiration for what you decide to play?

Kelly: Music is the only thing that does not argue with me. It is. It’s just constant. It’s never saying you’re not any good. It’s never saying you’re great. It is.

LL: It just exists.

Kelly: It exists. And I can come to it, and it’s an endless well.

LL: That’s wonderful.

Kelly: Maybe I’ve swum 10 miles into the ocean and I can’t see land behind me. I say “Wow, I’ve really accomplished something”. Well, with just a little bit of a let up, I’d realize quickly that I will no more get across this body of water, than I’ll get another 10 or 20 miles. We have to be real. Music’s is the one thing that’s like a true reflection. You know, I’m only going to get out of it what I put into it. You really can’t say that about many things in life. We as people, we let each other down. And music, whatever I put into each night, I am guaranteed to get exactly that out of it.

LL: That’s wonderful.

Kelly: That’s the coolest thing.

LL: It really is.

Kelly: It’s one of those constants.

“she makes her guitar alternately weep, wail and scream, while vocally it’s hard to miss the large dose of soul seeping from nearly every note that escapes her lips.” – Cincinnati City Beat

Laura Lasley: Your joy in music shows when you play. And I haven’t even heard you play live! I’m just basing this on your CD’s and the Internet. Sadly you don’t tour over on the East Coast.

Kelly: We will, we will.

LL: I look forward to it! If you love an album, you are guaranteed to enjoy the live show. Live is so much more.

Kelly: We do 200-250 shows a year. We play a lot. We are getting all over the country. The East Coast is about the only place we haven’t been. Pittsburgh is about as far as we’ve gone.

LL: So how did you find your find your current band? How did you get together?

Kelly: I’ve been through quite a few personnel changes in the last few years, because it’s difficult to keep people on the road. Very few people’s lives accommodate this.

LL: Road life’s not easy.

Kelly: If you want a life, then pick a different career. It’s about that simple. Unless you have a lot of money, then you can do what you want. If you’ve going to try to put food on the table and roof over your head, and you play music, you’ve got to be serious about it. You better really have a passion for it, because it’s not easy. And every 10 years, everything changes. Do it because you love it. Since I’ve had personnel changes, I want to kind of sidestep that, because there’s not this core that I currently have.

LL: Do you ever perform solo?

Kelly: I do perform solo some. I do an acoustic solo thing. It makes me really focus on my vocals. It used to terrify me to play by myself. I’m so used to hiding behind my guitar and closing my eyes.

LL: I’m familiar with that feeling.

Kelly: I’m pretty naked with an acoustic guitar. I make myself do it periodically because it’s important to. You learn things there that you can’t learn anywhere else.

LL: One of the most amazing shows that I saw was Melissa Etheridge when she did her new album solo.

Kelly: I didn’t get to see that show.

LL: On one song she uses her boots on the stage to create the percussion and rhythm for her song. It just impresses the hell out of me that she’s so musically aware. It sounds like that’s one of the reasons that you make yourself go and perform solo acoustically.

Kelly: I want to, I have to.

LL: And always record it, because you pick up something from it.

Kelly: Yes.

LL: In terms of your song writing, you have some marvelous song writing. I also notice that you have some collaboration with other songwriters on your album. How did you hook up with those folks? Did you hear a song and ask them if you could do it?

Kelly: For the newest CD, the producer sent me, and this may be an exaggeration but I swear I think it’s relatively accurate, about 300 songs in two big boxes of demos. I went through every one of them very quickly, because either a song hit me right off the top, or it didn’t.

LL: Yup, either you love it or you don’t.

Kelly: Yeah. And I picked out about 20 songs that I really liked and then I sat down and started working with them. To see which ones fit me, which ones I could do something with. Then I put all of the songs that I had written or co-written on the table and we just picked the ones that were the best, that made sense to put together. I wanted to get a lot of my songs on the CD. But, you know…

LL: You wanted to pull the best out there.

Kelly: Right. I wanted the best CD I could make. If my songs stood up, great, and if they didn’t, well, I’ll keep writing them. It doesn’t mean I have to throw them away. So my evolution has been as a guitarist first, then as a singer, and then as a song writer. I’ll always be growing as a guitarist. Vocally and as a song writer, that’s a struggle that I bounce back and forth between. I really focus on my writing.

LL: Would it be fair to say your songwriting is still in a growth phase?

Kelly: One, I’ll always be, but two, yes.

LL: For singing and songwriting. It sounds like as a guitar player…

Kelly: I started out as a guitar player and I played for singers and song writers. And I was quite intimidated by them. When I got together my own band I got so sick of looking for vocalists…

LL: Well you have a great voice!

Kelly: Thank you. I’ve worked very hard at it. I was very influenced by Janis Joplin. When I first started singing, people took the microphone away from me and they were like…

LL: Don’t scream!

Kelly: I was singing everything RRRAAH, RRAAH!

LL: I love Janis, I love Melissa. The first song I ever learned on the guitar was Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love. I can really belt it out. I can clip an amp.

Kelly: It’s raw and in your face.

LL: Exactly. I think that’s why I really love your music. It really speaks. I love the quote from the Colorado Springs Independent.

Kelly: “It’s not for the faint of heart”

LL: Yes! It’s for those “who have a deep-down red-hot soul and need something to keep it smouldering.” You music really just calls to that.

Kelly: There are a number of people that see us play a LOT. Sometimes I wonder what on earth are they doing here again. Aren’t you sick of me?


Kelly: My fans say “it’s kind of like a drug, I need my fix.”

LL: Exactly.

Kelly: They say ” I’ve had a bad day, and I just want to come, and I know if I come see you play, I’m guaranteed to forget it all.”

LL: They don’t get sick of you. You have drawing power, it seems to me. That’s why they keep coming. You’re obviously giving them something that they need.

Kelly: It’s definitely a thing, an energy thing.

LL: It’s cool. That’s part of the music thing. It gives you that energy. It can drain it, but it can also fill you right back up. I was curious, especially writing for the Other Side, do you think that being a woman has affected how you’re treated when you perform?

Kelly: Yes, yes. When I first started this journey, it was extraordinarily difficult, and very stupid, the things that I ran into. The gender issues.

LL: Do you think it was because you were a guitarist first?

Kelly: Probably, because they didn’t have a slot for that.

LL: I know they don’t.

Kelly: I’d see an ad in the paper and say, Oh you’re looking for a guitar player! And they’re like, Click! They say, darlin’ you sound like a women. That’s OK we just filled the position.

LL: Oh No!

Kelly: And none of the boys in school would let me play with them. They were mean, so I grew up with a chip on my shoulder. That’s another reason I play with the aggression that I do. It hurt my feelings.

LL: Yeah it does! It’s hard to get the door slammed.

Kelly: Yeah, over and over and over again.

LL: And you’re thinking, “I know I’m good, why won’t you listen to me?”

Kelly: Once you do get out there and start playing, then you have club owners thinking “well darlin’, now you know I said I’d pay you this, but…” and I’m like, “I don’t think so!” So I had to learn to be a great deal tougher than I wanted to be. Right out of the chute. And again, that’s a chip on my other shoulder. I kind of grew up being a hot shot guitar player, because I got so few opportunities to really jump up there and play. When I did, I gave it everything I had. I gave it all away in a song. I had to learn to even that out. Chill out, step back and look at a show that I trying to present and make sure that it accomplished a journey and not just this one wham bam. It’s been fascinating to watch the view of women evolve such as it has. Lilith Fair, far out. I never thought I’d see the day. That’s a great accomplishment for all of us, women and men. I don’t have bad feeling against men. I think society is society and we’ve all had to learn.

LL: It sounds like you deal with the same thing that a lot of us women in predominantly male oriented professions deal with. It seems like one of the things you find is that you almost have to be better than them.

Kelly: You do.

LL: To be accepted into that world. It appears you’ve had the same experience.

Kelly: Yes.

LL: Which is a shame.

Kelly: You at least have to be unique. And being a women, it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s “Hey, let’s go see the Girl play.” There’s probably only one girl playing in town tonight, so they may come out and give you a shot just because you’re a novelty. But it’s up to you to make sure that they come back.

LL: It sounds like you’ve hooked up with a great producer and that your career is moving forward.

Kelly: It is moving forward.

LL: In the way you’d like?

Kelly: Yes. I really so love working with John Snyder. He’s a great producer. He just for some reason understood what I was trying to do. We had good fights. And the best of me won.

LL: That’s super.

Kelly: I’ve got good people managing me now. And there’s a girl that books and manages me now that’s just great. I’m in very capable hands.

LL: Sweet Lucy’s working out for you?

Kelly: Yes, that’s my own label. We started that ourselves in 1996 and got national distribution in 1996 or 1997. I’ve been making albums since ’94. With the release of my third CD, I thought, I’m going to form a record label and get this out there and do it myself. It’s been a dream of mine, to have my own record label, and to have good people that I trust working with me. And that dream is coming true. Am I ritzing in a limo? No. But I’m well taken care of and I…

LL: You make enough to be able to do what you want to do.

Kelly: I do exactly what I want to do and I just love that.

LL: Well there aren’t a lot of people who can say that, so that’s a pretty cool thing.

Kelly: It’s a blessing and a curse.

LL: It also means you have to push yourself when you want something done.

Kelly: I’m insanely driven, so really, other people kind of have to try to hold me back.What everyone says is “Oh God, what has Kelly gotten us into now?”

LL: That’s cool though. That’s how you get things done. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s a trait that’s necessary if you’re going to succeed.

Kelly: That you develop for survival.

LL: Yeah, if you aren’t that way to start with, you either get that way, or you end up out of it.

Kelly: Right.

LL: Do you find many women on the technical side of the field? Producing, sound, stuff like that?

Kelly: Not a lot, but quite a few.

LL: But people are out there?

Kelly: They really are out there, and it’s cool. It’s not such a big deal anymore.

LL: That’s really good to hear. We (Guitarnoise) get emails from young women who say, “I’m not so good at this, this, and this, but I’d be interested in mixing or engineering. So do girls do that?” I always say “Yes!” I did that in college and I’m 40 something.

Kelly: There are schools that will teach you that. And if you want to go to one of those, go early. Nothing beats experience.

LL: How do you feel about the Internet either helping or hurting your career?

Kelly: I think it’s great. I think that it’s very important to find someone to help you build a good website. Hopefully you can barter, and if not, you can get a nice website designed for a reasonable amount of money. That’s so important because you never have a second chance to make a first impression. The World is looking at you through the Internet. I do all of our Internet stuff. There’s this graphics designer who does our CD covers. She designed the pages, and I have a tech out here in town who makes sure that it functions and loads up properly. He trained me to use the DreamWeaver program.

LL: Good program.

Kelly: I do 80 % of it myself. It’s worth taking a couple of classes. Whatever you have to do, it’s very important. And you should get links with everybody that you can exchange links with. I spend a couple of hours a day on it. I’ll go out and do word searches and check out sites and drop em a letter and say “Hey, I’d like to let you know about this artist and project.”

LL: Guitarnoise is strictly web based, and your name has popped up as a screaming wailing female guitarist. I checked out your site and that’s how we ended up setting up an interview. I also notice that you get a lot of hits checking out your music.

Kelly: Yes we really do. I was just looking at our web site and we normally get between 70-90 and we had 200 tonight. It’s just incredible.

LL: Do you think that translates into album sales?

Kelly: Ever since the Blues Review magazine review came out, we’ve been getting a steady stream of orders.

LL: Do you think your link to MP3’s translates into sales?

Kelly: A lot of people discover us on MP3s. A lot discover us on CD Baby. Those are two good places for anybody who’s serious about doing music. Those are great places to be associated with.

LL: Do they charge you for that?

Kelly: CD baby has a $35 stocking fee for each CD title. And I forget how much we make off our CD, but it’s fair. Very fair. And they are very honest and very thorough and totally on top of things. And MP3, you just have to be there, because everyone’s there. You’re the Gap, you’re in the mall. It’s one of the things you do.

LL: It’s part of the business. It’s like owning an amp.

Kelly: Yeah, people go there to seek out new music and so….

LL: It’s being in the mall. The Virtual Mall. You’ve shared a lot of wonderful stuff. I don’t know if you have any other basic advice for budding guitarist. I love what you’ve said about being passionate.

Kelly: You know, look for somebody like me that’s in your community that plays a lot. Offer to go roadie for them. Offer to help them at a music festival or in bars. Go see what it takes to pull off a show. See what it is that you’re getting into. You’re not going to learn about the music business in school. The biggest advice that I can give anyone is to keep your head on straight. And don’t be a fool. You’re going to start playing in bars. That’s a great place to get lost. And to end up throwing away many years. Be smarter than that. If you want to party, that’s one thing. But if you want to work, be there to work. No one that works for me, there’s no drugs, no alcohol. That’s the policy of the band. We never drink or party when we play. Dammit, we don’t do that.

LL: If you want to enjoy yourselves after the gig is over, that’s one thing.

Kelly: We don’t even do that.

LL: You’re usually too tired?

Kelly: When we’re working, we’ve got a 10 hour drive to get to the next show. And we don’t want anyone saying Kelly then got drunk and crashed after the show.

LL: You don’t need to be that kind of headline.

Kelly: We want to stand out as people that come in here, hopefully do a great job, say thank you, and go home.

LL: It’s amazing when you read about bands like Aerosmith, I read their biography because I love their music.

Kelly: I do too.

LL: I can’t believe they are still alive!

Kelly: I know, I’m lucky to be still alive.

LL: I can’t believe that Keith Richards is still alive. I’m amazed that they can play so well. You know they must really be unconscious with the guitar playing. ‘Cause the drinking and drugging will chew up young kids and spit them right out.

Kelly: Just don’t do that. Whatever you do, don’t do that. Have fun at home on a Sunday afternoon. Don’t mix it with your art. You don’t need it.

LL: Don’t mix the priorities up.

Kelly: Yeah. You know, recreation’s one thing. If your partying is truly recreational, great. Once it gets out of that space…

LL: Most of the rest of us wouldn’t ever consider drinking on the job.

Kelly: You get fired!

LL: Yes, exactly. And if you drug, usually they fire you too. And this is your job.

Kelly: This is one career where there are no rules.

LL: The excuse I always hear is that “I’m really nervous” and whatever the substance is “loosens me up”.

Kelly: Get in front of a mirror and practice.

LL: You can have a really good time, totally straight.

Kelly: I had to totally relearn how to play and perform sober. I had a lot of people come up to me in those couple of years and say “Man, you’ve really gotten a lot better!” I say, “No, I haven’t gotten better, I’ve just gotten sober.”

LL: Well, we had seen Aerosmith in their worst years, at the Greek Theatre in LA in the 80’s. And I almost walked out of that concert. Luckily they were free tickets! Steven Tyler couldn’t remember the words to the songs and couldn’t stay upright.

Kelly: And I loved them.

LL: Then we saw them at Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT, during the Pump tour. One of the BEST concerts I have ever seen. They were straight, they were sober, they were hot!

Kelly: They were having fun.

LL: They were having a ball and the audience was having a ball. That’s what it’s about. It makes me crazy when people feel they can’t play sober. Young players, they’re in bars they’re thinking they want to be grown up or whatever.

Kelly: No, that’s not grown up. You want to be grown up, say NO.

LL: Exactly. Unfortunately sometimes that’s a life lesson. It takes a while for people to learn.

Kelly: It is. It is.

LL: Well, this has been terrific. I want to thank you for your time.

Kelly: Oh, you’re more than welcome! It was a pleasure.

To hear Kelly live, check her calendar to see when she’s playing in your neighborhood. Or you can check out her CD’s through her website: Kelly Richey.