Giving a modern twist to country folk: An interview with Jadea Kelly

Jadea Kelly_Park

On Wednesday June 26, Peterborough was honoured to have a truly talented artist performing at the Spill. Jadea Kelly kicked off her Ontario promotional tour of her new album Clover and she did it well. With a country twist on folk music coupled with a soothing smoky voice the album promises to be a real crowd-pleaser. Arthur caught up with Jadea to discuss music, life and making it in the unforgiving music industry.

What got you into music and how did you get started in the business?

I have been interested in music for a very long time, since I was a kid. I was involved in talent shows and choirs, basically taking any opportunity to sing. When I moved to Toronto, I basically built my school life around music in the city. When I graduated I started working in the music industry with different internships and that’s how I kinda got started in the music industry.

Your music, especially from your most recent album, Clover, often talks about adversity. What inspires your lyrics and what motivates you to keep going in spite of the financial hardship  usually associated with being a touring musician?

I am just motivated by the fact that  I am living my life the way I want to live it and I am not in a 9-5 that makes me unhappy.

So what would you have done if you had not gone into music?

I think I probably would have gone into medicine … any profession that involves helping others. I considered going into the health care profession until I almost failed out of chemistry ( laughs). However I do feel that I help people now, through music.

Why did you choose to go into folk music as opposed to something more commercially successful such as the “feel good” bubble gum pop that is the trend right now?

I definitely had a lot of opportunities to take the more commercial avenue such as pop but that type of music real does not have any shelf life. I want to make albums that take a few listens to like, but something new can be learned from each listen. Songs that are instantly likeable, you listen to them a few times and then you just do not want to listen to them any more. However, I do think some of my music has some commercial aspects in it.

There is a lot of imagery and symbolism in your music, the most common being the crow and the wolf that appears on the album cover as well as in the songs. What is the significance of these symbols?

I think I use the animals as a kind of mask. The crow and the wolf have both been villainized. No one likes the crow, no one likes the wolf. In my own life, I have been villainized for some of the decisions I have made over the past year so I guess that is where the animals come from… they are a disguise for myself.

When you talk about being villainized it gives me the impression that you have suffered a lot of criticism in your career. How do you deal with it?

It was difficult at first but now I look at that crow and I look at that wolf. I keep the painting up on my wall and I don’t see them as villains anymore, I see them as symbols of strength. It is very much a boy’s club in this industry I am in and I do not want my kindness to be the death of my art or my message.

So how do you get yourself ready for a performance? Do you have any back stage rituals?

Yeah (giggles) I actually have a list of prep rules written on the back of my guitar. I always do a big vocal warm up and I just remind myself of things I need to do to put on a good show … cause I do get nervous. I have bunch of rules like 1) Keep your eyes open (giggles), 2) breathe, 3) move around, 4) no sarcasm, and 5) pretend that you don’t care. I think that is the most important one

You mentioned no sarcasm but do you ever sometimes think that being a bit of diva may work to your advantage like it did for other big names in the business like Adele and Diana Ross?

(laughs)  I think every female performer is seen as a diva regardless. When a woman shows strength or power they are seen as a diva and sometimes as a business person that is the kind of person you need to be. In this industry, you need to be tough

How do you hope your fans will perceive your music? Do you want them to feel a certain way when they are listening to your music?

Yeah. I want them to feel powerful, I want them to feel passion and I want them to feel happiness. It has taken me over a year to start to feeling these things again and this record has been my way of getting this feeling out.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to pretty much everything. A lot female artists from Rihanna to St Vincent. Shania Twain, Hannah Georgas. I listen to a lot of pop country.

Do any of these musicians influence your music?

Yeah totally. The female Canadian artists probably influence me the most. They are just such good story tellers and when they are on stage there seem to emit such strong emotion and this has had a strong influence on how I perform.

After you first album, there was big chunk of time during which you were not releasing any new music. Where were you during that period of time?

I was touring mostly, showcasing at conferences across Canada and the US. I was also touring in Europe. I was mainly trying to find my voice, staying in Toronto and just enjoying being close to home. I was also watering my garden and trying to catch up with some friends I lost touch with.

Are there any songs you wish you hadn’t made?

I do have this one record that I am trying to push into obscurity (bursts into giggles). I was so young when I wrote it although I know some people like it. I am glad I made it. I don’t think there is anything I wish I had not made. Although it’s gathering dust in the closet (giggles).

So how do you balance your profession and your obligations such as family and friends.

I guess balance is just part of me naturally. I try to keep things organized and not give too much to one and not the other. The people in my life who really know me know that music is my love and they support that.

Okay, so final question: When you are touring how do you decompress after a really hard tour or show?

I just go out with my friends and take care of my garden. Go to have some coffee in Toronto.

Very nice wholesome things.

Yeah I don’t do anything to extreme. I just go sky-diving every Monday morning, just to take the age off ( laughs).

Thank you so much for your time and best of luck on your tour.

Thank you.

Jadea will be continuing the rest of her tour throughout Ontario. For more information on her shows or just to check out her music go to