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AN OFFER SHE COULDN’T REFUSE

Kelea - Photo by Nikki Woods, Hair by Jason Cassidy, Frayed Knot Hair Studio
Kelea - Photo by Nikki Woods, Hair by Jason Cassidy, Frayed Knot Hair Studio

Remember the bushfires at the beginning of this year?  With all that’s happened, it feels like a very long time ago.  What many of us thought would be a defining moment of 2020 — Australia burning like never before and undeniably as a result of climate change — feels like it has faded into distant memory.

That’s the essence of Kelea’s music, she can write about what’s on the end of the shittiest stick imaginable and still make you feel good about yourself and life.

During the bushfire emergency and just before we staggered into a pandemic, West Australian singer and songwriter, Kelea, released a single, ‘Are You OK?’, as a means of reaching out to communities to encourage solidarity and support for one another, as well as to raise funds for bushfire relief.  The song came straight from Kelea’s heart and was the follow up to her 2019 single, ‘Dear Sir Madam’, in which she took on ageism in the workplace.  Suffice to say, Kelea is an artist and songwriter who responds to what’s happening in the world around her and creates her own unique brand of music.

Knowing all this, we here at Around The Sound have been waiting patiently to see what Kelea would make of COVID-19.  With the release of new single, ‘Sand In My Pocket’, the wait is over.

With a lyric written in 2017, ‘Sand In My Pocket’ isn’t exactly a product of the pandemic, but it’s uncanny how artists can capture a moment with their releases, no matter when the creative process began.  With lines like, Sand in my pocket and no money in my shoe / I’m sweatin’ like an outlaw and the rent is overdue / I’m waitin’ for that lucky ticket, cash that sucker in / I’ve been dreamin’ for so long my life’s become a sin, what Kelea has captured is the existential angst that scraping through life in a pandemic has brought a lot of us.  Who wouldn’t want a ‘lucky ticket’ out of 2020?

As for the music, it’s a modern-day B&S Ball country dance floor filler, or as Kelea put it herself, “It’s a good old-fashioned country rock stomper.  It’s a foot stomping join in and sing kind of a song.”

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The upbeat feel of the music offsets the heartbreak of the lyric showing us that, no matter what, there’s a way through.  There’s always rescue or redemption, it’s just a case of hanging in there.  That’s the essence of Kelea’s music, she can write about what’s on the end of the shittiest stick imaginable and still make you feel good about yourself and life.  It’s the sort of genius that only the best songwriters have, and Kelea’s definitely been touched by it, at the very least.

Kelea, aka Kelly Gardner, is a WAM Award nominated artist whose music spans genres, saying herself, “I’m actually multi-genre.”  She’s also a former corporate high flyer who studied law and commerce at university, but gave it all up when her Mum made her an offer she couldn’t refuse — come back to WA to live rent free in a coastal beach house and write lots of songs.  If only we all had a mother like that!

Knowing something about the method by which she found herself in regional Western Australia, it’s no surprise to find Kelea still living regionally and feeling very pleased with her decision.

Now a resident of Gingin, a country town around an hour north of and slightly inland from Perth, Kelea said of her current hometown, “When you have a community that rewards you, like Gingin and other towns in regional Western Australia… They have been so good to me, I just feel that once you find a community like that — and they’ve welcomed me with open arms and I’m very grateful for that.  After 20 years of wandering around the universe and living in Melbourne and Perth and travelling and what have you, it’s just lovely to be part of something.

“In a community, you can’t walk down the street without bumping into someone and having a lovely conversation and helping each other.  If you need something in the country, or you can help someone else, it’s just so much simpler.”

Speaking to Kelea and listening to her music, you find there’s something simple and direct about the artist herself, and the goodness, the willingness to lend a hand and be part of something uplifting just oozes out of her.  Even down the telephone line it is impossible not to get caught up in Kelea’s enthusiasm for … everything.

Speaking of her life and working conditions in the country, Kelea reinforced what it was her mother must have seen when she invited her home a few years ago now.  “I get the benefit of both worlds,” Kelea said.  Right now I’m staring at a beautiful view of the hills overlooking a vineyard, with my laptop.  It’s a wonderful way to live.”

Based on this, Kelea should be the face of the State Government’s current campaign to get people out into the regions to work and recreate.  Perth would empty like a drain.

Speaking further about her work and her music, Kelea said, “You forge your own path.  That’s what I believe in.  You know who your audience is, you work with them, you live with them.”  There’s a strong sense of building community when Kelea talks about her career in music.  It’s reflected in the songs she writes, the causes and charities she supports and the sense that audience development is more than just counting streams on Spotify, it’s about real people and places and finding a way as an artist to be part of their lives or, as Kelea puts it, “live with them.”

Which brings us to Kelea’s choice of venue to launch her latest single, ‘Sand In My Pocket’.  The event takes place on Friday 23 October at the Gingin pub, kicking off at 6.00 pm and finishing up at 8.00 pm, because in Kelea’s own words, “people have to get up early the next morning for regional commitments.  It’ll be family friendly and it’s free entry.

“The pub was closed for quite some time,” Kelea continued, “and I want us to get back on the horse and have some live music back at the pub and get the locals in and people from all the surrounding regions.”

Here’s a thought.  With Gingin only an hour’s drive from Perth and the single launch finishing up at 8.00 pm, you could be there to witness it and still make it back to Perth or Fremantle in time to see what’s hot in the metro area.  Talk about best of both worlds.

Kelea has an EP in the works, due out early 2021 and promised that, “You’ll get a sneak peek of all the songs on the EP.  There’ll be a bit of rock, a bit of this, a bit of that.  It’ll be an interesting night.  We’ll do some covers after that, some good old-fashioned crowd pleasers.  It’s going to be good.”

How could you possibly say no?

Kelea has also formed a band for the night, the Kelean’s (of course!), featuring artists from her regional home patch.  You can check out the creative process of getting the band together in this YouTube clip.

Get all the information you need on Kelea’s launch of ‘Sand In My Pocket’ here.

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