Kellie Stroud: Making Her Mark In Modern Country
Modern country female artists are on an up-swing once again with
recording artists like Gretchen Wilson, Ashley Monroe,
Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood making an impression
from Nashville to across the Pacific Ocean into Australia and back
around to the UK and the eastern border of the USA. Northern California's
singer-songwriter Kellie Stroud is riding this wave with her
upcoming self-released debut album produced by fellow Californian
Larisa Bryski and featuring members of Bryski's band, like
modern rock drummer Darrell Hale and bassist Andrew Houston.
Kellie Stroud explains that she was a student at Sacramento's prestigious
music shop and education center Skip's Music (www.skipsmusic.com)
where she met her producer. "I met Larisa over two and a half
years ago at Skip's Music. She took me on as a vocal student. After
working together for a while, it was clear that she understood my
style and what I was looking to accomplish musically, so she was a
natural choice for my project, not too mention, she is an insanely
talented singer and songwriter, so I couldn't lose."
She assesses, "I needed someone I could trust to be honest with
me, push me to do my best, and coach me through the process. She was
a pro in the studio. She has a great ear for what sounds good and
being able to identify the tiniest details, notes, and sounds that
need to be changed or enhance in order to get the best end result.
She is a singer, so she understands the process of recording vocals
and the challenges that come with it. She did a great job at helping
me stay focused and keeping frustration at a minimum, while setting
Kellie tells that she started out late in the music business, but
reinforcement from her family and friends gave her the courage to
believe in her own credibility as a recording artist. "I was
a late bloomer," she admits. "I was not the kid that was
known for singing or being in the choir, plays, bands or talent shows.
Those close to me knew I loved to sing and could sing pretty well.
It wasn't until I was in high school that I started to sing in public.
People would always be surprised when they saw me, because they never
knew I had this talent. I truly had a deep passion for singing very
early on, but never knew how you went about parlaying that into a
career. My parents never forced me to do anything or pushed me in
any direction with regard to the arts, so it was up to me to pursue
music if that was what I wanted. I think hearing positive feedback
from the audiences and honesty from friends and family gave me the
motivation to move my musical ambition forward."
She recalls, "I have sung all my life. Since I was a little
girl, I have been singing mostly on an informal level, but always
singing. It wasn't until recently that I began taking vocal lessons
from Larisa Bryski. I wanted to develop my technique and challenge
myself to take my music to another level."
She asserts, "I pretty much wrote all of my own songs. Larisa
helped me shape and structure them after I had the lyrics and basic
melody done. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with
some great local musicians. Both Darrell Hale and Andrew Houston from
Larisa's band played on my tracks. I also recruited my friend and
band mate DJ Mathis to play lead. It all sounded so awesome
when we were finished."
She cites, "I am probably most proud of the song 'Somehow,'"
which can be heard at her myspace site (www.myspace.com/kelliestroud).
"It was written about my brother and the difficult experience
he went through. The song was really a way for me to deal with what
had happened, a little music therapy. I was reluctant to play it for
him at first, because I wasn't sure how he would respond. After he
heard the first cut, he was overwhelmed and so proud of me for what
I had done. I think that it is the song that resonates most with people
for some reason. Most people can identify with loss and heart break
and are happy for the opportunity have a new start and new beginning."
She reflects, "I believe that a song paints a picture in your
mind and hopefully, tells a story. I am inspired by everyday life,
as cliché as that may sound. Real things that happen to real
people and how it has affected them, changed them, challenged them
and inspired them. Most songs I write are based on experiences from
those around me. I have to be careful though, so that people don't
listen and say 'hey was that me you wrote about in that song?' My
friends and family might stop hanging out with me for fear of being
song material," she winks.
For her debut album, she discusses about the songwriting process,
"Generally, I start with a lyric, maybe a phrase, line, word,
title, and then a simple melody comes shortly after. I am most inspired
when I am running, and, oddly enough, vacuuming. Then I sit down and
hammer out what I can. I work on the structure of the song and hope
that it flows the way I want and gets the message across that I am
trying to convey. If I feel that what I am trying to say is clear,
then I'm done. If not, I tweak it and re-write, etc. For me, songwriting
is not an exact science; it is emotional, personal and always an evolving
She embraces, "For me there is no science to songwriting. I
write when there is something I want to write about. I don't need
to sit in the same chair every time, or wear a certain sweater, I
am inspired by life and people and wherever and however it happens;
I just try to take advantage of the moment. I do find that when I
am near water, or the beach, I am more creative, but perhaps that
is because I am also usually more relaxed."
Her calm approach to writing songs was greatly influenced by the
relaxed atmosphere of her upbringing. "I grew up in Colusa, California,
a small farm town in Northern California. I wouldn't say that I had
lot of creative opportunity as a child outside of school and church
activities. It definitely came about later in life." She relates,
"My Dad and grandmother both have great voices. My grandmother
used to sing in a quartet, which is actually how she met my grandfather.
There was always music playing in my house growing up and my Dad singing
in the background. I would say they both inspired and motivated me
Some of the recording artists who captivated her early on were, "Stevie
Nicks, The Eagles, James Taylor, Sam Cooke,
The Ronettes, Dolly Parton, and Alabama. Looking
back, I can tell how these artists have had an impact on my music."
Kellie professes, "I think most singers are born (to sing).
You either have the raw natural ability or you don't. However, there
are the occasions where someone can be trained how to sing and be
in tune using technique, but wouldn't be considered a great singer."
She recognizes that she was meant to be a lead singer as she declares,
"I can't harmonize, so I have to be a lead singer! I feel that
one of my strengths is in my performance and connecting with the audience."
She claims, "I would like to see my music lift people up and
make them excited about life. I think if one of my songs can touch
someone in the audience for the moment, than that is a success. Each
song is so different and will affect each person differently. To be
lost in a moment whether it be laughing, dancing, crying, or screaming
while the song is playing to make you forget about everything else
around you for a minute or two, that is what I hope for."
She highlights, "I have played mostly in Northern California
clubs and bars. I love the energy that occurs between me and the audience.
It is the greatest rush! Before a show, I make sure I have done vocal
warm ups and am well hydrated, that is pretty much it. Nothing too
She is influenced by many present-day recording artists by the way
they form a rapport with their audiences. She lists, "I love
Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Keith Urban, Sugarland,
Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Shania Twain to name
a few. I am drawn to big belting singers and songwriters. I love how
each artist evokes emotion and power with their songs on stage, they
really captivate and engage an audience."
She observes, "I think country music has become much more contemporary
and commercial for better and worse. You have critics on both sides
of the fence, some say it is too pop now and some say the old stuff
was too twangy. I enjoy listening to all of the new artists coming
out today that are writing their own songs. In general, most will
say that the record industry is not what it used to be in terms of
contracts, money and artist loyalty. It can make it difficult for
a new artist to be seen and heard by decision makers and get money
to back his or her project."
Kellie Stroud acknowledges that music videos are still a vital tool
in helping artists get noticed in the industry and reaching out to
potential fans. "I like music videos, particularly, country music
videos. I think they are a way to illustrate your song. Some are funny,
some are bad, but all in all it is just another medium to have your
song heard by the masses
or those that watch a lot of TV! I would
like to do a video for 'Welcome To This Crazy Life.' I think it would
make a fun video for sure since it is a fun up-tempo song."
She also utilizes the opportunities which the Internet offers to
new artists. "I think the Internet is a great way to get your
music out to a lot of people at once that generally might not have
heard it otherwise. Isn't this an on-line magazine? The advent of
MySpace and other personal websites has created an affordable and
effective medium for all artists; just the viral nature of it alone
is extremely powerful. I am amazed at how many people have found my
page just because I was linked to someone else's. The Internet has
been great for me. It gives artists the opportunity to reach out to
more people and get their songs heard."
Of course, many artists often lose themselves in the promotions and
public image which music videos and Internet sites create of them,
and Kellie realizes that it takes a strong character not to be seduced
by this whirlwind force. "I think staying true to your passion
and dreams can be challenging at times," she ascertains. "It
can be easy to get frustrated or discouraged by others. For me, it
is important to stay focused on what it is that I want and to be surrounded
by positive people who support me. It is a hard road to go down, but
if it were easy
.everyone would do it!"
With her feet firmly earthbound, her eyes looking over the horizon,
and her spirit keeping in time to an upbeat tempo, Kellie Stroud is
everything that modern country music characterizes and inspires in
others. Her self-released debut album is not only a dream coming true
for her but it gives modern country music relevance with real people
and a greater chance for worldwide appeal.
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