Kelly Joe Phelps

from San Francisco California
Profile Image: Kelly Joe Phelps
Videos (0)
Albums (0)
Articles (0)


Kelly Joe Phelps

Kelly Joe Phelps press release/bio for Slingshot Professionals
More than just an awesomely talented musician, Kelly Joe Phelps speaks to the soul of each and every
listener.? ? Cameron Crowe
?Phelps? songwriting mirrors the subtlety that distinguishes his guitar work? His songs are also
infused with poignancy, passion and spirituality.? ? The Washington Post
?His cadence is so hypnotizing, his rough voice so evocative, his guitar work so deeply entwined with his
singing?? ? Boston Phoenix
??textured, pure, noble and moving. Call it art.? ?Pulse!
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Kelly Joe Phelps raises the musical bar with a
compelling new collection of songs on his latest and fourth full-length Rykodisc release,
Slingshot Professionals. Replete with Kelly Joe?s singular guitar sound, soulful vocals
and lyrics won through experience, Slingshot Professionals delivers music, at once both
fresh and aged ensuring Phelps a place among our most accomplished performing
Produced by Lee Townsend (Bill Frisell, John
Scofield), Slingshot Professionals follows
2001?s critically acclaimed Sky Like A Broken
Clock and the Beggar?s Oil EP, a companion
piece released in 2002. Slingshot
Professionals finds Phelps making his way in
a new role, that of bandleader. For most of his
career, Phelps has gone it alone on record and
on tour. That changed with the recording of
Sky?, when he paired with bassist Larry
Taylor (Tom Waits) and drummer Billy
Conway (Morphine).
For Slingshot Professionals, Phelps recorded with two distinct groups of musicians, one
in Seattle and the other in Toronto, creating a sound that is his most fully orchestrated to
date. Celebrated guitarist Bill Frisell and Keith Lowe (bassist with David Sylvian, Wayne
Horvitz and Fiona Apple) joined Phelps to record ?Not So Far To Go? and ?Cardboard
Box of Batteries?, while three members of Zubot and Dawson ? Steve Dawson (slide
guitars), Jesse Zubot (fiddle, mandolin), and Andrew Downing (bass) play on Slingshot?s
remaining eight songs. Drummer and percussionist Scott Amendola,(known for his work
with Charlie Hunter, among others) joined Phelps on all songs except one. The
contributions of Chris Gestrin (organ, piano and accordion) and Petra Haden (backing
vocals) were subsequently added in Vancouver, B.C. Of his work with Zubot and
Dawson, Phelps laughs as he says, ?it sounds like a bluegrass band that went to the wrong
The basic tracks on Slingshot Professionals were recorded live, in Phelps? favorite
manner. ?My penchant for live recording has to do with wanting the musicians to
interact with one another, to provide the opportunity of responding in the moment to a
lyric or a phrase someone might play. A ?call and response? situation is created, all ears
are open, and the focus of all individual minds becomes the focus of one mind. In this
way the song starts to breathe and take on a life beyond the players themselves, each part
becoming a critical and important link in one chain. This, to me, is when music comes
Slingshot Professionals marks another move forward in Phelps? career. A brilliant
improviser, Phelps is known for his ability to put a new spin on a song every time he
plays. ?For me, the direction is always
forward. I learn, experiment, experience,
apply. Everything I?m doing now is deeply
rooted in what I?ve done before, coupled
with whatever sense of vision I?ve been
fortunate enough to receive. I no more want
to play, sing or write the way I did five
years ago than want to live the life I had
then. I change, the music changes, but it?s a
very straight line. It may appear to be a
circle, but each individual recording exemplifies my current musical passions and
explorations added to past influences and experience.
As life moves constantly forward, so should music, if it?s to contain vitality and genuine
emotion respectfully relayed in an honest fashion. Earlier on, I found myself absorbed by
the sound of the guitar, by it?s inherent possibilities and myriad variations of approach.
These days my curiosity and passion are piqued by words ? the music they themselves
make ? how best to portray an image musically, and song to build a
song like a painters? picture, with all its shadow and mystery and light. Instruments added
to the guitar become like different colors on the pallet, or different accents on the words,
or foreign languages that sound so beautiful in and of themselves they communicate
purely through sound. In this way I am able to find a spot to set the guitar into, a place the
voice can rise into, and the other instruments fill out the canvas, thereby setting up the
foundation for the story to exist upon. If we all play only what is needed, and no more
than that...there is the ultimate goal and challenge.
When I?m on the road, I can?t write. However, I?m constantly soaking up experiences,
sights, collecting memories that come out when I get back home and can sit still long
enough to bring them forward in a particular shape. Some of them come out in story
form, others in the form of poetry or loose prose. Then they are filed away; not as songs
but as written word only. I enjoy this part of the writing process so much that I?ll
typically fill 40 or 50 pages before even one of them starts to transform into song lyric.
When I catch a glimpse of a character or a story that appears wants to be sung about I
will start editing, start honing in on the most important aspects. I start to recognize the
extraneous parts tapped out during the original sketch, begin to see a face...and if I?m
lucky these characters start to dictate their own motion and turn themselves from a
loosely constructed bit of prose into a nearly carved lyric. An internal word rhythm or
phrase rhythm will usually stand out, leading me further along the editing path, the rewriting
Somewhere along here is where the guitar comes in. I try letting the word rhythm
determine the musical direction, rather than the other way
around, so that the story or the scene remains the point of the
pyramid and all else remains in support of that. The primary
point is this: much of the music will always remain
improvised ? this is where the outside emotion will be heard.
The music can and most likely will change with every
performance ? that?s the breath and the life and the vitality,
the soul. The lyric will always remain solidly built, this is
where the inner emotion will be felt. The fact that the lyric,
once it?s finished, is not going to change highlights the importance of its role.?
Beginning in February, Kelly Joe Phelps will be on the road in support of Slingshot
Professionals. On selected dates, he will be joined by Jesse Zubot and Steve Dawson; on
others, by Keith Lowe and Scott Amendola.

Community Events

Current Lineup

Steve Dawson
guitars, production
2003 - present
Steve Dawson
slide guitar, production
2003 - present

Search the Directory / Archive

List an Event in the Calendar

List a Physical Single Date or Recurring Event

For physical events that happen at a specific time. For example a concert, or dance performance. If there are multiple shows, you can still duplicate your event to cover them all.

List an Online Livestream Event

For online / livestream events. This will allow you to include a livestream url and have it featured in our livestream listings.

Submit a Profile to the Directory

List a Music Band / Ensemble

(Band / Choir / Orchestra etc.)

List an Individual Musician

(Guitarist, Singer, DJ etc)

List a Music Resource

Venues, Event Promoters, Support Services etc.

News + Media

Add / Link a Video

Add a video, which will be linked to profiles, and appear in the video feed

Log In to Your Account