Listen to my ‘Track of the Week’ feature in BBC Radio 1Xtra! Click this link to listen – Kelly Erez BBC Radio 1Xtra
As Hip-Hop and R&B musicians continue to get more comfortable in each others skin, it becomes harder and harder to find the respective genres in their purest forms. Thankfully, separation still exists across the pond as the UK manages to produce one or two new singers each year. Next up to bat is Kelly Erez, a rising starlet with a velvety voice that belies her London roots and is perfect for mid-tempo ballads. Currently unsigned, Kelly has built quite a buzz for herself online, steadily rising up the charts on ReverbNation and gaining new fans daily through her website.
“Hand On Heart,” like all of her songs, is reminiscent of the music that we heard coming out in the ’90s. Her voice and lyrics are the main attraction, instead of having to be blended into the production, allowing them to connect with listeners on a level that’s not as commonplace these days.
Thanks in part to her rising popularity, Erez was able to fund the production of her debut EP This Is Me through Pledge Music, a site which allows fans to make donations in exchange for exclusive interactions with the artist. The concept may sound familiar because Public Enemy tried something like this with Sellaband.
Kelly Erez’s debut EP This Is Me will release worldwide through all major digital outlets on February 14th, 2011.
“There were a lot of producers that wanted me to go on dance tracks and sing things that I thought were inappropriate. I am not into doing things that are too sexual or derogatory. A lot of people told me that I needed to sing that way to get to where I wanted to be and wear revealing things.”
At twenty seven, Kelly Erez is slightly old to be an “about to blow talent”. Usually you expect someone who has just started growing hair in some unusual places with a prodigious talent to have that statement connected to them. Kelly however is indeed this new talent and “Age Aint Nothing But Number” because as she freely admits: “I wanted this all my life”.
Her EP ‘This Is Me’ is more than a working title, it is a motto, a mantra that I feel sure will shape her bright future “the title is a statement of intent and we actually put a poll up on facebook saying I needed a title for the EP by the weekend. This title just came up in the poll and funnily enough it was a title that my manager thought of and it was funny that the fans also came up with that title and so I thought let’s just go with that because I wanted people to see what I am about.”
Far from delving into or being swayed by the popular music of today, Kelly has used this first release to delve into the widely appreciated golden era of music: the 90’s where SWV, Brian McKnight and TQ plied their trade. Slow jams and ballads are the ingredients on an EP that has a cover of Burt Bacharach’s classic ‘Closer to Me’ which is telling in terms of where this lady could be heading.
The EP transports those of the late twenties and up at warp speed into 90’s heyday reminiscing: “We were definitely after that 90’s vibe in truth and we wanted to take the listener through a journey and take them through the different aspects of love with a positive ending to close the EP”
The EP is also unashamedly inspired by greats such as Mariah and Boyz II Men and the influences of beautiful keys and soaring infectious melodies are unmistakable. Meeting Kelly in her home town of Stratford on a cold morning Kelly is on time (a great sign for a professional) and immediately engaging.
She is “new to this” whole media interest and we start to talk about her interview on 1Xtra on DJ Target’s home-grown show which is a massive notch in terms of the urban credibility. Though “nervous” she is starting to warm to the idea that she may have “fans” but she clearly still finds it uncomfortable. She humorously opts for “listeners” as opposed to fans during our conversation.
It is this kind of attitude which is infinitely vulnerable and warm that will surely make her popular but I quickly realise that this is a lady with unassuming steel. She has a clear vision, strength and resolute moral stand point which by all admissions has meant that her success has taken longer than it maybe should have: “You only get one chance really to make a good impression. I had times where songs I had sung on where going to be sent to Sony but they wanted me to do things that I was not comfortable with” she clarifies” There were a lot of producers that wanted me to go on dance tracks and sing things that I thought were inappropriate. I am not into doing things that are too sexual or derogatory. A lot of people told me that I needed to sing that way to get to where I wanted to be and wear revealing things.”
While that story is not the same for everyone I feel a great sense of admiration for a lady that was keen for her dream but under the right circumstances and indeed on her terms, “I have worked on different projects and I have really just tried to find my sound. I am so particular and fussy about the sound I wanted to bring. I really wanted to do the whole soulful Rn’B and the whole ballads. I have always been drawn to singers with real soul like Maxwell, Mariah, John Legend whose voice I think is amazing. “She adds,” I think that music is so powerful and I know that people say they did not plan to be role models but anyone in the public eye will have a certain group of people looking up to them. There is enough negativity in the world and I am just really conscious of trying to portray messages that inspire people.
The media love to categorise and evidently compare and Kelly is already getting the comparisons to Mariah for her choice of music. The pressure is now on for a young lady dubbed “the next big thing”
“It is exciting but I do not really think of it as being pressurised because this is my dream and I just want to do it. It is looking good. Over the last few months through MySpace, Utube and stuff the following is almost sixty thousand. I have been surprised that it has got to this point in truth. Originally we just put up a couple of clips up on Utube just some acoustic versions done at the studio with my sister playing the piano and the response was just overwhelming”.
Indeed I checked out some of the comments on Utube and people are going crazy for the East End girl. Now realising her ambition we both agree that the hard work that she has put in is evidently making the current success even sweeter, “I have practised a lot. There was something there but I have had to work hard, I developed my sound and singing lessons from a lady that actually taught George Michael who is quite well known. I watched MTV Bass and listening to music and just absorbing everything about music.” She adds almost forgetting it seems this detail,” I remember I used to sneak out of lessons when I would get an idea and go to the music room and do the track. My teachers knew really but they would let me go. Since I was sixteen I have worked two jobs and all of that money was ploughed back into my music career”
Her family and her faith are support networks that she is keen to acknowledge, “I am definitely a spiritual person and I definitely feel very connected to God and I just get excited when I talk about God. I feel that I have this blanket of warmth around me. I am just so thankful for all that is happening for me.” Her sister Natalie has been a main source of inspiration in Kelly’s life, “Natalie always wrote and produced songs and I grew up listening to that. She actually taught me how to write harmonies and I just loved it and the process. It is amazing to have a melody and an idea and then writing it and in an hour it just becomes the piece of music and it just makes me so excited.”
Kelly exudes a certain pureness in her art exemplified by her clean note perfect vocals. Ian Carter who has worked with names like the Sugababes and Steve Bush (Corinee Bailey) evidently add the ingredients to make her soulful, classic RnB appealing to the masses. While her sister Natalie influenced by the 80’s creates a writing force that “compliments each other”. With a recent publishing deal signed Kelly is clearly following the plan that she has mapped out in her mind,” I want to put out an album and get a record deal to create the music I love, perform more and I would really love to write for people.”
Kelly seems to have the right balance of tenacity and likeability to make her a success. She is carving out a niche as probably the only UK singer with that classic Rn’B sound and a voice up there with some of the very best both past and present. She is a massive talent that is showing yet another side to the UK music scene: Kelly will be huge.
The Kelly Erez EP ‘This Is Me’ will be out February 14 – Valentines Day
WORDS SEMPER AZEEZ-HARRIS
The title is self explanatory and is a clear statement of intent but also there is a clear sound of determination and confidence. Here is someone saying that this is how I am and if you do not like it, that is fine but I am not about to change to accommodate you.
Kelly Erez is being touted as the next big thing and there is every reason to belief that this is true. ‘This Is Me’ is full of powerful ballad type tracks from ‘Letters’ to ‘Hand On My Heart’ and a cover of the Burt Bacharach classic ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ that allow her beautiful voice to immerse in her world of love.
With a plethora of the younger generation wanting to jump on the dance tsunami which is sweeping the UK, Erez is not only going to buck the trend, she is forging a niche as perhaps one of a very few singers that are delving into that classic Rn’B of the 90’s. But no fear while her influences are the main protagonists like Brian McKnight and others, the EP is clearly Kelly Erez.
Soft enticing vocals and poignant words are the order of the day. ‘Letters’ is a Testament to her talent the EP sees the creative juices of some of the UK’s big hitters in terms of writing: Steve Bush the writer for the brilliant Corinne Bailey Rae. Aubrey Nunn, writer for the equally brilliant and enigmatic Faithless. And Ian Carter, who has been behind some of the Sugababes’ most successful hits. Add a family connection with her sister Natalie also supplying her talents and the EP delivers as an introduction to a lady that has already got Utube (sometimes a good barometer for success) buzzing with excitement with acoustic covers of tracks like ‘Is This Love’ by Whitesnake: it’s brilliant and so is Kelly Erez.
WORDS SEMPER AZEEZ-HARRIS