Interview with Kelli Scarr

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While I of course focus on fashion in this blog, I do have other interests that sometimes make their way into my posts. One of those is music. I really can’t remember ever not listening to music for more than a few waking hours, and I’ve always made going to concerts a priority. The last live show I made sure I made it to was that of the indomitable Moby (indeed, I scheduled a vacation day just for the event). If you’ve read my review of that show, you’ll know that my ears were quite captivated by Moby’s keyboardist/singer and opening act by the name of Kelli Scarr. As I could not find much information about her except for her new EP (available to download for free off of Kelli’s website), I thought I’d go directly to the source. Do take some time to get to know this lovely woman, who, with a voice like hers, is definitely going places.
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Tell me a bit about yourself: how old do you tell people you are, what do you consider your hometown, do you have an educational degree you use or don’t use, do you have any children/pets/etc.?

I’m not embarassed of my age … yet. I am 28. I was born in Monterey, California, but consider my hometown to be Folsom, California as I spent my “formative years” there. It’s a little prison town (made famous by the Johnny Cash live album) northeast of Sacramento.

I have a Bachelor of the Arts degree from Berklee College of Music. I only use it in conversations when I’m trying to impress people. But I usually just say Berklee so people think I mean Cal.

I have a 2 1/2 year old son named Liam and a dog named Carl. I love my boys.

When/how did you get into the music industry? Do you have any formal music training?
I have been singing since I can remember. It started with my Nana. She lived in this house in the country and I spent a lot of time there as a child. We would listen to cassette tapes of church music and other PG stuff and record ourselves singing along. That led to more singing in church and eventually choirs in school. It wasn’t until I started performing with my jazz choir in high school that I thought about pursuing a career in music.

I spent 3 years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston … a very informal version of a formal music education.

How did the whole Moby/Kelli Scarr collaboration (albums and tour) come about?

I sing and play organ in a band called Salt & Samovar (pictured to the right). We were playing a show in New Jersey and the headlining act cancelled last minute. Somehow the promoter was able to get Moby to take their place. He heard me sing and emailed me. After flaking on me a few times, we finally hung out and the rest is …

You’ve described your music as the Lutheran church meets Walt Disney. What are your main musical influences on your work?
Love. Friends. Family. Babies. Animals. Fear. Church. Not going to church. Movies. Nature. Sounds pretty general, but it’s true.

I personally have compared your voice to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. Who would you compare your voice to?
I have a lot of favorite singers. From Betty Carter to Joni Mitchell to Natureboy to Jeff Buckley. I would like to think that I sound like me.

You’re quite active with Facebook and Twitter. Do you feel that these are important for building and maintaining a fan base?
I love to hate social networking. Aside from my music industry friends telling me I should be on these things as much as possible, it’s been a great way to stay in touch with friends and family while I’m on the road. I love the fact that I got my Nana on Facebook.

What has the response been to posting your EP for free on your website?
As far as I can tell, it has been a good way to boost interest. It has been online for a month and has been downloaded a little over 2,000 times.

Your album has gone gold and you’re going to the Grammys to accept your female vocalist of the year award. What designer will you give the opportunity to provide you with a dress?

Probably my BFF Hollie Velten. She has a line called Hollie Ten that’s not currently being produced because she’s busy being a bigwig at Anthropologie. But I know she’ll be back. She knows me like no other. Style included.

I’ve only seen you for three hours of my life, with both outfits being simple and all black. How would you describe your on-stage/off-stage style?
My offstage style and onstage style are pretty synonymous. I definitely like to be comfortable and I’m addicted to thrift store shopping.

I’ll dress it up a bit with heels for Moby’s band. Lately I’ve been rocking a bit of a Robert Palmer video look.

What are your favorite musicians/bands, books, and movies?
Music
Of All Time – Neil Young
Recently – Bon Iver
Embarassingly (maybe) – Garth Brooks
The Idol – Bonnie Raitt

Books
Crime and Punishment
Goodnight Moon

Movies
Paris, Texas
Welcome to the Dollhouse
The 400 Blows

Since you’ve already done the Moby thing, who would be your second choice of any musician, alive or dead, to play/perform with?
Hands down, Neil Young.

What do you do on the bus/plane while travelling between shows?
Try to sleep as much as possible. But usually I just end up staring out the window and listening to music, which happens to be one of my favorite things to do.
 

What is the first thing you’ll do when this tour is over?

It’s hard to say because at this point I don’t know when the tour will actually be over. Regardless, I am really looking forward to doing some regular mom stuff. Like making Liam breakfast, taking him to school, etc. Being away really makes me appreciate these moments.

Do you love Canada as much as Moby does?
Probably not quite as much as him, but only because I’m not as smart as Moby. He loves Canada on an intricate political and social level that my ignorant ass doesn’t understand. But I do love Canada. A LOT. Especially Ontario.

Since I’ve compared your look to Pebbles, I must ask: who is your favorite Flintstones character?
That’s funny. I don’t even know the names of the rest of them, so I will decline to choose. Sorry, I was more a fan of that show Dinosaurs that was on TGIF in the early 90s. The show was so dumb that it probably didn’t make it on to Canadian TV though. (Oh, it sure did!)

If you weren’t a musician, what would you see yourself doing for a career?
Well … I accidentally started working at a hospital a few years ago. I was writing grants and doing a lot of work with community outreach programs in low income neighborhoods in New York. I really enjoyed my job and the people I worked with, so I would probably keep doing that.

Finally, when and where can I get your upcoming full-length album?
I’m shooting for early 2010. I need to be at home for more than 5 minutes if I want to reach this goal though. I’ll keep you posted!
 
 
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Download Kelli’s incredible EP here, and look her up on Facebook and MySpace for updates – you’ll want to keep tabs on this one for sure!
And do look up her band Salt & Samovar – I do believe I’ve found my newest favorite band.
AND, Kelli is also part of a trio called Color of Clouds. I’m checking them out as I type…Can’t get enough of her voice.
(Photos via Kelli’s Facebook and Salt & Samovar’s website)
 
 
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