Summerfest Sessions: Kelly Paige
Kelly Paige is a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. With a sound that she describes as soul, pop, reggae, you can hear a mixture of joyful pop sensibility layered with deeply personal lyrical composition. While Kelly generally tours and records with a band, her sound is able to stand alone with a single guitar and her voice. Her session was the first of many during the last day of Summerfest and really set the tone of that day for the Mobile Studio crew. While the lyrics of “La Ti Da,” may be layered with slight cynicism, the ultimate message was one of hope and happiness with a chord progression that put all of our minds on a tropical beach.
For the recording we used all Sennheiser microphones. For the vocals we used the Sennheiser e935, and for the acoustic guitar we used the e914 microphone. For the e935 we swapped the standard capsule for a larger diaphragm condenser capsule which worked better for Kelly’s voice.
The microphones we are running into the Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 FireWire interface and live sound mixer. The StudioLive was then routed to Pro Tools 10 via a single FireWire cable. Within Pro Tools 10 we used their extensive sets of plug ins but generally stuck to their phenomenal reverb plug ins to bring out the sounds of the acoustic guitar and vocals.
Check out the video for Kelly’s recording of “La Ti Da.”
Watch our exclusive interview.
Below is the full interview.
Kelly: I’m Kelly Paige and where I’m from is kind of a little bit of everywhere. I like to say rolling stone planet Earth, but I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I never lived in the same place for more than four years. My family is in South Africa, Kansas, Florida just kind of spread out.
So what are you doing here in Milwaukee?
Kelly: Just playing Summerfest, it’s my first time ever so I’m pretty pumped to be here. I’ve never been to Milwaukee before so I like it a lot more than I expected. It’s been cool.
Are you touring right now?
Kelly: I’m not really touring but I’m playing as much as possible, taking off hand gigs whenever I can and loving it.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?
Kelly: My sound is, soul, pop, reggae, sort of [laughs]. That’s the best description I can come up with so far. I think my favorite description that I have had from somebody else is Jason Mraz meets Amy Winehouse.
I can hear that in your sound that’s pretty appropriate I would say. Are those some of your influences? Tell me about those?
Kelly: Well Jason Mraz definitely. It’s funny about Amy Winehouse because I never really got into her albums until after I moved to London and people started comparing me to her a lot when I would play in the pubs and bars and stuff over there. It kind of got me intrigued and I looked her up and they’re some of my favorite albums now. I’m like a die hard fan.
It must have been very flattering going to London and being compared to her?
Kelly: Oh totally. Yeah they love her over there. It is a huge compliment. She was an amazing singer. I’m still really shocked when people compliment my voice. It’s one of those things that I was never really good at as a kid. I just knew that I really loved it and I’m just going to figure out a way to get better and hopefully I did. Hopefully I’m still getting better all of the time, but it still kind of blows my mind when people are like, “you’re such a great singer.” I’m like, “really?”
That’s a very mature artist answer. You’re always trying to get better rather then stay the same.
Kelly: [laughs] That’s what I’m trying to put out there. I’m a really mature artist guys. You haven’t heard me rap [laughs].
Do you have a record out?
Kelly: I’m working on an album that’s going to be released independently. I’ve written enough songs to record probably three albums. I just haven’t been able to put anything out. Hopefully this Fall I’ll have an album finished and available to the public. That’s my goal.
So when you record are you going to have a band come in or do you keep it solo acoustic?
Kelly: I have a band that I play with in Nashville, but it’s kind of hard to get a big group all the way out here. I have a great band. Todd Lombardo who co-produces everything with me and Eric Kinney. We kind of have this little team and they both play with me too. Todd plays guitar and Eric plays the keys they’re both really talented.
Tell me about your previous studio experiences.
Kelly: I used to sing demos for people in Nashville. I haven’t done it as much as the official demo singers in Nashville but I sang on a lot of demos. Being in a studio is amazing when you’re trying to learn something, because every mistake you make is so audible. I think that’s one of the things that really helps me improve as a singer is just singing in the studio as often as possible. I love it. It’s really fun I think.
So as opposed to the traditional studio experience, describe your impression when you came onto the UniqueSquared Mobile Studio to record a track.
Kelly: It’s kickass! [laughs] It’s so cool that you can have something this hi-tech on the road. It’s great, just the whole setup of it and it’s really comfortable. I’m a big fan of studios that feel like a place where you can hang out too, and you totally get that vibe when you come in here. There’s a nice ambiance.
Are you familiar with Sennheiser microphones? Have you used them on stage before?
Kelly: Yeah I’ve used a Sennheiser performance mic for when I have to set up my shows. I have a pretty standard Sennheiser performance mic and I don’t know if I’ve used their studio mics before. The mic I just used that has the bigger diaphragm for a performance mic is such a cool idea. Bringing studio quality to the live setting is great. I don’t know why somebody hasn’t thought of that before. You guys are geniuses.
When you’re on stage and you’re performing, what are some of the things you value in a vocal mic?
Kelly: Yeah, well there is a lot that has to do with the sound guy too, but you want to get as much quality as you can packed into a performance mic. When I have heard live recordings in the past, the vocal always sounds really thin. It only catches the mid-range frequencies that are the most audible to people. It makes sense in a live setting but it’s really disappointing when you focus so much on a vocal performance and you feel like so much of it gets cut out just because of the quality of the microphone.
What kinds of things do you value in an acoustic guitar or instrument microphone?
Kelly: Just something that captures all of the fullness. With acoustic guitar it’s a nice round sound and when you can capture that with a microphone in a live setting that is really great. It’s pretty hard to find.
When you’re listening to other vocalists what things do you try to capture and emulate for your own sound?
Kelly: Believability. When somebody is singing and they really convey the message that they are trying to get across, and if there is an honest communication between the performer and the audience, then everything they’re saying is true and it’s heartfelt and it’s coming from a really special place. Trying to capture that and communicate it to people, that’s what a vocal performance is really about. Being pitch perfect and just being a great singer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to give a great vocal performance.
Sometimes it’s that delicate balance between pitch perfectness and the emotion.
Kelly: Yeah you obviously want to listen to someone that can sing in tune but it’s got to be equally as emotionally compelling for it to come across. Like Amy Winehouse and Adele. When they sing you really believe what they’re saying and that’s what makes it resonate with you.
What sort of things inspire you to write music?
Kelly: Everything inspires me to write music. I think part of being a songwriter is figuring out ways to look at the little things in life and put them into a song in a way that will affect people in a bigger way than what you would expect. I think that’s a huge part of songwriting. I find that the more personal I make a song the more universal it becomes with other people, which is really exciting to discover. It’s very unifying to think that we’re not that different. That’s what I love about songwriting.
So do you pull a lot from personal experience when songwriting?
Kelly: Definitely! My songs are so personal it’s like reading my diary. Some of them can be pretty rude and sassy I’ve been told, but it always comes from a place of hope. We’ve all been hurt before and songs are there to heal that.
Just based on what I heard from you it sounds pretty happy, happy go lucky. Do you have any thing that you write that is a little more intense or dark?
Kelly: I get real intense and real dark. I think that’s the whole tortured artist syndrome. I end up writing way more songs that are very dark and intense than my little happy go lucky ones. Even a song like “La Ti Da” it is a happy song and it is supposed to be inspiring and make you feel good but if you look at the subject matter, I am still talking about real issues that people have and insecurities. The point is to recognize those and then say that you’re going to be ok and everything is fine.
There’s a backstory to your single which is out in the UK, “Hurt Like Me.” Something about the ultimate revenge. Can you give me a little glimpse into what that story is?
Kelly: One of my dark songs is called Hurt Like Me, and I decided that it would be a good idea to date my guitar player in the UK. Horrible idea. He screwed me over but I got back at him by writing this terribly spiteful song which is the meanest thing I’ve ever said to anybody in a song. He had to tour around England with me and play it at all of these bars and venues all of the time so it was definitely the ultimate revenge.
That does sound like the ultimate revenge. What’s your favorite part about being on stage?
Kelly: Looking out into an audience and then seeing people sing along with my songs. That’s the coolest thing ever. To know that people have listened to you enough to remember what you’ve said and to want to be a part of that and sing it back to you…I just got chills thinking about it. That is so special.
How exciting is it to win over new fans that may have never heard you before?
Kelly: That’s great too it’s always kind of funny because people have short attention spans these days so when I do something that sort of grabs someone’s attention, it makes you feel good about what you do. It’s very reaffirming and you know this is where I need to be and that person just decided that they agree with me. Very reaffirming to see somebody listening and then all of a sudden start paying attention and start listening.
What advice would you give to a beginning singer/songwriter?
Kelly: Play out as much as possible. For me music has always been about communication. In a live setting, that’s when you figure out what songs are going to make a difference in your career. You see how people react to what you’re saying and it’s one of the few places left where there is real communication happening. It’s something to be valued. Just play out as much as you possibly can and play your own songs out to as many people as possible.
To find out more about Kelly Paige, visit her website: http://www.kellypaigemusic.com/
If you want to pick up the gear we used to record Kelly Paige, head on over to UniqueSquared.com for the best deals on recording and production equipment.