Kelsey Anna is Lighting up SoWal With Her Songs
March 21, 2011 by Kurt Lischka
Kelsey Anna is as local as the wildflowers along Walton County roads, and her talent is blooming just like them. You can hear her at small local venues like La Botana, Amavida, and Hibiscus. Catch her while you can so one day you can say you did. She's got pipes and can strum a good guitar, but what sets her apart are her songwriting skills. She's penned more than 50 honest tunes to date and there are some gems among them.
Here's a video of one of them - "Cyclone" performed with Matt Miller at Central Square Records in Seaside during the 30A Songwriters Festival. After the video check out the article and photos by Shelly Swanger.
Brightest Young Singer-Songwriter
Kelsey Anna had a plan for her life. Just like many young women her age, she studied hard in high school and dreamed of going to college. She followed her dream all the way to Tallahassee and the campus of FSU after graduation. Then, in early 2010, the 30A Songwriter’s Festival came around and everything changed.
It was then that 19-year-old Kelsey Anna, a self-taught local musician, learned that she had been invited to perform (the youngest invitee) at the festival. She came home to South Walton and played alongside many of the amazing singer-songwriters that had come to town for the event. From that moment on her plan was transformed. Kelsey now had her sights set on becoming a professional singer-songwriter herself.
There had been music in Kelsey’s life for as long as she could remember. “There was lots of music in my family,” she says. “My mom is the most talented musical person that I know and my biggest influence.” Kelsey and older sister Tasha grew up listening to their mom’s Bonnie Raitt and Joan Osborne albums. The sisters also used to sing and play together, which is where Kelsey’s journey really begins.
“When I was 13 my sister and I used an ‘old school’ recorder and recorded ourselves singing a capella and my dad—who has always been one of my biggest supporters—used to play the recording all the time at work.” It was there that local musician Marc Harris first heard Kelsey and Tasha sing. He loved their sound and invited the girls to Birmingham to record their songs in his studio. After that, the two began to perform locally with Harris.
The sisters played together until Tasha went away to school in New Orleans. Shortly after, Kelsey took a journey of her own out west. “A combination of being on my own for the first time and a broken heart prompted me to really become serious about my playing and songwriting,” she says.
Fast forward to 2011. Kelsey has been performing all over the area for the past year. She and good friend Matt Miller (Beachcomber Music Award winner for Best Instrumentalist, 2010-11) were fixtures all along 30A last summer and fall. The two even landed a coveted spot opening up for the Indigo Girls last summer when they played in Seaside.
“Matt is so talented and one of the coolest people that I know,” says Kelsey. “He has helped me become a better live performer just by playing with him.” They created a unique sound and although Matt has gone away to attend college, she says they will always play together when time allows.
For now, Kelsey Anna is out on her own and fast making a name for herself. She has a smoldering vocal sound that’s way beyond her years and is reminiscent of some of the great singer-songwriters both past and present. Kelsey explains that she “always has a notebook on hand and is always writing.” She really gets a high from songwriting, “It’s sort of like therapy to me.”
With over 50 songs already written, Kelsey is looking forward to recording her first EP or full length CD. She also hopes to play as much as possible both locally and on the road. She also hopes to start writing for other artists as well.
Kelsey has plenty of support from family and friends. Her father, Bobby Johnson, helps her with her bookings and her aunt has assisted with all of Kelsey’s photography. For now, fans can catch her playing at venues throughout the area—see this issue’s Live Music Calendar—and pick up a copy of her Acoustic Demos disc.