5 Minutes with… Sam Kelly

Live to your Living Room SK-Elina-Photography2-Copy 5 Minutes with... Sam Kelly
Sam Kelly

We’re delighted to have Sam Kelly joining us for a rare solo gig on 26th February. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with him to chat about songwriting, pyjama gigs and some of the more surprising places where his music has been played…

Hi, Sam! It’s great to have you joining us. How’s everything going?

Thanks so much for having me! I’m excited to be involved. Everything is going well for me, if a little hectic, at the moment. I’ve just got back from a busy few days at Celtic Connections. I’m also working on two album projects this year that are in different stages of development, then I head off on tour with Kate Rusby in the spring, followed by a string of gigs with Jamie Francis and some exciting festival appearances with The Lost Boys!

Sounds fantastic! We’re so pleased you’ve found time for an online gig as well. Have you done many livestreams before?

This will be my first live online gig! I did a couple of pre-recorded online shows in the COVID lockdown, but not live. I would say I’m excited to have the chance to do my first ever show in PJs from the waist down, but FolkEast Festival regulars may remember the year I did a gig in my PJs. Very professional of me!

We’re all about the PJs, so you’re in good company here! Now, we usually see you playing with The Lost Boys or collaborating with other artists, but this one’s going to be a solo gig. What do you have in store for us?

Yes, I very rarely do solo shows. In fact, I think the last solo show I did was in 2017! One of my favourite things about music is the joy of collaboration, so I don’t tend to do many things solo. I enjoy it once in a while, though, as it allows me to take a bit of a retrospective look at all the projects I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with. For this gig, I’ll be playing a bit of a spectrum of songs from all across my back catalogue, including a few rarities that people might not have come across before!

You’ve written some fantastic songs, and you’ve got a really distinctive style to your music. Do you have any tips for budding songwriters?

Thank you! I’m not a very prolific writer – I have to really sit down and work at it. Which is OK! Some people are lucky enough to just have songs fall out of themselves like sneezes, but for me it’s more like doing a jigsaw or building a shed. I guess my main tip for young songwriters is to try not to put pressure on yourself, find your own process and enjoy it. People write songs for many different reasons, and I find it helpful to ask myself, ‘Why am I writing this? What message do I want to get across? What am I trying to achieve?’

Also – don’t be afraid to collaborate! I love writing with other people, but the first few times I did it, it felt like such an intimate and personal thing to be sharing. You have to try to push through that anxiety and not be afraid of looking silly or coming up with bad ideas. Definitely my best creative work has come from collaboration!

We hear your songs have also been featured on TV quite a bit! Which shows have they appeared on, and have there been any that have taken you by surprise?

Well, I have been fortunate enough to work with two great publishing companies – Sentric Music with my first few releases, and now Wipe Out Music. Both of them have got us a multitude of random TV placements, but my favourites have to be when one of my songs was used for a romance scene in Hollyoaks, another was used on a German TV ad for a hair product, and one was used as the walk-in music on Sky Sports Darts coverage!

We’d love to see that! Well, aside from the Hollyoaks romance (which is clearly the pinnacle), what are the other highlights of your career so far?

I have to say, last weekend at Celtic Connections is going to take some topping. Me and my band had our biggest ever selling venue show after a really rough few years where we, like everyone, have really struggled. Then I got to play to a sold-out concert hall with my hero Kate Rusby, playing with a band that contained yet more musical heroes of mine like Ron Block and Sierra Hull. It was a real pinch-me moment!

It sounds amazing – we’re so pleased for you! It sounds like you’ve got some exciting plans for this year too – tell us a bit more about what’s coming up.

I’m very excited to be working on some new music with my main collaborator, Jamie Francis. I’m also working on a new music project with Scottish singer Ainsley Hamill, which I’m really looking forward to. Then I have a few bits and bobs in between, like some gigs in France and Belgium, bits of teaching, and my band’s first ever gig at WOMAD festival, alongside some other exciting festival appearances. However, I’m mainly just excited and happy to be enjoying my music again. The past few years have been a stark reminder of how lucky we are to do what we love as a job!

Sam Kelly will be playing a rare solo gig for us on Sunday 26th February, and you can join us live from wherever you are. Find out more and grab your ticket here.