DUST is the stunning lead single from Kelley Smith, “a song for grief,” says Minnesota-based folk musician Smith. Moved by the loss of a loved one to cancer, Smith ruminates on the visceral longing for one’s physical presence after they’ve moved on. The smell of their clothes; the sound of their voice; the warmth of their skin. Written beside an open window in springtime, she crafts a landscape for the griever’s imagination: A rising and setting sun; birdsong; flower beds. Dust welcomes listeners to have mixed feelings; a juxtaposition of hope, and the despair of longing for something that can no longer be grasped. When she posted a video of DUST, freshly written, on the internet in the early days of the pandemic, she caught the attention of Canadian producer Joel Schwartz, who suggested they make an album. Dust is the song that started Smith down the path of making music professionally, and so it seems fitting that it should be her first single.
“Moon Child is a great listen. Intimately personal with a wry sense of humor, Kelley takes the listener on a journey of becoming. A deep look inward to which we can all relate in one way or another.” - Dave Simonett (Trampled by Turtles)
Spoken words have never come easy for folk musician Kelley Smith, so in her late 30's she decided to become an artist.
“I was tired of being tongue-tied,” she says, “…I just wanted to paint little word pictures of what was in my head with no pressure to be profound, or correct or catchy. Just me, my soul, coming out.”
Raised in the woods of Minnesota by musicians, Smith had always been inclined towards music. However, as a mom of four, the years rolled by wherein all her creative energies “…went into puppet shows, being a kitchen witch, and whatnot. The ups and downs of love, parenting, mental health, and a global pandemic were catalysts that eventually led her back to music. Smith began teaching herself guitar late at night when the house was quiet. Later, pandemic lockdowns provided her with extra space and time to write songs. Within a few short years, she has become a regionally recognized folk musician, and has shared stages with MN greats such as Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles and Drew Peterson. In 2022, she was awarded the Individual Artist Grant by the Five Wings Arts Council of Minnesota.
Reminiscent of classic artists like Iris Dement and Gillian Welch, Smith’s voice has an old-timey, bluegrass vibe. An emotive performer, she provides “a safe space for folks to feel their feelings.” She’s also an expressive guitar picker. Studying performances by the greats of American folk music, such as Doc Watson, helped her develop her style. Smith continues to evolve, musically, however. More recently, she has been incorporating clawhammer banjo and harmonica into her routine.
Her debut album, Moon Child, was released on Nov. 14, 2022. The album comes across as a mid-life coming-of-age story. As an insomniac, Smith wrote this first batch of songs by moonlight. Moon Child evokes a sense of belonging, juxtaposed with escapism, as Smith croons about long-term love, grief, and her draw to the night sky.
In addition to her original work, Smith is an American folk music enthusiast. Her fans appreciate how she modernizes traditional tunes [learned from artists like Elizabeth Cotten and The Carter Family] and makes them relevant and relatable while preserving their histories and genre.